Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 15: 2017: Do we face a national leadership, strategic vision, capacity and character challenge?

In one word, yes.  However, how we get there is also helpful. First, as Sunday (or, Sabbath) school lessons taught, in the days of Samuel, there was a great outcry for a King to lead the nation of Israel. The prophet’s reply was telling – a warning that concludes:

“1 Sam 8:18 . . .  you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” [ESV]

The point is clear, national leadership is always a challenge and the popular leader we call for on one day, we may bitterly regret on another.

So, after over twenty years of volcano crisis, six governments and lingering dependency on DfID aid from year to year, how do we minimise the odds of buyer’s remorse?

For one, by properly understanding that while there will never be a perfect leader, leadership teams need to be able to handle the specific challenges of a given time. Our leaders have to soundly understand what should be done, even as the men of Issachar understood that David needed to be made king over all of Israel, but someone had to watch the back door.  Only seven years before, Saul had been killed in the Jezreel area and they then had to spend five years fighting to recapture it from the Philistines, even while David was fighting in the South. That’s why most of the 80,000 men of that key tribe stayed home and instead sent a delegation of 200 chief men to the coronation.

Just so, in Montserrat today, we need a clear strategic vision that helps us soundly understand and respond to the signs, dangers and opportunities of our times. Obviously, leaders and their teams must be capable of planning and carrying out apt strategies. In order to handle power wisely and control money safely, our leaders must be good stewards, responsible people of good character.  Also, we the people of our community must be willing to be soundly led.

We are discussing teams of leaders. That is key, the party manifesto of some years ago that objected to “one-man-ism” had a point. Likewise, when a Saul fails, a Jonathan – who, would otherwise have been in line to succeed – needs to be willing to support the Davids that emerge. Here are Jonathan’s magnificent words, even as his father, King Saul, sought David’s life:

“1 Sam 23:16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home. “[ESV]

Learning to play second fiddle can be a challenge, but it is one we must meet – in Cabinet, in our Legislative Assembly, in the Civil Service, in our schools, in the health services or in the wider community. It is not for nothing that we see the Apostle James warning that where we see envy and selfish ambition, there we will find disorder and every evil work. Also, he warned that the tongue is too often set afire from hell, igniting destructive out- of- control fires in families, churches and communities alike.

The capacity gap is, perhaps, even harder to face. For example, when key Civil Service posts have gone unfilled for years at a time, but some then pounce on clearly qualified Technical Cooperation Officers (who have a capacity-building remit), something has gone wrong. Likewise, when some can look at the often stated official FCO and DfID policy that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK aid budget and then sneer at it, something is just as wrong.

Similarly, we must take seriously DfID’s direct statements that their willingness to expend unprecedented funds to build an airport in St Helena is a yardstick of their intent to go beyond meeting day to day needs and invest in economic transformation. Once, we make a good case and show improved governance and sound financial management.

So, we must use that as a base for a joint economy transformation programme.  That means, we need to soberly face what DfID – ever since 2012 – has consistently deemed the “failure” of MDC. We can’t change that past, but we should draw appropriate lessons to guide onward efforts. Especially, given that DfID is under strong pressure over failed aid initiatives. For instance, the unexpected problems with the St Helena airport mean that – even though the airport has now been passed – DfID is now likely to tighten up its criteria for evaluating big ticket, transformational projects. Explain

We will therefore need to strengthen our ability to manage finance, procurement, projects and programmes, as well as our capacity to do economic and statistical analyses. These are precisely the areas for the recent wave of Technical Cooperation Officers, and for the new Programme Management Office. Similarly, we will need to strengthen investment promotion and the development of tourism, a key sector. That fits in with the special assignments identified for the proposed Chief Executive Officer in the Premier’s Office. Which, obviously, needs reformation and reorganisation. Which, clearly, is in progress.

The current administration will need to answer some pointed questions on why there have been so many delays in these various initiatives, and others we have probably not heard of. Nor is the repeated lack of clear, consistent, transparent communication a healthy sign.

DfID, similarly, needs to answer questions on why obviously needed major development initiatives have been roadblocked or cut down to inadequate levels for twenty years and more. 

So, do those who led past administrations.

And, our whole community.

It is when we sit down together and draw out the lessons from the past twenty years, that we will be able to make a difference over the next twenty years.  Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

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In one word, yes.  However, how we get there is also helpful. First, as Sunday (or, Sabbath) school lessons taught, in the days of Samuel, there was a great outcry for a King to lead the nation of Israel. The prophet’s reply was telling – a warning that concludes:

“1 Sam 8:18 . . .  you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” [ESV]

The point is clear, national leadership is always a challenge and the popular leader we call for on one day, we may bitterly regret on another.

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So, after over twenty years of volcano crisis, six governments and lingering dependency on DfID aid from year to year, how do we minimise the odds of buyer’s remorse?

For one, by properly understanding that while there will never be a perfect leader, leadership teams need to be able to handle the specific challenges of a given time. Our leaders have to soundly understand what should be done, even as the men of Issachar understood that David needed to be made king over all of Israel, but someone had to watch the back door.  Only seven years before, Saul had been killed in the Jezreel area and they then had to spend five years fighting to recapture it from the Philistines, even while David was fighting in the South. That’s why most of the 80,000 men of that key tribe stayed home and instead sent a delegation of 200 chief men to the coronation.

Just so, in Montserrat today, we need a clear strategic vision that helps us soundly understand and respond to the signs, dangers and opportunities of our times. Obviously, leaders and their teams must be capable of planning and carrying out apt strategies. In order to handle power wisely and control money safely, our leaders must be good stewards, responsible people of good character.  Also, we the people of our community must be willing to be soundly led.

We are discussing teams of leaders. That is key, the party manifesto of some years ago that objected to “one-man-ism” had a point. Likewise, when a Saul fails, a Jonathan – who, would otherwise have been in line to succeed – needs to be willing to support the Davids that emerge. Here are Jonathan’s magnificent words, even as his father, King Saul, sought David’s life:

“1 Sam 23:16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home. “[ESV]

Learning to play second fiddle can be a challenge, but it is one we must meet – in Cabinet, in our Legislative Assembly, in the Civil Service, in our schools, in the health services or in the wider community. It is not for nothing that we see the Apostle James warning that where we see envy and selfish ambition, there we will find disorder and every evil work. Also, he warned that the tongue is too often set afire from hell, igniting destructive out- of- control fires in families, churches and communities alike.

The capacity gap is, perhaps, even harder to face. For example, when key Civil Service posts have gone unfilled for years at a time, but some then pounce on clearly qualified Technical Cooperation Officers (who have a capacity-building remit), something has gone wrong. Likewise, when some can look at the often stated official FCO and DfID policy that the reasonable assistance needs of Overseas Territories have a first call on the UK aid budget and then sneer at it, something is just as wrong.

Similarly, we must take seriously DfID’s direct statements that their willingness to expend unprecedented funds to build an airport in St Helena is a yardstick of their intent to go beyond meeting day to day needs and invest in economic transformation. Once, we make a good case and show improved governance and sound financial management.

So, we must use that as a base for a joint economy transformation programme.  That means, we need to soberly face what DfID – ever since 2012 – has consistently deemed the “failure” of MDC. We can’t change that past, but we should draw appropriate lessons to guide onward efforts. Especially, given that DfID is under strong pressure over failed aid initiatives. For instance, the unexpected problems with the St Helena airport mean that – even though the airport has now been passed – DfID is now likely to tighten up its criteria for evaluating big ticket, transformational projects. Explain

We will therefore need to strengthen our ability to manage finance, procurement, projects and programmes, as well as our capacity to do economic and statistical analyses. These are precisely the areas for the recent wave of Technical Cooperation Officers, and for the new Programme Management Office. Similarly, we will need to strengthen investment promotion and the development of tourism, a key sector. That fits in with the special assignments identified for the proposed Chief Executive Officer in the Premier’s Office. Which, obviously, needs reformation and reorganisation. Which, clearly, is in progress.

The current administration will need to answer some pointed questions on why there have been so many delays in these various initiatives, and others we have probably not heard of. Nor is the repeated lack of clear, consistent, transparent communication a healthy sign.

DfID, similarly, needs to answer questions on why obviously needed major development initiatives have been roadblocked or cut down to inadequate levels for twenty years and more. 

So, do those who led past administrations.

And, our whole community.

It is when we sit down together and draw out the lessons from the past twenty years, that we will be able to make a difference over the next twenty years.  Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.