Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 3:2017-Healing the land, 3 – the D factor – DfID’s diagnosis

 Why are so many key projects for transforming Montserrat so long delayed? 

BRADES, Montserrat, Jan 23, 2017 – If we are sick and want to get well, it is wise to go to the doctor and take his diagnosis seriously.  Montserrat’s economy has been sick for a long time, and we have had literal Doctors of Development diagnosing our case; working for DfID and for other agencies.  So, let us pause and take a look at what some of these have said on public record; here, in the 2012 Business Case for the MDC. (Yes, we do need to hear them out, they are our main partner for development aid.)

For instance, DfID’s analysts report that:

“The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years. Two thirds of the land area of the island has been rendered uninhabitable and unavailable for economic activity. This includes the capital city of Plymouth, which had been the population and commercial centre of the island and its principal access point for trade, investment and visitors.

The population has now declined to 4922[1] and the base of local business comprises 150-200 firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market, all now located in the remaining northern third of the island. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s. Housing and other social amenities existing before the eruptions have not been fully replaced. The island is heavily dependent on imports of all types of goods and services, making the cost of living expensive and the costs of doing business uncompetitive . . .”

That is not all:

“The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access. The current ferry service from Antigua is not suitable for the development of the cruise day tour market or facilitating trade. The jetty and port facilities also have limited capacity and due to adverse weather conditions significant downtime that limits commercial and cruise ship use. Air access is practically limited by the length of airstrip but also by lack of competition from operators and lack of integration with the rest of the regional and international network.

The lack of a centralised location for the island’s tourist, commercial, trade and civic activities continues to hinder and hamper economic and social development. The destruction of the capital town Plymouth in 1997 means the island has no focal geographical point for economic activity. This has resulted in a ribbon like development along the main A1 road which has scattered services and does not enhance or facilitate the islands major sector – tourism.

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only  developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new FDI in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development. Whilst some infrastructure provision and construction has occurred on the Little Bay site, it has not yet generated significant momentum and is hampered by poor physical access, an impractical master plan, fragmented and unprofessional marketing and promotion, and an unsupportive policy environment.

Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI.  Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.”

They cap off with: 

“UK support . . .  is required to ensure that major UK investments proposed for a new port and town at Carr’s Bay [→ this was 2012 . . . ] are properly managed and attract significant private sector interest and investment.  Our support . . . will help to (i) develop a tourism-driven capital town within the . . . Little Bay estates site as the principal location for new foreign direct investment, tourism, housing and civic facilities; (ii) improve physical access to Montserrat through the development of a port and breakwater at Carr’s Bay; (iii) improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets; all aimed at moving Montserrat to financial self-sustainability, and (iv) strengthen the PSD technical capacity within GoM and the MDC [ → again, 2012] to maximise the economic benefits arising from the UK investments . . .”

With a few updates, this analysis would still hit pretty close to the bulls-eye in 2017. Yes, coming on six years later. That already tells us that – for over twenty years now – there have been persistent barriers to moving forward on what is needed.

Costs are high, productive capacity and managerial remain low, access is a key challenge, there is a sense of lack of opportunity to attract investments, and more.  Those are not “my” view or that of an editor or pundit, they are the views of our principal development partners. The same, who in asking for EC$ 5 – 6 millions in the same business case, called MDC up for “failure.” And subsequently, MDC was wound up under a cloud.

We have to face that stark reality.

How can we move forward, then?

We must now move decisively, in partnership with DfID and other partners. We must create credible, world-class capacity to initiate and sustain a development and transformation programme that gives confidence that the key, catalytic projects that need to be carried out will be soundly developed and soundly executed.  We need to be willing to recognise when things are going off-track, and take firm, early – and sometimes painful – corrective action.

In that context, the Project management Office that has been discussed by our local government is a promising first step. That they seek to bring in PRINCE2 and other Axelos Project, Programme and Portfolio management qualification frameworks is of some help.

But most of all, we have to recognise that: if even so obviously sound a project as a £4.9 million Fibre Optic cable for digital access was headlined in the UK tabloids as an illustration of corruption, we have a long way to go to rebuild confidence.

Let us frankly face reality and let us begin to rebuild soundly, now. END

[1]           Census 2011

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

 Why are so many key projects for transforming Montserrat so long delayed? 

BRADES, Montserrat, Jan 23, 2017 – If we are sick and want to get well, it is wise to go to the doctor and take his diagnosis seriously.  Montserrat’s economy has been sick for a long time, and we have had literal Doctors of Development diagnosing our case; working for DfID and for other agencies.  So, let us pause and take a look at what some of these have said on public record; here, in the 2012 Business Case for the MDC. (Yes, we do need to hear them out, they are our main partner for development aid.)

For instance, DfID’s analysts report that:

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“The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years. Two thirds of the land area of the island has been rendered uninhabitable and unavailable for economic activity. This includes the capital city of Plymouth, which had been the population and commercial centre of the island and its principal access point for trade, investment and visitors.

The population has now declined to 4922[1] and the base of local business comprises 150-200 firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market, all now located in the remaining northern third of the island. Foreign direct investment has dried up completely and there are only a handful of local firms capable of trading in export markets. The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s. Housing and other social amenities existing before the eruptions have not been fully replaced. The island is heavily dependent on imports of all types of goods and services, making the cost of living expensive and the costs of doing business uncompetitive . . .”

That is not all:

“The principal barrier to economic growth and development on the island is poor physical access. This is particularly the case for sea access. The current ferry service from Antigua is not suitable for the development of the cruise day tour market or facilitating trade. The jetty and port facilities also have limited capacity and due to adverse weather conditions significant downtime that limits commercial and cruise ship use. Air access is practically limited by the length of airstrip but also by lack of competition from operators and lack of integration with the rest of the regional and international network.

The lack of a centralised location for the island’s tourist, commercial, trade and civic activities continues to hinder and hamper economic and social development. The destruction of the capital town Plymouth in 1997 means the island has no focal geographical point for economic activity. This has resulted in a ribbon like development along the main A1 road which has scattered services and does not enhance or facilitate the islands major sector – tourism.

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only  developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new FDI in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development. Whilst some infrastructure provision and construction has occurred on the Little Bay site, it has not yet generated significant momentum and is hampered by poor physical access, an impractical master plan, fragmented and unprofessional marketing and promotion, and an unsupportive policy environment.

Without the development of Little Bay and Carr’s Bay, improved access, and reduced costs of doing business, Montserrat will remain uncompetitive in attracting FDI.  Without this investment, the local business base will remain unable to design and produce exportable products and services or to substitute for expensive imports on a competitive and sustainable basis.”

They cap off with: 

“UK support . . .  is required to ensure that major UK investments proposed for a new port and town at Carr’s Bay [→ this was 2012 . . . ] are properly managed and attract significant private sector interest and investment.  Our support . . . will help to (i) develop a tourism-driven capital town within the . . . Little Bay estates site as the principal location for new foreign direct investment, tourism, housing and civic facilities; (ii) improve physical access to Montserrat through the development of a port and breakwater at Carr’s Bay; (iii) improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets; all aimed at moving Montserrat to financial self-sustainability, and (iv) strengthen the PSD technical capacity within GoM and the MDC [ → again, 2012] to maximise the economic benefits arising from the UK investments . . .”

With a few updates, this analysis would still hit pretty close to the bulls-eye in 2017. Yes, coming on six years later. That already tells us that – for over twenty years now – there have been persistent barriers to moving forward on what is needed.

Costs are high, productive capacity and managerial remain low, access is a key challenge, there is a sense of lack of opportunity to attract investments, and more.  Those are not “my” view or that of an editor or pundit, they are the views of our principal development partners. The same, who in asking for EC$ 5 – 6 millions in the same business case, called MDC up for “failure.” And subsequently, MDC was wound up under a cloud.

We have to face that stark reality.

How can we move forward, then?

We must now move decisively, in partnership with DfID and other partners. We must create credible, world-class capacity to initiate and sustain a development and transformation programme that gives confidence that the key, catalytic projects that need to be carried out will be soundly developed and soundly executed.  We need to be willing to recognise when things are going off-track, and take firm, early – and sometimes painful – corrective action.

In that context, the Project management Office that has been discussed by our local government is a promising first step. That they seek to bring in PRINCE2 and other Axelos Project, Programme and Portfolio management qualification frameworks is of some help.

But most of all, we have to recognise that: if even so obviously sound a project as a £4.9 million Fibre Optic cable for digital access was headlined in the UK tabloids as an illustration of corruption, we have a long way to go to rebuild confidence.

Let us frankly face reality and let us begin to rebuild soundly, now. END

[1]           Census 2011