Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 2:2017 -Healing the land, 2 – the P factor, projects

Why are so many key projects for transforming Montserrat so long delayed?

BRADES, Montserrat, Jan 3, 2017 – To get to lasting prosperity in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean, we need to reform governance and restructure the economy towards sound growth and development.

That is going to require that we implement a generation-length transformational programme  with a portfolio of projects that will affect the seven-mountain commanding heights of the community.  For that to happen, we will need to soundly manage the project life cycle for a set of “catalytic” initiatives, in partnership with key aid agencies such as our own Caribbean Development Bank and international development agencies (DFID, EU, UN, USAID, CIDA etc come to mind.)

Early in this series,[1] we saw that for Montserrat, a long-standing list of candidate “priority”/ “catalytic” development projects is:

  • the Sea Port  (and the Air Port) – also, general access,
  • electrical power supply – in progress,
  • Geothermal energy, wind, solar, biofuels etc. – in progress,
  • information access (e.g. the Fibre Optics cable – . . . [Yes, the very same issue that UK Tabloids recently tried to spin into a perceived scandal; see See “Dissecting a Smear,” TMR, Fri. Jan 6, 2017, p. 6.]),
  • the new town development,
  • major development of tourism, agriculture, technology-based industries, financial services etc.,
  • business development through enterprise incubation and venture capital funding (especially for small and micro businesses),
  • good governance initiatives,
  • well-being – social welfare, health, youth, children, education and training, women, the aged, the vulnerable, the mentally challenged and disabled, poverty, employment, social and affordable housing,
  • repatriation, diaspora outreach and building up our population,

Let us compare this list with the Government of Montserrat “Policy Agenda” of 2015, which comes straight from the main goals of the 2008 – 20  Sustainable Development Plan (SDP):

  1. Prudent Economic Management
  2. Sound Human Development

III.         Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

  1. Good Governance
  2. A Sustainable Population

It does not take a genius to see that after twenty one and a half years of Volcano Crisis, the actual projects that were implemented come nowhere near to fulfilling the goals set out in 2008 and again in 2015. The simple fact that the goals had to be repeated almost word for word seven years later is telling us that target dates have slipped badly.  Which means, we are not making the sort of progress we should have been making since 2008 (and indeed, since 1998 – 2000 when the first SDP was set in place).

Something is wrong, very wrong.

Especially since, in 2007 – 8, the Montserrat Development Corporation [MDC] was set up and launched, precisely to help us deliver on these five major goals with the help of DFID. But, by 2012 (yes, five years ago) DFID was writing – in their MDC business case to beg for  a last EC$ 5 – 6 millions to turn things around: 

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis of this failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.” [DFID 2012 MDC Business case, p. 4 ]

DFID went on to quote an Upper Quartile 2011 study on MDC – yes, five to six years ago:

“ . . . We do not think that the broad mandate [for MDC] is the problem – it makes sense to manage this range of activities in a properly integrated way especially in a small economy. But the task becomes impossible without a CEO and executive team that can build the knowledge, relationships, trust and credibility necessary to make such a broad remit work. Most of the other symptoms could have been treated or worked around by strong executive leadership. The lack of delivery has been a human resource problem rather than a mandate one.”

Obviously, there was a gap between very big ends and the means, starting with governance and high turnover of Chief Executive Officers.

By 2012 (yes, five years ago), this had continued for seven years, under two Governments and with senior local Civil Servants and DFID Officers sitting right there on the Board. The Stacey Complexity matrix helps us see why: uncertainty about means and lack of agreement as to priority goals, ending in chaos. Poor governance. That sounds uncomfortably close to what came out when by 2014 we saw investigations and whistleblowers. Then, unfortunately, we hit the headlines in the UK Daily Mail:  £400m foreign aid fiasco in paradise: Bribery, kickbacks, YOUR tax money siphoned into pet projects on a tiny Caribbean island . . . ”[2]

No wonder the Ferry procurement turned into a poisonous fight.

So, after the Ferry fight, we do not need to go through yet another dragged-out quarrel over “priorities” for the key projects.  Obviously, we need to deal with all of the items on the list above, the sooner the better. Many of these are “parallel priorities,” forming a list of Critical Development Needs.  As, if we do not have good progress on each of these key “catalytic” areas, it will cripple our overall progress.

The real issue is how to speed-up the key projects, while making sure that they are economically sound and that our governance capability is drastically improved. We must move away from “chaos” into the zone of “adaptive planning.” We need:

 (a) very good and very flexible decision makers, managers, analysts and implementers, backed by

(b) sound governance reforms; and,

(c) a clear MoU agreement with DFID as to our development goals and how to get there on what sort of timeline.

I am therefore happy to hear that:

(d) our Government is now setting up a Programme Management Office (not just a Construction Project Unit), and is talking about

(e) implementing PRINCE2 Project methodology and other world-class Axelos standards for managing Programmes and strategic change Portfolios that use projects to move towards goals. 

(More on this, “soon.”)

But it also means, we need to move right away on a list of what former UK Prime Minister David Cameron called “kick-start” projects that create “shovel-ready jobs,” as we must spark stronger growth in our economy, while paving the way for the longer term “catalytic” projects. 

DFID, do you hear us? HELP!  END

[1]           Catalytic Development Projects, March 4, 2016: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[2]              UK Daily Mail, May 15, 2016: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Why are so many key projects for transforming Montserrat so long delayed?

BRADES, Montserrat, Jan 3, 2017 – To get to lasting prosperity in Montserrat and the wider Caribbean, we need to reform governance and restructure the economy towards sound growth and development.

That is going to require that we implement a generation-length transformational programme  with a portfolio of projects that will affect the seven-mountain commanding heights of the community.  For that to happen, we will need to soundly manage the project life cycle for a set of “catalytic” initiatives, in partnership with key aid agencies such as our own Caribbean Development Bank and international development agencies (DFID, EU, UN, USAID, CIDA etc come to mind.)

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Early in this series,[1] we saw that for Montserrat, a long-standing list of candidate “priority”/ “catalytic” development projects is:

Let us compare this list with the Government of Montserrat “Policy Agenda” of 2015, which comes straight from the main goals of the 2008 – 20  Sustainable Development Plan (SDP):

  1. Prudent Economic Management
  2. Sound Human Development

III.         Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

  1. Good Governance
  2. A Sustainable Population

It does not take a genius to see that after twenty one and a half years of Volcano Crisis, the actual projects that were implemented come nowhere near to fulfilling the goals set out in 2008 and again in 2015. The simple fact that the goals had to be repeated almost word for word seven years later is telling us that target dates have slipped badly.  Which means, we are not making the sort of progress we should have been making since 2008 (and indeed, since 1998 – 2000 when the first SDP was set in place).

Something is wrong, very wrong.

Especially since, in 2007 – 8, the Montserrat Development Corporation [MDC] was set up and launched, precisely to help us deliver on these five major goals with the help of DFID. But, by 2012 (yes, five years ago) DFID was writing – in their MDC business case to beg for  a last EC$ 5 – 6 millions to turn things around: 

“ . . . the MDC has not performed to date as had been expected. The diagnosis of this failure is clear – too broad a remit given the staffing constraints, over ambitious targets and expectations, lack of clarity on how much independence and authority MDC was to be given, poor governance arrangements, a micro-managing Board of Directors and inadequate performance from the original implementing consultants.” [DFID 2012 MDC Business case, p. 4 ]

DFID went on to quote an Upper Quartile 2011 study on MDC – yes, five to six years ago:

“ . . . We do not think that the broad mandate [for MDC] is the problem – it makes sense to manage this range of activities in a properly integrated way especially in a small economy. But the task becomes impossible without a CEO and executive team that can build the knowledge, relationships, trust and credibility necessary to make such a broad remit work. Most of the other symptoms could have been treated or worked around by strong executive leadership. The lack of delivery has been a human resource problem rather than a mandate one.”

Obviously, there was a gap between very big ends and the means, starting with governance and high turnover of Chief Executive Officers.

By 2012 (yes, five years ago), this had continued for seven years, under two Governments and with senior local Civil Servants and DFID Officers sitting right there on the Board. The Stacey Complexity matrix helps us see why: uncertainty about means and lack of agreement as to priority goals, ending in chaos. Poor governance. That sounds uncomfortably close to what came out when by 2014 we saw investigations and whistleblowers. Then, unfortunately, we hit the headlines in the UK Daily Mail:  £400m foreign aid fiasco in paradise: Bribery, kickbacks, YOUR tax money siphoned into pet projects on a tiny Caribbean island . . . ”[2]

No wonder the Ferry procurement turned into a poisonous fight.

So, after the Ferry fight, we do not need to go through yet another dragged-out quarrel over “priorities” for the key projects.  Obviously, we need to deal with all of the items on the list above, the sooner the better. Many of these are “parallel priorities,” forming a list of Critical Development Needs.  As, if we do not have good progress on each of these key “catalytic” areas, it will cripple our overall progress.

The real issue is how to speed-up the key projects, while making sure that they are economically sound and that our governance capability is drastically improved. We must move away from “chaos” into the zone of “adaptive planning.” We need:

 (a) very good and very flexible decision makers, managers, analysts and implementers, backed by

(b) sound governance reforms; and,

(c) a clear MoU agreement with DFID as to our development goals and how to get there on what sort of timeline.

I am therefore happy to hear that:

(d) our Government is now setting up a Programme Management Office (not just a Construction Project Unit), and is talking about

(e) implementing PRINCE2 Project methodology and other world-class Axelos standards for managing Programmes and strategic change Portfolios that use projects to move towards goals. 

(More on this, “soon.”)

But it also means, we need to move right away on a list of what former UK Prime Minister David Cameron called “kick-start” projects that create “shovel-ready jobs,” as we must spark stronger growth in our economy, while paving the way for the longer term “catalytic” projects. 

DFID, do you hear us? HELP!  END

[1]           Catalytic Development Projects, March 4, 2016: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[2]              UK Daily Mail, May 15, 2016: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html