De Ole Dawg – Part 13: Montserrat and the politics of sound progress

How can we move beyond the politics of polarisation (and even of slander) to wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution?

BRADES, Montserrat – Going forward, we need a consensus vision of how we will build a sound, resilient, inclusive, wholesome, prosperous future as a nation.  For, it is plain that more and more, we can and must become:

A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all of our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society

. . . and it is even obvious that if we are to do so, we must prioritise the five SDP goals that we also find in our Cabinet-approved policy agenda:

  1. Prudent Economic Management
  2. Sound Human Development

III.        Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

  1. Good Governance
  2. A Sustainable Population

To that end, the five breakthrough initiatives announced in the 2018/19 Budget would mark an excellent start. As announced:

“[I] Port Development – signed Financing Agreement . . . with the CDB, estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$ 54.5 million.

[II] European Development Fund (EDF) – signed Financing Agreement with the EU . . . estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$60 million . . . [to] support the transition towards reliable, affordable and renewable solar energy which will reduce usage of fossil fuels and will enhance Montserrat’s tourism offer. This already adds up to EC$114.5 millions in our transformational projects kitty.]

[III] The Subsea Fibre Optic Cable project[1] – . . . This project will provide a secure and fast data communication link to the Island increasing the resiliency of the island with regard to the threat from hurricanes. [Given the £5 million estimate, that’s another EC$ 17 million to go in the kitty.]

[IV] Geothermal Energy Development – progressing well, with several expressions of interest and . . . site visits.

[V] Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan[2] – now delivered giving us the blueprint to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth for all Montserratians.”

Such hopes and targets are a logical point of departure for building a politics of  wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution.  It is therefore a strong symptom of what has gone wrong, that we so seldom hear reference to these unifying themes in our political debates, in the media (social), on the streets or even in the Legislative Assembly. Instead the tone and substance of what we commonly hear is the politics of polarisation, manipulation based on half-truths or even sometimes outright falsehoods that exploit the public’s ignorance.

And, there is a longstanding assumption that “Montserrat people don’t read,” also, we hear that “dem belly long but dem memory short.”  (Of course, the first feeds the second; that’s why our national newspaper is so vital as the people’s college and as our national, collective memory.)

Now too, for over twenty years we have been a traumatised nation due to the devastating impact of the volcano crisis. Consequently, many of us suffer undiagnosed, untreated post traumatic stress disorder, with linked survivor guilt and pent up rage due to unresolved loss as well as polarised personal and family relationships. There is also a deep longing to make some sense out of an overwhelming, deeply confusing, largely unexplained calamity, which obviously opens the door to those who can provide a rhetoric of targets for projecting guilt, blame and rage. 

However, that is a blunder. We need look no further than the story of too many radical revolutions over the past century to see how this invites the politics of envy, scapegoating and power-hungry, fundamentally lawless, ruthless selfish ambition. Names like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and many others come to mind. Where, the ghosts of over a hundred million victims of such radical dictatorships moan out a grim warning to a world that seems to have by and large forgotten. 

Of course, that very extremism tends to make that sad history seem to be something that “could never happen here.” But in fact, there are milder forms of political messianism that are also ruinous. We should therefore be extremely wary of any politician or ideology that subtly suggests that they have cornered the market on political virtue, so that those who hold other views are habitually caricatured as ignorant, stupid, insane, incompetent, corrupt, racist, oppressive or wicked. 

The spirit of accusation is satanically destructive.

We must then be doubly concerned if we see the suggestion that the movement of rescue is led by political and economic geniuses who will almost magically deliver instant success, triumph over those who have conspired to oppress the people and quick, lasting prosperity.  For, we can be sure that if there were easy, ready- to- hand solutions to our troubles, they would have long since been successfully applied.

In short, a key fallacy in messianistic politics is that polarisation through the targeting of scapegoats is being substituted for the unwelcome lessons of sound economics:

  • growth and prosperity require long-term investments that transform the productive base;
  • a nation has to continually build and renew its knowledge, skills and productive technologies;
  • artificial consumption and construction booms are unsustainable and lead to collapse. Where also,
  • to feed sustained accelerated growth, a country has to win and hold sustained advantages in key international markets.

That requires building a sound generation-length growth and development strategy that continually shifts to ever more skilled, knowledge-driven highly productive services. For instance, that is how resource poor countries like Japan and Switzerland or Singapore have moved ahead. 

(We will need to grow at rates averaging 5 – 7% for twenty years to recover from our post-volcano plight. And we cannot put all our eggs in the tourism basket, or it will become the new king sugar or king cotton.)

So, we have a major clue: tone and focus tell. That is, politicians and pundits who by and large ignore our policy agenda or the above themes and emphasise the politics of projecting blame while using rhetoric calculated to undermine investor confidence are manifestly unsound. 

Instead, we need to be hearing how we can come together as a community to build and carry out a national policy consensus, how we can build our collective knowledge, skills and capability, how we can partner with sound (not dodgy) investors, how we can put in place catalytic infrastructure that opens up room for growth, how we can move beyond consumption and construction to value-added services.  How, we can build a culture of enterprise, thrift, prudence and productivity. How, we can work with development and aid partners to achieve sound, lasting development, inclusive growth and enduring prosperity. And such like.

In short, our tone and focus of political debate have to shift. One tool for that is the recently discussed Economic Growth Strategy:

Let us learn lessons, let us recognise that we must change, let us have a new conversation about transformation, growth and lasting, sound, sustainable development.  END

[1]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-232017-the-fibre-optic-cable-project-and-development-aid-to-montserrat/

[2]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf 

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How can we move beyond the politics of polarisation (and even of slander) to wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution?

BRADES, Montserrat – Going forward, we need a consensus vision of how we will build a sound, resilient, inclusive, wholesome, prosperous future as a nation.  For, it is plain that more and more, we can and must become:

A healthy and wholesome Montserrat,
founded upon a thriving modern economy
with a friendly, vibrant community,
in which all of our people
through enterprise and initiative,
can fulfill their hopes
in a truly democratic and God-fearing society

Insert Ads Here

. . . and it is even obvious that if we are to do so, we must prioritise the five SDP goals that we also find in our Cabinet-approved policy agenda:

  1. Prudent Economic Management
  2. Sound Human Development

III.        Robust Environmental Management and Disaster Mitigation

  1. Good Governance
  2. A Sustainable Population

To that end, the five breakthrough initiatives announced in the 2018/19 Budget would mark an excellent start. As announced:

“[I] Port Development – signed Financing Agreement . . . with the CDB, estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$ 54.5 million.

[II] European Development Fund (EDF) – signed Financing Agreement with the EU . . . estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$60 million . . . [to] support the transition towards reliable, affordable and renewable solar energy which will reduce usage of fossil fuels and will enhance Montserrat’s tourism offer. This already adds up to EC$114.5 millions in our transformational projects kitty.]

[III] The Subsea Fibre Optic Cable project[1] – . . . This project will provide a secure and fast data communication link to the Island increasing the resiliency of the island with regard to the threat from hurricanes. [Given the £5 million estimate, that’s another EC$ 17 million to go in the kitty.]

[IV] Geothermal Energy Development – progressing well, with several expressions of interest and . . . site visits.

[V] Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan[2] – now delivered giving us the blueprint to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth for all Montserratians.”

Such hopes and targets are a logical point of departure for building a politics of  wholesome, consensus-based, sound policy-making and effective execution.  It is therefore a strong symptom of what has gone wrong, that we so seldom hear reference to these unifying themes in our political debates, in the media (social), on the streets or even in the Legislative Assembly. Instead the tone and substance of what we commonly hear is the politics of polarisation, manipulation based on half-truths or even sometimes outright falsehoods that exploit the public’s ignorance.

And, there is a longstanding assumption that “Montserrat people don’t read,” also, we hear that “dem belly long but dem memory short.”  (Of course, the first feeds the second; that’s why our national newspaper is so vital as the people’s college and as our national, collective memory.)

Now too, for over twenty years we have been a traumatised nation due to the devastating impact of the volcano crisis. Consequently, many of us suffer undiagnosed, untreated post traumatic stress disorder, with linked survivor guilt and pent up rage due to unresolved loss as well as polarised personal and family relationships. There is also a deep longing to make some sense out of an overwhelming, deeply confusing, largely unexplained calamity, which obviously opens the door to those who can provide a rhetoric of targets for projecting guilt, blame and rage. 

However, that is a blunder. We need look no further than the story of too many radical revolutions over the past century to see how this invites the politics of envy, scapegoating and power-hungry, fundamentally lawless, ruthless selfish ambition. Names like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and many others come to mind. Where, the ghosts of over a hundred million victims of such radical dictatorships moan out a grim warning to a world that seems to have by and large forgotten. 

Of course, that very extremism tends to make that sad history seem to be something that “could never happen here.” But in fact, there are milder forms of political messianism that are also ruinous. We should therefore be extremely wary of any politician or ideology that subtly suggests that they have cornered the market on political virtue, so that those who hold other views are habitually caricatured as ignorant, stupid, insane, incompetent, corrupt, racist, oppressive or wicked. 

The spirit of accusation is satanically destructive.

We must then be doubly concerned if we see the suggestion that the movement of rescue is led by political and economic geniuses who will almost magically deliver instant success, triumph over those who have conspired to oppress the people and quick, lasting prosperity.  For, we can be sure that if there were easy, ready- to- hand solutions to our troubles, they would have long since been successfully applied.

In short, a key fallacy in messianistic politics is that polarisation through the targeting of scapegoats is being substituted for the unwelcome lessons of sound economics:

That requires building a sound generation-length growth and development strategy that continually shifts to ever more skilled, knowledge-driven highly productive services. For instance, that is how resource poor countries like Japan and Switzerland or Singapore have moved ahead. 

(We will need to grow at rates averaging 5 – 7% for twenty years to recover from our post-volcano plight. And we cannot put all our eggs in the tourism basket, or it will become the new king sugar or king cotton.)

So, we have a major clue: tone and focus tell. That is, politicians and pundits who by and large ignore our policy agenda or the above themes and emphasise the politics of projecting blame while using rhetoric calculated to undermine investor confidence are manifestly unsound. 

Instead, we need to be hearing how we can come together as a community to build and carry out a national policy consensus, how we can build our collective knowledge, skills and capability, how we can partner with sound (not dodgy) investors, how we can put in place catalytic infrastructure that opens up room for growth, how we can move beyond consumption and construction to value-added services.  How, we can build a culture of enterprise, thrift, prudence and productivity. How, we can work with development and aid partners to achieve sound, lasting development, inclusive growth and enduring prosperity. And such like.

In short, our tone and focus of political debate have to shift. One tool for that is the recently discussed Economic Growth Strategy:

Let us learn lessons, let us recognise that we must change, let us have a new conversation about transformation, growth and lasting, sound, sustainable development.  END

[1]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-232017-the-fibre-optic-cable-project-and-development-aid-to-montserrat/

[2]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf