De Ole Dawg – Part 8: 2018 – Budget “breakthroughs” vs the naysayers

De Ole Dawg – Part 8: 2018 - Budget “breakthroughs” vs the naysayers

Why are so many of our pundits seemingly compelled to dismiss (or shift credit for) the five “breakthroughs” announced in the 2018/19 budget?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 25, 2018 – During his 2018/19 budget presentation,[1] Premier Donaldson Romeo announced five “breakthrough” initiatives that he believes will help us to “Advanc[e] [in] Our Journey To Self-Sustainability Through Strategic Investments.” According to the Budget Highlights that were circulated at the time on Facebook,[2] the theme:

“. . . reflects a number of strategic breakthroughs realised in 2017/18 that can credibly lead to sustainable growth in our economy, which is the outcome of the vision that my Government presented in 2015/16.

[I] Port Development – signed Financing Agreement . . . with the CDB, estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$ 54.5 million. The Project aims to improve efficiency, effectiveness and resilience of the Port facilities which will provide a safe harbour.

[II] European Development Fund (EDF) – signed Financing Agreement with the EU . . . estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$60 million. [Note: That puts the total to about EC$ 114 millions.] This will support the transition towards reliable, affordable and renewable solar energy which will reduce usage of fossil fuels and will enhance Montserrat’s tourism offer.

[III] The Subsea Fibre Optic Cable project[3] – this will go ahead in 2018 with approval now given. This project will provide a secure and fast data communication link to the Island increasing the resiliency of the island with regard to the threat from hurricanes.

[IV] Geothermal Energy Development – progressing well, with several expressions of interest and have hosted site visits.

[V] Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan[4] – now delivered giving us the blueprint to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth for all Montserratians.”

What was astonishing – then sadly instructive on the state of politics and policy discussion in Montserrat – was the response in the media and in the Assembly.

One heavily promoted commenter correctly explained the theme but then proceeded to declare that the budget’s theme “bore no relevance” to its contents.  He and his host then went on to repeatedly dismiss the details of the budget as “you can say what you want,” clearly suggesting a deceitful budget. In this vein, an Opposition Member opened his remarks by outright declaring that the budget was a case of “bamboozling” (that is, fraud) – and he was not corrected for his unparliamentary language. Another pundit suggested that whatever was good was the work of just one Minister, who he favours.  A third dissmissed the budget as “timid, tepid and vague.”

Had the commenters instead challenged the Premier to improve his manner of presentation (which was again disappointingly reluctant and stumbling) that would be understandable. Had they started out by drawing a line from the less than 50% spend on the 2017/18 capital budget and then challenged Government and DfID to find a way to do a lot better, that would clearly have been fair comment and a needed corrective. Especially, given the Government’s silence on the impact of shattering the new Programme Management Office by frog marching its first Head out of Government Headquarters and then dragging out putting a replacement in place. [5]

But, that was not the pivot of the responses.

For one, it is outright falsehood to say that the substance of a budget led by the above announcement of five specific initiatives as above is “irrelevant” to the goals and vision expressed in its theme. Where, if the Government can work with DfID to move the above forward, that would indeed begin the long hoped for turnaround for our economy, building room for growth and sharply enhancing our prospects for attracting investments. Starting with tourism and with ICT’s.  Likewise, the initiatives have been in the media for weeks and months, so they are clearly not empty figments of the imagination or frauds. 

They indeed credibly mark a breakthrough that has been a long time coming, over twenty years in the case of the sea port, and perhaps ten years in the case of the Fibre Optic Cable. Geothermal energy has been a point of serious discussion since the early 1990’s, and has been under exploration since about 2008. Such developments are an achievement of the whole government[6] and indeed of all of our governments going back for twenty years at least.  What is needed is to move on from breakthroughs – which can be sealed off by determined opponents – to breakouts that make major strategic advances.[7] “Onward unto the breach, dear friends, once more . . .” and all of that.

Last but not least, these five initiatives were announced in the budget speech for one simple but telling reason: they are to be initially operationalised across this year and money is to be spent.

Why, then, did we see the sort of reactions outlined above?

Deep polarisation, multiplied by frustration and doubts or even desperation over long delayed economic turnaround will obviously be a part of the story. 

But that cannot explain the sort of attitude that implies that the budget was a lie, or even outright calls it an act of fraud. That sort of hitman tactic[8] of destructive and false, disrespectful accusation suggests something we may not wish to think about; but we need to consider it as a matter of prudence. For, the Apostle James warns us that “. . .  where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” [See James 3:16.] Such attitudes easily create a deeply hostile, angry, polarised and ill-informed state of public opinion.

That sort of mentality cannot do Montserrat any good, and we must turn away from even its shadow.

Nor, can we excuse what has happened as “that’s politics.”

That is exactly the kind of slander driven politics we do not need. As fair comment, those who have indulged in what we have seen raise serious or even decisive questions about their own character and fitness for high office. At minimum, they have some serious explaining and apologising to do.

It is time to do better than this, high time.

[1]           See, GoM Ministry of Finance: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/FINAL-Budget-Speech-2018-19-002.pdf & also cf. details: http://finance.gov.ms/?page_id=686 )

[2]               See the budget highlights: https://www.facebook.com/notes/government-information-unit-montserrat/2018-2019-budget-highlights/239873123238704/  (Also see the 2018/19 Citizen’s Guide: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Citizens-Guide-Montserrat-2018-19.pdf )

[3]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-232017-the-fibre-optic-cable-project-and-development-aid-to-montserrat/

[4]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf 

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

[6]           See GoM MoF budget instructions to Depts: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-2019-to-2020-2021-Budget-Instructions.pdf

[7]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-5-2018-montserrats-culture-vs-strategy-challenge/

[8]           See, TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2018-truth-answers-to-the-project-and-policy-hitmen/

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Archives

Why are so many of our pundits seemingly compelled to dismiss (or shift credit for) the five “breakthroughs” announced in the 2018/19 budget?

BRADES, Montserrat, May 25, 2018 – During his 2018/19 budget presentation,[1] Premier Donaldson Romeo announced five “breakthrough” initiatives that he believes will help us to “Advanc[e] [in] Our Journey To Self-Sustainability Through Strategic Investments.” According to the Budget Highlights that were circulated at the time on Facebook,[2] the theme:

“. . . reflects a number of strategic breakthroughs realised in 2017/18 that can credibly lead to sustainable growth in our economy, which is the outcome of the vision that my Government presented in 2015/16.

Insert Ads Here

[I] Port Development – signed Financing Agreement . . . with the CDB, estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$ 54.5 million. The Project aims to improve efficiency, effectiveness and resilience of the Port facilities which will provide a safe harbour.

[II] European Development Fund (EDF) – signed Financing Agreement with the EU . . . estimated at the current exchange rate to be around EC$60 million. [Note: That puts the total to about EC$ 114 millions.] This will support the transition towards reliable, affordable and renewable solar energy which will reduce usage of fossil fuels and will enhance Montserrat’s tourism offer.

[III] The Subsea Fibre Optic Cable project[3] – this will go ahead in 2018 with approval now given. This project will provide a secure and fast data communication link to the Island increasing the resiliency of the island with regard to the threat from hurricanes.

[IV] Geothermal Energy Development – progressing well, with several expressions of interest and have hosted site visits.

[V] Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan[4] – now delivered giving us the blueprint to create sustainable and inclusive economic growth for all Montserratians.”

What was astonishing – then sadly instructive on the state of politics and policy discussion in Montserrat – was the response in the media and in the Assembly.

One heavily promoted commenter correctly explained the theme but then proceeded to declare that the budget’s theme “bore no relevance” to its contents.  He and his host then went on to repeatedly dismiss the details of the budget as “you can say what you want,” clearly suggesting a deceitful budget. In this vein, an Opposition Member opened his remarks by outright declaring that the budget was a case of “bamboozling” (that is, fraud) – and he was not corrected for his unparliamentary language. Another pundit suggested that whatever was good was the work of just one Minister, who he favours.  A third dissmissed the budget as “timid, tepid and vague.”

Had the commenters instead challenged the Premier to improve his manner of presentation (which was again disappointingly reluctant and stumbling) that would be understandable. Had they started out by drawing a line from the less than 50% spend on the 2017/18 capital budget and then challenged Government and DfID to find a way to do a lot better, that would clearly have been fair comment and a needed corrective. Especially, given the Government’s silence on the impact of shattering the new Programme Management Office by frog marching its first Head out of Government Headquarters and then dragging out putting a replacement in place. [5]

But, that was not the pivot of the responses.

For one, it is outright falsehood to say that the substance of a budget led by the above announcement of five specific initiatives as above is “irrelevant” to the goals and vision expressed in its theme. Where, if the Government can work with DfID to move the above forward, that would indeed begin the long hoped for turnaround for our economy, building room for growth and sharply enhancing our prospects for attracting investments. Starting with tourism and with ICT’s.  Likewise, the initiatives have been in the media for weeks and months, so they are clearly not empty figments of the imagination or frauds. 

They indeed credibly mark a breakthrough that has been a long time coming, over twenty years in the case of the sea port, and perhaps ten years in the case of the Fibre Optic Cable. Geothermal energy has been a point of serious discussion since the early 1990’s, and has been under exploration since about 2008. Such developments are an achievement of the whole government[6] and indeed of all of our governments going back for twenty years at least.  What is needed is to move on from breakthroughs – which can be sealed off by determined opponents – to breakouts that make major strategic advances.[7] “Onward unto the breach, dear friends, once more . . .” and all of that.

Last but not least, these five initiatives were announced in the budget speech for one simple but telling reason: they are to be initially operationalised across this year and money is to be spent.

Why, then, did we see the sort of reactions outlined above?

Deep polarisation, multiplied by frustration and doubts or even desperation over long delayed economic turnaround will obviously be a part of the story. 

But that cannot explain the sort of attitude that implies that the budget was a lie, or even outright calls it an act of fraud. That sort of hitman tactic[8] of destructive and false, disrespectful accusation suggests something we may not wish to think about; but we need to consider it as a matter of prudence. For, the Apostle James warns us that “. . .  where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” [See James 3:16.] Such attitudes easily create a deeply hostile, angry, polarised and ill-informed state of public opinion.

That sort of mentality cannot do Montserrat any good, and we must turn away from even its shadow.

Nor, can we excuse what has happened as “that’s politics.”

That is exactly the kind of slander driven politics we do not need. As fair comment, those who have indulged in what we have seen raise serious or even decisive questions about their own character and fitness for high office. At minimum, they have some serious explaining and apologising to do.

It is time to do better than this, high time.

[1]           See, GoM Ministry of Finance: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/FINAL-Budget-Speech-2018-19-002.pdf & also cf. details: http://finance.gov.ms/?page_id=686 )

[2]               See the budget highlights: https://www.facebook.com/notes/government-information-unit-montserrat/2018-2019-budget-highlights/239873123238704/  (Also see the 2018/19 Citizen’s Guide: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Citizens-Guide-Montserrat-2018-19.pdf )

[3]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-232017-the-fibre-optic-cable-project-and-development-aid-to-montserrat/

[4]           See GoM: http://www.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Growth-Strategy-Delivery-Plan-2017-DRAFT-.pdf 

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

[6]           See GoM MoF budget instructions to Depts: http://finance.gov.ms/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-2019-to-2020-2021-Budget-Instructions.pdf

[7]           See TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-5-2018-montserrats-culture-vs-strategy-challenge/

[8]           See, TMR: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-7-2018-truth-answers-to-the-project-and-policy-hitmen/