Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 24:2017 -The Fibre Optic Cable project and meeting Montserrat’s development needs

How can we best meet our “reasonable assistance/development needs”?

BRADES, Montserrat – While we must continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98, there is still room for addressing how we can all work together to better meet Montserrat’s key rebuilding and re-development needs.

Perhaps, we should now recall some UK House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC) remarks from 1998[1]:

“We do not believe that the reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories should be a first call on the development programme. Our responsibilities to Dependent Territory citizens are of a greater and different order to our more general humanitarian responsibilities to the developing world and involve different priorities. That should be recognised in the structure of administration and funding.”

. . . and we should also bear in mind DfID’s own remarks in their 2005 Montserrat Country Policy Plan[2]:

“Without substantial external support there is no likelihood of Montserrat achieving its ambitions, the population will decline further and more people will become more heavily dependent on public services that the Government would increasingly struggle to fund and implement.  This will lead inexorably to the collapse of the Island’s social, economic and governance structures.” [MNI CPP, para. B27, p. 9.]

In short, the UK’s obligations under the UN Charter Article 73 and the historic Britishness of OT’s impose a higher duty towards Montserrat and other OT’s than the general humanitarian responsibilities of the UK to developing nations. So, once it was decided that DfID should be an implementing arm for development aid, its duties to OT’s carry a redoubled force; even in this the year of our Lord 2017. Where, by 2005, DfID’s own plans for Montserrat pointed out the need for substantial assistance. Where, obviously, DfID knows that Montserrat is by and large restricted from getting aid from other sources, on the same principle that the UK has a particular responsibility to us and other OT’s.  Also, that we are generally restricted from borrowing to finance projects; save by specific permission of a UK Secretary of State. Where, too, if the UK pointedly refuses to vote its confidence in our economic future that signals other potential investors to keep far away from us. These concerns put the actual  (lack of) performance of major aid projects here over the past twelve years in a stark light.

Especially, given recent unfortunate events with the Fibre Optics project[3] and the wider pattern of persistent delays and restarts for ever so many other key transformational or resiliency-oriented projects. For, after twenty years of volcano crisis, far too many of the long since acknowledged “catalytic” projects for moving Montserrat forward to self-sustaining growth are still more talk than actual implementation. So, what can we do, how, how quickly?

First, let us all face facts: Montserrat’s plight is real and – after twenty years – it is unacceptable.

For one, the legally binding UN Charter Article 73 is plain: as Montserrat is a non- self-governing territory, the UK acting through DfID (and FCO etc.) is to ensure – not, drag out and delay – our economic, social and political advancement. Also, to promote – not, hamper – constructive measures of development.

On our part, though, we the government and people of Montserrat must see to it that we are credible rebuilding and re-development partners, making good cases for strategic action and building up sound capacity and a track record of successfully carrying out our projects.  Where, DfID has cause to have termed the MDC a “failure,” and too many of our projects and programmes have not been well handled from our end. For instance, why has the Government facilities project been so long delayed? Inland revenue, delay; Agriculture HQ, two years delay; ZJB building, still delayed – not good enough. Similarly, if someone imagines that the spectacle[4] of the Head of the newly created Programme Management Office being fired by being marched out of the building (and that on a “no-cause” dismissal!) helped improve our credibility, s/he needs to think again. The UK Tabloid articles may be an outrage, but too often they have had something to hang their sensationalised stories on.

Too many things need to be set right, here and in the UK.

As first steps to such reform, a resolution for a Montserrat charter of good governance[5] should set out a publicly debated, democratically voted-in agenda for reforms toward better, more transparent, more accountable decision-making; and for sound, effective, well-governed, timely execution of strategic, priority development initiatives. A linked development partnership memorandum of understanding with the UK would then go a long way to laying out a road-map for how we will set things right. This MoU should also mandate a defined economy transformation programme of action with a clear agreed timeline for its priority “catalytic” projects.[6] One, that applies world class principles of programme-based project cycle management[7] under the oversight of a joint UKG-GoM commission. [8] A commission, that should regularly report on progress to the UK Parliament’s oversight committees for DfID and FCO, and to our own Assembly.

Obvious priority areas include: the upgrade of our seaport, the restoration of fibre optic connectivity, development of geothermal electricity, tourism development, promotion of back-office business services and call centres, renewal of our financial services sector, high tech agriculture, incubation of new business enterprises and the like.  On the social needs side, the recent evacuation of our hospital from a re-purposed school to use another school because of an approaching hurricane speaks for itself; over twenty years after the volcano forced us to take over the St John’s School for use as a temporary hospital.  The potential for damage to the temporary housing in Davy Hill was underscored by the damage seen at Government Headquarters. From a side-swipe by Maria. What would a direct hit have done to us? And, much more.

None of this is new. None of this is a matter of “golden elephants next.”[9]

Going back to the Fibre Optic Cable project, thanks to Google we can see that for pilot stage broadband tests, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is willing[10] to spend £800 – 1,220 per premise to roll out broadband in hard-to-reach local communities; for market tests. This is similar to the £5 – 10 millions or thereabouts that were suggested to support St Helena in getting FO Cable access by moving a South Atlantic cable closer and running a spur line to that OT. [11] With such cases on the table, £4.84 millions for re-connecting Montserrat in the face of clear market barriers is a reasonably comparable expenditure; especially, given the economy-transforming potential.

Now, too, the Montserrat FO Cable Business Case’s argument that significant market barriers are at work is why it was approved for DfID funding at the 97% level and is why it actually went out to tender. Why then did it go through a year of slow-walking and silence, now leading to an unexplained, unilateral DfID demand[12] that other donors or private sector partners be found within six months? On pain, it seems, of closing the project? A project that is manifestly parallel to what BDUK is doing, and to why it is doing so? And, to what St Helena is arguing for? A project, that is built on precisely the core policy commitments and principles that supposedly undergird all aid to Montserrat?

Is this another way of saying that the IDC was right in 1998, when it suggested that support for UK OT’s is of a higher and different order of responsibility from support to the developing world and it should come through other Departments than DfID[13]?  Be that as it may, in the wisdom of HMG the subsequent 2002 UK International Development Act[14] clearly sets out that DfID is the implementing arm for aid to OT’s. Until this law is superseded, DfID – a world-class, leading Development Agency – is directly responsible to “ensure” advancement and to “promote” constructive measures of development in Montserrat and other OT’s.

All of which is even more important now that – due to hurricanes Irma and Maria – other OT’s have suddenly joined Montserrat in the status of being disaster-ravaged. We are all at what the Spanish call “un momento de verdad” – a moment of truth. END

[1]  See para. 101: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmintdev/267i/id0109.htm

[2]   See https://www.unicef.org/easterncaribbean/spmapping/Planning/national/Montserrat/2005_DFIDmontserrat.pdf

[3] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fibre-optic-cable-shocker/

[4]   “Head of PMO dismissed without cause – the Premier laments,” TMR, Sept 28, 2017, p. 6. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[5]    See DoD pt. 6, 2016: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-6-2016-a-framework-for-good-governance/

[6]   See DoD pt 7, 2016: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[7]  See EU Handbook: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/methodology-aid-delivery-methods-project-cycle-management-200403_en_2.pdf

[8] See DoD pt. 3, 2015: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-3-contribution/ and more recently: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-12-2017-dfid-gom-and-a-programme-of-catalytic-projects/

[9] See Claire Short’s remarks and views as discussed by Stan and Paul Cox, in How the World Breaks, p. 271.

[10]  Emerging Findings from BDUK Market Test Pilots, Feb. 2016, pp. 6 – 7: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/497369/BDUK_Market_Test_Pilots_-_Emerging_Findings_Feb_2016.pdf

[11]  See www.connectsthelena.org

[12]See, again, TMR, Oct. 6, 2017: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fibre-optic-cable-shocker/ 

[13]  See also the FAC, 1998: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmfaff/347ii/fa0206.htm

[14]  See Secs 1 – 5: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/1/pdfs/ukpga_20020001_en.pdf

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

How can we best meet our “reasonable assistance/development needs”?

BRADES, Montserrat – While we must continue to express thanks to the people and government of the UK for support since 1995 – 98, there is still room for addressing how we can all work together to better meet Montserrat’s key rebuilding and re-development needs.

Perhaps, we should now recall some UK House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC) remarks from 1998[1]:

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“We do not believe that the reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories should be a first call on the development programme. Our responsibilities to Dependent Territory citizens are of a greater and different order to our more general humanitarian responsibilities to the developing world and involve different priorities. That should be recognised in the structure of administration and funding.”

. . . and we should also bear in mind DfID’s own remarks in their 2005 Montserrat Country Policy Plan[2]:

“Without substantial external support there is no likelihood of Montserrat achieving its ambitions, the population will decline further and more people will become more heavily dependent on public services that the Government would increasingly struggle to fund and implement.  This will lead inexorably to the collapse of the Island’s social, economic and governance structures.” [MNI CPP, para. B27, p. 9.]

In short, the UK’s obligations under the UN Charter Article 73 and the historic Britishness of OT’s impose a higher duty towards Montserrat and other OT’s than the general humanitarian responsibilities of the UK to developing nations. So, once it was decided that DfID should be an implementing arm for development aid, its duties to OT’s carry a redoubled force; even in this the year of our Lord 2017. Where, by 2005, DfID’s own plans for Montserrat pointed out the need for substantial assistance. Where, obviously, DfID knows that Montserrat is by and large restricted from getting aid from other sources, on the same principle that the UK has a particular responsibility to us and other OT’s.  Also, that we are generally restricted from borrowing to finance projects; save by specific permission of a UK Secretary of State. Where, too, if the UK pointedly refuses to vote its confidence in our economic future that signals other potential investors to keep far away from us. These concerns put the actual  (lack of) performance of major aid projects here over the past twelve years in a stark light.

Especially, given recent unfortunate events with the Fibre Optics project[3] and the wider pattern of persistent delays and restarts for ever so many other key transformational or resiliency-oriented projects. For, after twenty years of volcano crisis, far too many of the long since acknowledged “catalytic” projects for moving Montserrat forward to self-sustaining growth are still more talk than actual implementation. So, what can we do, how, how quickly?

First, let us all face facts: Montserrat’s plight is real and – after twenty years – it is unacceptable.

For one, the legally binding UN Charter Article 73 is plain: as Montserrat is a non- self-governing territory, the UK acting through DfID (and FCO etc.) is to ensure – not, drag out and delay – our economic, social and political advancement. Also, to promote – not, hamper – constructive measures of development.

On our part, though, we the government and people of Montserrat must see to it that we are credible rebuilding and re-development partners, making good cases for strategic action and building up sound capacity and a track record of successfully carrying out our projects.  Where, DfID has cause to have termed the MDC a “failure,” and too many of our projects and programmes have not been well handled from our end. For instance, why has the Government facilities project been so long delayed? Inland revenue, delay; Agriculture HQ, two years delay; ZJB building, still delayed – not good enough. Similarly, if someone imagines that the spectacle[4] of the Head of the newly created Programme Management Office being fired by being marched out of the building (and that on a “no-cause” dismissal!) helped improve our credibility, s/he needs to think again. The UK Tabloid articles may be an outrage, but too often they have had something to hang their sensationalised stories on.

Too many things need to be set right, here and in the UK.

As first steps to such reform, a resolution for a Montserrat charter of good governance[5] should set out a publicly debated, democratically voted-in agenda for reforms toward better, more transparent, more accountable decision-making; and for sound, effective, well-governed, timely execution of strategic, priority development initiatives. A linked development partnership memorandum of understanding with the UK would then go a long way to laying out a road-map for how we will set things right. This MoU should also mandate a defined economy transformation programme of action with a clear agreed timeline for its priority “catalytic” projects.[6] One, that applies world class principles of programme-based project cycle management[7] under the oversight of a joint UKG-GoM commission. [8] A commission, that should regularly report on progress to the UK Parliament’s oversight committees for DfID and FCO, and to our own Assembly.

Obvious priority areas include: the upgrade of our seaport, the restoration of fibre optic connectivity, development of geothermal electricity, tourism development, promotion of back-office business services and call centres, renewal of our financial services sector, high tech agriculture, incubation of new business enterprises and the like.  On the social needs side, the recent evacuation of our hospital from a re-purposed school to use another school because of an approaching hurricane speaks for itself; over twenty years after the volcano forced us to take over the St John’s School for use as a temporary hospital.  The potential for damage to the temporary housing in Davy Hill was underscored by the damage seen at Government Headquarters. From a side-swipe by Maria. What would a direct hit have done to us? And, much more.

None of this is new. None of this is a matter of “golden elephants next.”[9]

Going back to the Fibre Optic Cable project, thanks to Google we can see that for pilot stage broadband tests, Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) is willing[10] to spend £800 – 1,220 per premise to roll out broadband in hard-to-reach local communities; for market tests. This is similar to the £5 – 10 millions or thereabouts that were suggested to support St Helena in getting FO Cable access by moving a South Atlantic cable closer and running a spur line to that OT. [11] With such cases on the table, £4.84 millions for re-connecting Montserrat in the face of clear market barriers is a reasonably comparable expenditure; especially, given the economy-transforming potential.

Now, too, the Montserrat FO Cable Business Case’s argument that significant market barriers are at work is why it was approved for DfID funding at the 97% level and is why it actually went out to tender. Why then did it go through a year of slow-walking and silence, now leading to an unexplained, unilateral DfID demand[12] that other donors or private sector partners be found within six months? On pain, it seems, of closing the project? A project that is manifestly parallel to what BDUK is doing, and to why it is doing so? And, to what St Helena is arguing for? A project, that is built on precisely the core policy commitments and principles that supposedly undergird all aid to Montserrat?

Is this another way of saying that the IDC was right in 1998, when it suggested that support for UK OT’s is of a higher and different order of responsibility from support to the developing world and it should come through other Departments than DfID[13]?  Be that as it may, in the wisdom of HMG the subsequent 2002 UK International Development Act[14] clearly sets out that DfID is the implementing arm for aid to OT’s. Until this law is superseded, DfID – a world-class, leading Development Agency – is directly responsible to “ensure” advancement and to “promote” constructive measures of development in Montserrat and other OT’s.

All of which is even more important now that – due to hurricanes Irma and Maria – other OT’s have suddenly joined Montserrat in the status of being disaster-ravaged. We are all at what the Spanish call “un momento de verdad” – a moment of truth. END

[1]  See para. 101: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmintdev/267i/id0109.htm

[2]   See https://www.unicef.org/easterncaribbean/spmapping/Planning/national/Montserrat/2005_DFIDmontserrat.pdf

[3] See https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fibre-optic-cable-shocker/

[4]   “Head of PMO dismissed without cause – the Premier laments,” TMR, Sept 28, 2017, p. 6. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[5]    See DoD pt. 6, 2016: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-6-2016-a-framework-for-good-governance/

[6]   See DoD pt 7, 2016: http://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2016-catalytic-development-projects/

[7]  See EU Handbook: https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/sites/devco/files/methodology-aid-delivery-methods-project-cycle-management-200403_en_2.pdf

[8] See DoD pt. 3, 2015: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-3-contribution/ and more recently: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-12-2017-dfid-gom-and-a-programme-of-catalytic-projects/

[9] See Claire Short’s remarks and views as discussed by Stan and Paul Cox, in How the World Breaks, p. 271.

[10]  Emerging Findings from BDUK Market Test Pilots, Feb. 2016, pp. 6 – 7: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/497369/BDUK_Market_Test_Pilots_-_Emerging_Findings_Feb_2016.pdf

[11]  See www.connectsthelena.org

[12]See, again, TMR, Oct. 6, 2017: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/fibre-optic-cable-shocker/ 

[13]  See also the FAC, 1998: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199798/cmselect/cmfaff/347ii/fa0206.htm

[14]  See Secs 1 – 5: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/1/pdfs/ukpga_20020001_en.pdf