Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 27: 2017 -Clare Short’s dismissal of Montserrat’s case as ‘noise and a row’

How can we exorcise the lingering impact of UK International Development Secretary Clare Short’s 1997 dismissal: ‘They are making a noise and a row’?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – Montserrat still remembers DfID Secretary of State Clare Short for her ill-advised “golden elephants next” remark. But, while this is what grabbed the headlines and got her a media battering, we (and other disaster-stricken OT’s) also have to deal with the reason she gave for that dismissive remark. According to the Coxes in their recent book:

UK International Development Secretary Clare Short (Cr. BBC)

“Clare Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [Stan and Paul Cox, How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p. 271.]

Notice, the focal argument: “it would be weak politics” to give more aid in response to “noise and a row.”  That is, as BBC put it in a 1999 article, “she accused the inhabitants of the volcano-ravaged island Montserrat of making unreasonable demands.”[1] Also, let us note its lingering consequence – keeping us on slow-drip support in the economic ICU rather than moving on to ensure . . . economic advancement” and to promote constructive measures of development.” Which, is what the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 actually states.

The key to that move, was to separate the concept of supporting “assistance needs,” from optional investment in transformational development that would materially help us to stand up on our own two feet. But plainly, securing our advancement and development are reasonable assistance needs too. So, the flash-point question is: how do we make a reasonable case that is undeniably more than empty “noise and a row”?

There is of course much talk about evidence-based (thus, “reasonable”) decision-making.  As one result, by now, somewhere in Government Headquarters, there must be a shelf- or- two- full of major consultancy studies on key infrastructure projects, strategies, plans, policies and initiatives that could credibly help to spark self-sustaining inclusive growth and development.  Costing, doubtless, the value of a few dozen golden elephants. So, why then are we still stuck on slow-drip economic life support twenty years after the peak of the volcano crisis in ’97 – ‘98?

Especially, when these studies consistently point to a well-known key cluster of economy kick-start initiatives?  For instance, here is a list from DfID itself in the 2012 MDC Business Case:

  1. “develop a tourism-driven capital town . . . as the principal location for new foreign direct investment, tourism, housing and civic facilities”;
  2. “improve physical access to Montserrat through the development of a port and breakwater . . .” ;
  • “improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets”

Likewise, we can see in a 2012 Consultancy:

  • Tourism
  • LB/CB development
  • Spa and wellness tourism
  • Educational tourism
  • Renewable energy (geothermal)
  • Mining and light manufacturing
  • Agro-processing
  • Fishing
  • IT-enabled services

Five years later, that list is still obviously valid. So, how can we now move it forward in partnership with DfID and other aid/development/investment partners?

First, the recent commitment of the UK in the 2017 JMC Communique point 17 to “ensure” advancement is a key admission of the full force of legal obligation under the UN Charter Article 73.[2] The UK, Montserrat and other OT’s that were hard-hit by disasters must work to put in place credible recovery, capacity-building, resilience and transformation plans to an agreed timeline and effective capacity to carry them out. 

Yes, as point 16 of the Communique indicates, that will require addressing various good governance concerns, including improved public financial management.  If you doubt the force of that, ponder this from The Man from Baker Hill in TMR, in 2014:

“Some Montserratians still believe that British people’s hard earned tax dollars are to be lavished on a selected few . . . . The situation at MDC and by extension Little Bay in the year 2014 is the just the tip of the Curse . . . Things could get worse than the Turks and Caicos situation. Nevertheless, Montserratians do not despair over the likely dismantling of the MDC. If it happens, then it is a necessary ritual in exorcising the curse of Lady Minister Claire Short. You see, MDC is where the money is stacked. And as long as there is loads of money, there will be some people with great desire to get stacks of it to build their own little golden elephant . . . . And if one or two of us have to be temporarily put in jail, so be it.” [“Claire Short’s Curse,” TMR Dec. 19, 2014.[3]]

How soon do we forget.

The Bureaucratic Red Tape Monster (HT: Deviant Art)

 

Obviously, efforts to build capacity and reform governance should be projects under the resilience and transformation programme. Where, for Montserrat, the dismembered Programme Management Office (PMO) clearly needs to be put back together.[4] Likewise, reforms need to be sound and illuminated by all relevant best practices. They must not turn into an out-of-control bureaucratic red tape monster that frustrates timely progress. Where, too, DfID is a leading aid and development agency and so can and should provide key technical support. Support, that will “promote” – not, hinder, delay unduly or undermine – “constructive measures of development.” As, Article 73’s words put it. Twenty years are long enough to wait.

 

Lastly, to point such out is not mere “noise and a row.” Nor, is it “weak politics” to seriously face these issues. It is time to exorcise and move on beyond this ghost from 1997. END

[1]           See: “The frank Ms Short,” BBC, April 7, 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/312910.stm

[2]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-27-2017-jmc-17-a-development-aid-policy-breakthrough/

[3]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/claire-shorts-curse-the-quest-for-golden-elements/

[4]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-22-2017-failing-the-opportunity-test/

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How can we exorcise the lingering impact of UK International Development Secretary Clare Short’s 1997 dismissal: ‘They are making a noise and a row’?

BRADES, Montserrat,  – Montserrat still remembers DfID Secretary of State Clare Short for her ill-advised “golden elephants next” remark. But, while this is what grabbed the headlines and got her a media battering, we (and other disaster-stricken OT’s) also have to deal with the reason she gave for that dismissive remark. According to the Coxes in their recent book:

UK International Development Secretary Clare Short (Cr. BBC)

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“Clare Short assumed her job as the international development secretary in the spring of 1997, as the volcanic crisis was tightening its grip. A Labour Party member, Short had announced that her department would focus its efforts and funds on eliminating poverty around the world, and she was not going to let the desperate pleas of one small colony‘s residents divert her from that global mission. She said at one point, “It would be weak politics if I said, ‘They are making a noise and a row. Oh dear, give them more money.’ ” Short pushed back against requests for decent housing, a hospital and infrastructure improvements, quipping that a “wish list” for Montserrat would include “golden elephants next.” With that comment, she invited and received a battering in the media. She apologized, but didn’t open the floodgates to aid.” [Stan and Paul Cox, How the World Breaks (NY: The New Press, 2016), p. 271.]

Notice, the focal argument: “it would be weak politics” to give more aid in response to “noise and a row.”  That is, as BBC put it in a 1999 article, “she accused the inhabitants of the volcano-ravaged island Montserrat of making unreasonable demands.”[1] Also, let us note its lingering consequence – keeping us on slow-drip support in the economic ICU rather than moving on to ensure . . . economic advancement” and to promote constructive measures of development.” Which, is what the legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 actually states.

The key to that move, was to separate the concept of supporting “assistance needs,” from optional investment in transformational development that would materially help us to stand up on our own two feet. But plainly, securing our advancement and development are reasonable assistance needs too. So, the flash-point question is: how do we make a reasonable case that is undeniably more than empty “noise and a row”?

There is of course much talk about evidence-based (thus, “reasonable”) decision-making.  As one result, by now, somewhere in Government Headquarters, there must be a shelf- or- two- full of major consultancy studies on key infrastructure projects, strategies, plans, policies and initiatives that could credibly help to spark self-sustaining inclusive growth and development.  Costing, doubtless, the value of a few dozen golden elephants. So, why then are we still stuck on slow-drip economic life support twenty years after the peak of the volcano crisis in ’97 – ‘98?

Especially, when these studies consistently point to a well-known key cluster of economy kick-start initiatives?  For instance, here is a list from DfID itself in the 2012 MDC Business Case:

  1. “develop a tourism-driven capital town . . . as the principal location for new foreign direct investment, tourism, housing and civic facilities”;
  2. “improve physical access to Montserrat through the development of a port and breakwater . . .” ;

Likewise, we can see in a 2012 Consultancy:

Five years later, that list is still obviously valid. So, how can we now move it forward in partnership with DfID and other aid/development/investment partners?

First, the recent commitment of the UK in the 2017 JMC Communique point 17 to “ensure” advancement is a key admission of the full force of legal obligation under the UN Charter Article 73.[2] The UK, Montserrat and other OT’s that were hard-hit by disasters must work to put in place credible recovery, capacity-building, resilience and transformation plans to an agreed timeline and effective capacity to carry them out. 

Yes, as point 16 of the Communique indicates, that will require addressing various good governance concerns, including improved public financial management.  If you doubt the force of that, ponder this from The Man from Baker Hill in TMR, in 2014:

“Some Montserratians still believe that British people’s hard earned tax dollars are to be lavished on a selected few . . . . The situation at MDC and by extension Little Bay in the year 2014 is the just the tip of the Curse . . . Things could get worse than the Turks and Caicos situation. Nevertheless, Montserratians do not despair over the likely dismantling of the MDC. If it happens, then it is a necessary ritual in exorcising the curse of Lady Minister Claire Short. You see, MDC is where the money is stacked. And as long as there is loads of money, there will be some people with great desire to get stacks of it to build their own little golden elephant . . . . And if one or two of us have to be temporarily put in jail, so be it.” [“Claire Short’s Curse,” TMR Dec. 19, 2014.[3]]

How soon do we forget.

The Bureaucratic Red Tape Monster (HT: Deviant Art)

 

Obviously, efforts to build capacity and reform governance should be projects under the resilience and transformation programme. Where, for Montserrat, the dismembered Programme Management Office (PMO) clearly needs to be put back together.[4] Likewise, reforms need to be sound and illuminated by all relevant best practices. They must not turn into an out-of-control bureaucratic red tape monster that frustrates timely progress. Where, too, DfID is a leading aid and development agency and so can and should provide key technical support. Support, that will “promote” – not, hinder, delay unduly or undermine – “constructive measures of development.” As, Article 73’s words put it. Twenty years are long enough to wait.

 

Lastly, to point such out is not mere “noise and a row.” Nor, is it “weak politics” to seriously face these issues. It is time to exorcise and move on beyond this ghost from 1997. END

[1]           See: “The frank Ms Short,” BBC, April 7, 1999: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/312910.stm

[2]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-27-2017-jmc-17-a-development-aid-policy-breakthrough/

[3]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/claire-shorts-curse-the-quest-for-golden-elements/

[4]           See: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-22-2017-failing-the-opportunity-test/