Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 6:2017 – The Two-Track Solution

Kick-starting our Economy 

BRADES, Montserrat, Feb 10, 2017 – In the recently published Government Update, Building Montserrat’s Future, Premier Romeo’s Office argues that we need fast-track jobs-creating projects right now and also longer-term economy-transforming projects: 

“As a first step, we will need several “shovel-ready,” jobs-creating projects that will help “kick-start” strong growth in our economy. For instance, the A1 Main road needs to be completed through a Phase II project; the Government Accommodations Programme can and should move on to its further phases; the Little Bay Town can be further developed; up to 400 plus social and affordable houses can be built; we can develop tourist sites, including a Volcano Park/ “New Pompeii” center in Plymouth; development of programmes for the youth, parks and leisure facilities, and the like – putting our people to productive work. These projects would then feed into the longer-term, transformational development projects.” [TMR, Feb. 3rd 2017, p. 11.[1]

To understand why this is right, let’s look at a simple sketch:

We instantly see why things have been going wrong for over twenty years now. For,  without a strong, steady stream of  construction-, tourism- and agriculture- based fast-track jobs-creating projects, delays and difficulties with the long term projects have kept our economy in slow-drip bare survival mode for over twenty years

And of course too many of those key breakthrough projects have been needlessly deadlocked, day after day,  month after month, year after year.  Obviously, 2 + 2 = 4, so it’s no surprise that our economy has often seemed to be more “dead” than alive, for twenty years now. (And, let’s not forget, the early 90’s were no economic picnic either.)

Yet, as long ago as 2005, DfID itself pointedly wrote in its Montserrat Country Policy Plan, that:

“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.” 

Similarly, in 1998, the International Development Committee warned in its Montserrat Report, paragraph 16, that: . . .  in the case of Montserrat we do not merely have the unfortunate losses of a few thousand individuals but an imperilled society. The normal rules cannot apply . . .”

For example, the blatant delay games with the Ferry last year – unfortunately – are actually TYPICAL.  Only, this time a lot of ordinary people felt the pinch a bit more directly than usual. 

In short, DfID has some serious explaining to do about development projects for Montserrat

So do: (a) our local senior officials and (b) the Ministers in our own local Governments over the past twenty years. So also, (c) the MDC’s big wigs, given its “failure.”  Especially, as DfID’s budget doubled to  £10 billion between 2005 and 2014. Where, by law under the UN Charter Article 73, Montserrat and other Overseas Territories are supposed to be first in line for the UK’s aid budget. Also, it is plain to all that Montserrat has gone through an unprecedented volcano disaster since 1995 so there is no excuse for a delays- as- usual mentality.

As for the talking point that £400+ millions have been “wasted” here, obviously half or more of that went on support to our recurrent budget once our tax base collapsed due to the volcano disaster.  Of the remaining half, a good chunk obviously has gone on DfID consultancies that so far have not broken the aid project deadlock. Another big slice is doubtless a matter of accounting games: reckoning just about any Montserrat-related expenditures as “aid.” But still, we face another good question: what has maybe up to £100 million of capital aid been spent on, to what result. As a part of this, we need to have sensible answers on the inadequate air- and sea- ports, the temporary hospital, poor quality emergency housing in Davy Hill and Lookout – erected over the protests of knowledgeable local builders – and more.  

I doubt that there are any good answers. Answers, that can stand the clear, cold light of day. However, day by day, month by month, delay by delay, penny-wise but pound-foolish decision by decision, cut by cut, twenty years have been wasted. And, if things continue like this, we could easily waste ten or twenty more.

Happily, the above sketch also points to solutions. For, we can – and must –  find a way to get the fast track going, then bridge onward to longer term, transformational development initiatives. It is these “key” “catalytic” projects that will carry our economy forward to lasting prosperity and self-sufficiency. 

This points to what our Montserrat Transformation Programme and the new Programme Management Office should be delivering: a good value for money, ten- to twenty- year plan backed by agreements with HMG, FCO and DfID – a plan that lays out the two-track projects solution. No more cut-down, doomed- to- fail- compromise plans, please.  Somewhere between (1) grossly inadequate, on-the-cheap cut-down plans and (2) “golden elephants next,” there is a happy medium of good- value- for- money credible projects that open up room for growth. Let’s go there.

To do this, we will need world-class technical people, strategic management and good governance backed by adequate funding to carry through the key projects to a definite timeline. That will require sound, equally world-class programme, project and project cycle management. We need to work with PRINCE2 and Axelos for projects, and we need to look at the EU’s Project Cycle Management Guidelines.[2] We also need to get the core concepts of sound, sustainable development right. 

Yes, we can do all of this, but the final big question is: are we collectively willing to do what is needed?

On track record, not likely. So, we the people will have to demand transparency and accountability over the transformation programme, its projects and moneys that come from the widow’s mite and the orphan’s penny. (Yes, that is what tax money is, and that is why we must not waste it.)

[1]           https://www.themontserratreporter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FL-Building-Montserrat-Future-PO-JMC-Nov-1-2016.pdf

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

Leave a Reply

TMR print pages

Newsletter

Archives

CARICOM – Staff Vacancy

CXC HEADQUARTERS - Executive Search

https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d

A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Kick-starting our Economy 

BRADES, Montserrat, Feb 10, 2017 – In the recently published Government Update, Building Montserrat’s Future, Premier Romeo’s Office argues that we need fast-track jobs-creating projects right now and also longer-term economy-transforming projects: 

“As a first step, we will need several “shovel-ready,” jobs-creating projects that will help “kick-start” strong growth in our economy. For instance, the A1 Main road needs to be completed through a Phase II project; the Government Accommodations Programme can and should move on to its further phases; the Little Bay Town can be further developed; up to 400 plus social and affordable houses can be built; we can develop tourist sites, including a Volcano Park/ “New Pompeii” center in Plymouth; development of programmes for the youth, parks and leisure facilities, and the like – putting our people to productive work. These projects would then feed into the longer-term, transformational development projects.” [TMR, Feb. 3rd 2017, p. 11.[1]

Insert Ads Here

To understand why this is right, let’s look at a simple sketch:

We instantly see why things have been going wrong for over twenty years now. For,  without a strong, steady stream of  construction-, tourism- and agriculture- based fast-track jobs-creating projects, delays and difficulties with the long term projects have kept our economy in slow-drip bare survival mode for over twenty years

And of course too many of those key breakthrough projects have been needlessly deadlocked, day after day,  month after month, year after year.  Obviously, 2 + 2 = 4, so it’s no surprise that our economy has often seemed to be more “dead” than alive, for twenty years now. (And, let’s not forget, the early 90’s were no economic picnic either.)

Yet, as long ago as 2005, DfID itself pointedly wrote in its Montserrat Country Policy Plan, that:

“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.” 

Similarly, in 1998, the International Development Committee warned in its Montserrat Report, paragraph 16, that: . . .  in the case of Montserrat we do not merely have the unfortunate losses of a few thousand individuals but an imperilled society. The normal rules cannot apply . . .”

For example, the blatant delay games with the Ferry last year – unfortunately – are actually TYPICAL.  Only, this time a lot of ordinary people felt the pinch a bit more directly than usual. 

In short, DfID has some serious explaining to do about development projects for Montserrat

So do: (a) our local senior officials and (b) the Ministers in our own local Governments over the past twenty years. So also, (c) the MDC’s big wigs, given its “failure.”  Especially, as DfID’s budget doubled to  £10 billion between 2005 and 2014. Where, by law under the UN Charter Article 73, Montserrat and other Overseas Territories are supposed to be first in line for the UK’s aid budget. Also, it is plain to all that Montserrat has gone through an unprecedented volcano disaster since 1995 so there is no excuse for a delays- as- usual mentality.

As for the talking point that £400+ millions have been “wasted” here, obviously half or more of that went on support to our recurrent budget once our tax base collapsed due to the volcano disaster.  Of the remaining half, a good chunk obviously has gone on DfID consultancies that so far have not broken the aid project deadlock. Another big slice is doubtless a matter of accounting games: reckoning just about any Montserrat-related expenditures as “aid.” But still, we face another good question: what has maybe up to £100 million of capital aid been spent on, to what result. As a part of this, we need to have sensible answers on the inadequate air- and sea- ports, the temporary hospital, poor quality emergency housing in Davy Hill and Lookout – erected over the protests of knowledgeable local builders – and more.  

I doubt that there are any good answers. Answers, that can stand the clear, cold light of day. However, day by day, month by month, delay by delay, penny-wise but pound-foolish decision by decision, cut by cut, twenty years have been wasted. And, if things continue like this, we could easily waste ten or twenty more.

Happily, the above sketch also points to solutions. For, we can – and must –  find a way to get the fast track going, then bridge onward to longer term, transformational development initiatives. It is these “key” “catalytic” projects that will carry our economy forward to lasting prosperity and self-sufficiency. 

This points to what our Montserrat Transformation Programme and the new Programme Management Office should be delivering: a good value for money, ten- to twenty- year plan backed by agreements with HMG, FCO and DfID – a plan that lays out the two-track projects solution. No more cut-down, doomed- to- fail- compromise plans, please.  Somewhere between (1) grossly inadequate, on-the-cheap cut-down plans and (2) “golden elephants next,” there is a happy medium of good- value- for- money credible projects that open up room for growth. Let’s go there.

To do this, we will need world-class technical people, strategic management and good governance backed by adequate funding to carry through the key projects to a definite timeline. That will require sound, equally world-class programme, project and project cycle management. We need to work with PRINCE2 and Axelos for projects, and we need to look at the EU’s Project Cycle Management Guidelines.[2] We also need to get the core concepts of sound, sustainable development right. 

Yes, we can do all of this, but the final big question is: are we collectively willing to do what is needed?

On track record, not likely. So, we the people will have to demand transparency and accountability over the transformation programme, its projects and moneys that come from the widow’s mite and the orphan’s penny. (Yes, that is what tax money is, and that is why we must not waste it.)

[1]           https://www.themontserratreporter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FL-Building-Montserrat-Future-PO-JMC-Nov-1-2016.pdf

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