Categorized | Columns, De Ole Dawg

De Ole Dawg – Part 17:The St. Helena’s smoking gun complaint against DFID

Does St. Helena’s parallel struggle with DfID open up an Article 73 opportunity?

BRADES, Montserrat –  In the shadows of the dust-up over Mrs. Shelly Harris’ ill-advised submission to the FAC we may have overlooked St. Helena’s concerns. For example they wrote[1]:

We [St. Helena] share HMG’s desire to increase self-sufficiency, but cannot do so unless the necessary level of funding is available to improve our infrastructure, boost local production, establish sustainable tourism and maintain delivery of essential services. To achieve this during the transitional period, on-going financial assistance from HMG and the existence of constructive partnership working are of the utmost importance to enable us to realise the potential benefits of air access, increase resilience and gradually eliminate the need for grant-in-aid . . . .

We believe that the interaction between HMG and St. Helena (and also other aided OT’s) would benefit from some adjustment. In particular, funding decisions should be taken in partnership, to ensure that British taxpayers are assured of the value of the expenditure whilst respecting St. Helena’s right to democratic self-government. Such decisions should also recognise and address the Island’s reasonable assistance needs . . . it appears that the Partnership Value of sound financial management is being compromised . . . .

The prolonged, continuing absence of a capital programme is a major impediment to St. Helena’s economic and social development and must be addressed urgently if further contraction of St. Helena’s economy is not to occur. Key projects such as the development of cargo handling facilities at Rupert’s Bay remain stalled . . . .

In past years St. Helena enjoyed good working relationships with HMG but recent disturbing indications suggest that genuine partnership working with DfID is deteriorating. This has occurred primarily since the “fallout” relating to discovery of wind shear at the airport and the reputational damage this caused. DfID has since appeared defensive and reluctant to release information or enter into open dialogue regarding key issues such as the rejection of a detailed and well supported bid made by SHG for an additional £1.4 million grant-in aid for 2018/2019, for which no explanation was provided. At times, it has appeared that adverse publicity in the international media has had more influence upon decision making than HMG’s responsibilities towards its OT’s.

Smoking gun!

Ever so familiar concerns, right down to the prolonged stalling of economy sparking, no-brainer investment projects.

Right away, St. Helena’s parallel plight sweeps away a favourite underlying explanation of our own struggles: the UK’s racist colonialist mentality

(FYI, the people of St. Helena are obviously predominantly white.  FYFI, as history tells us, St. Helena was simply too remote to be part of the Caribbean’s plantation economy, slavery based trade in sugar and slaves. Yes, lingering traces of racism may indeed affect our case; but given St. Helena, racism cannot be the tap-root of the problem. We have to get our diagnosis right if we are to solve the problem. Let us stop barking up the wrong tree.)

Another favourite polarising talking point also collapses: is dat madman Don an’ ‘e “badvisors” fault

(FYFI, if St. Helena also recognises the value of a balanced, catalytic infrastructure focused UKG capital investment programme based on meeting “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s, that should make us re-think the way too many voices have ridiculed our Premier’s emphasis on these same concerns. The FCO 2012 OT’s White Paper clearly acknowledges that the UN Charter Article 73 is legally binding on the UK Government. That is also why OT’s are in the main ineligible for funding by International Agencies: it’s the UK’s job to “ensure . . . advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development.” So, the settled, often declared policy of the UK Government has been that “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s have a “first call” on the UK aid budget. Which, is administered through DfID under the 2002 UK International Development Act. DfID, being a leading international development agency in the world. Those who have spoken against these things for years, to the point of outright laughing at them, have done Montserrat no good. They have thereby also shown that they are unfit for national leadership as they have refused to be corrected on a key strategic and negotiation error. Article 73 is our key strong-point in bargaining with the UK, we must not carelessly throw it away to gain crabs-in-a-barrel political advantages. For shame!)

It is equally obvious that economic, educational, health care, social and access development are part of “reasonable assistance” needs here, in St. Helena and in other OT’s.  Stalled strategic, catalytic projects are simply not good enough. DfID and FCO, we are looking straight at you.

Likewise, if we and other OT’s lack capacity for good governance, sound financial management and programme/project management, DfID should be busily promoting capacity-building.

This involves technical cooperation initiatives and working with us to create a development partnership MoU with an adequate, balanced capital investment programme. (Those who have created and fanned up a climate of hostility to TC’s have done Montserrat no good. Another point of disqualification.)

Yes, “reasonable assistance needs” includes urgently rebuilding the Programme Management Office and bringing back PRINCE2 and other Axelos project and programme management frameworks and training.  It requires expediting – not stalling – the key project to reform the Office of the Premier, putting in place a CEO,  developing a proper Tourism agency, creating a new Development and Investment promoting corporation and also urgently establishing a charter of good governance.

Maybe, too, it is time to ask whether DfID and/or FCO are the best way forward for Montserrat and other OT’s. Certainly, our submissions to the FAC asked that question and raised the onward question of a separate, OT Development Fund with joint administration. (Stay tuned, TMR readers!)

Twenty-three years of very mixed results are simply not good enough. It is time for a fresh start.

Yes, there are also many obvious gaps, delays and failings with projects etc. (and many go back across twenty years, it’s not just this government):

  • Why is there a persistent pattern of blackouts? How is it going to be fixed?
  • Why has Geothermal Well #3 stalled for what, two years?
  • Given their FAC submission, did Thermal Energy Partners submit a serious proposal for GT development?
  • What are we doing about it and other results from the early market engagement on GT development?
  • And yes, we know DfID took over the GT project. DfID and GoM owe the public an explanation. Isn’t “transparency” part of good governance?
  • When will ZJB finally move into its new building?
  • When will we see proper airport lighting and improvements to the airport?
  • Why was the vital Fibre Optic Cable project delayed by at least two years past the July 2017 target date in its original logframe?
  • Could this be an example of what the “Saints” are saying: At times, it has appeared that adverse publicity in the international media has had more influence upon decision making than HMG’s responsibilities towards its OT’s?
  • What is to be done about emergency social housing and lingering problems with housing in Davy Hill and Lookout? (Compare, how the similar structures at Gov’t Headquarters were demolished after hurricane damage.)
  • Why did the Meade Government use EU money to knock down Gun Hill without a firm agreement with DfID and other partners to build the Carr’s Bay seaport that we paid a lot of money to have designed?
  • What are we going to do about the remaining, undermined, collapsing rock platform at Carr’s Bay? It’s not just an eyesore, we need to defend our coast from the sea!
  • Why was Piper’s Pond filled in, destroying our last significant mangrove wetland on the West coast? Why has it sat there ever since as another eyesore?
  • Where are the Dubai partners and can the Little Bay Master Plan be updated and implemented? Is a four rum-shop waterfront what we want to be known by?
  • Given the crucial importance of Article 73 for our onward development partnership negotiations with the UK, why did the Meade administration try to take us off the UN’s list of territories to which it applies?
  • Why is it that our Government has raised the concern of being forced to choose between building a proper Hospital and a more adequate high school campus?
  • Why is it that we hardly hear about or discuss these and so many other crucial issues?
  • And so forth?

Obviously, it is time for a new, more realistic, more responsible, more transparent, more truthful conversation on how Montserrat can come together as a community to rebuild our volcano-shattered economy and community infrastructure. Then, let us see if we can come together around our Growth Strategy and National Vision to build a brighter, better future.  


[1] See, FAC 2018: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/written/88937.html

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Does St. Helena’s parallel struggle with DfID open up an Article 73 opportunity?

BRADES, Montserrat –  In the shadows of the dust-up over Mrs. Shelly Harris’ ill-advised submission to the FAC we may have overlooked St. Helena’s concerns. For example they wrote[1]:

We [St. Helena] share HMG’s desire to increase self-sufficiency, but cannot do so unless the necessary level of funding is available to improve our infrastructure, boost local production, establish sustainable tourism and maintain delivery of essential services. To achieve this during the transitional period, on-going financial assistance from HMG and the existence of constructive partnership working are of the utmost importance to enable us to realise the potential benefits of air access, increase resilience and gradually eliminate the need for grant-in-aid . . . .

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We believe that the interaction between HMG and St. Helena (and also other aided OT’s) would benefit from some adjustment. In particular, funding decisions should be taken in partnership, to ensure that British taxpayers are assured of the value of the expenditure whilst respecting St. Helena’s right to democratic self-government. Such decisions should also recognise and address the Island’s reasonable assistance needs . . . it appears that the Partnership Value of sound financial management is being compromised . . . .

The prolonged, continuing absence of a capital programme is a major impediment to St. Helena’s economic and social development and must be addressed urgently if further contraction of St. Helena’s economy is not to occur. Key projects such as the development of cargo handling facilities at Rupert’s Bay remain stalled . . . .

In past years St. Helena enjoyed good working relationships with HMG but recent disturbing indications suggest that genuine partnership working with DfID is deteriorating. This has occurred primarily since the “fallout” relating to discovery of wind shear at the airport and the reputational damage this caused. DfID has since appeared defensive and reluctant to release information or enter into open dialogue regarding key issues such as the rejection of a detailed and well supported bid made by SHG for an additional £1.4 million grant-in aid for 2018/2019, for which no explanation was provided. At times, it has appeared that adverse publicity in the international media has had more influence upon decision making than HMG’s responsibilities towards its OT’s.

Smoking gun!

Ever so familiar concerns, right down to the prolonged stalling of economy sparking, no-brainer investment projects.

Right away, St. Helena’s parallel plight sweeps away a favourite underlying explanation of our own struggles: the UK’s racist colonialist mentality

(FYI, the people of St. Helena are obviously predominantly white.  FYFI, as history tells us, St. Helena was simply too remote to be part of the Caribbean’s plantation economy, slavery based trade in sugar and slaves. Yes, lingering traces of racism may indeed affect our case; but given St. Helena, racism cannot be the tap-root of the problem. We have to get our diagnosis right if we are to solve the problem. Let us stop barking up the wrong tree.)

Another favourite polarising talking point also collapses: is dat madman Don an’ ‘e “badvisors” fault

(FYFI, if St. Helena also recognises the value of a balanced, catalytic infrastructure focused UKG capital investment programme based on meeting “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s, that should make us re-think the way too many voices have ridiculed our Premier’s emphasis on these same concerns. The FCO 2012 OT’s White Paper clearly acknowledges that the UN Charter Article 73 is legally binding on the UK Government. That is also why OT’s are in the main ineligible for funding by International Agencies: it’s the UK’s job to “ensure . . . advancement” and to “promote constructive measures of development.” So, the settled, often declared policy of the UK Government has been that “reasonable assistance needs” of OT’s have a “first call” on the UK aid budget. Which, is administered through DfID under the 2002 UK International Development Act. DfID, being a leading international development agency in the world. Those who have spoken against these things for years, to the point of outright laughing at them, have done Montserrat no good. They have thereby also shown that they are unfit for national leadership as they have refused to be corrected on a key strategic and negotiation error. Article 73 is our key strong-point in bargaining with the UK, we must not carelessly throw it away to gain crabs-in-a-barrel political advantages. For shame!)

It is equally obvious that economic, educational, health care, social and access development are part of “reasonable assistance” needs here, in St. Helena and in other OT’s.  Stalled strategic, catalytic projects are simply not good enough. DfID and FCO, we are looking straight at you.

Likewise, if we and other OT’s lack capacity for good governance, sound financial management and programme/project management, DfID should be busily promoting capacity-building.

This involves technical cooperation initiatives and working with us to create a development partnership MoU with an adequate, balanced capital investment programme. (Those who have created and fanned up a climate of hostility to TC’s have done Montserrat no good. Another point of disqualification.)

Yes, “reasonable assistance needs” includes urgently rebuilding the Programme Management Office and bringing back PRINCE2 and other Axelos project and programme management frameworks and training.  It requires expediting – not stalling – the key project to reform the Office of the Premier, putting in place a CEO,  developing a proper Tourism agency, creating a new Development and Investment promoting corporation and also urgently establishing a charter of good governance.

Maybe, too, it is time to ask whether DfID and/or FCO are the best way forward for Montserrat and other OT’s. Certainly, our submissions to the FAC asked that question and raised the onward question of a separate, OT Development Fund with joint administration. (Stay tuned, TMR readers!)

Twenty-three years of very mixed results are simply not good enough. It is time for a fresh start.

Yes, there are also many obvious gaps, delays and failings with projects etc. (and many go back across twenty years, it’s not just this government):

Obviously, it is time for a new, more realistic, more responsible, more transparent, more truthful conversation on how Montserrat can come together as a community to rebuild our volcano-shattered economy and community infrastructure. Then, let us see if we can come together around our Growth Strategy and National Vision to build a brighter, better future.  


[1] See, FAC 2018: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/foreign-affairs-committee/the-future-of-the-uk-overseas-territories/written/88937.html