Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 9:2017 – “Ensure” is a very strong word!

DfID’s duty – and ours

BRADES, Montserrat, March 11, 2017 – Last time, we highlighted perhaps the most worrying recent indicator of the problems with development aid for Montserrat:

“. . . after the MDC “failure” – DfID’s word, from its 2012 Business case[1] – we have a much more tense atmosphere for development aid. That is why some of the more notorious UK tabloids recently held up our much needed fibre optic cable project as an imagined example of waste (or worse).” TMR January 6, 2017 front page. (£5million on Fibre Optic Cable offends UK media) and De Ole Dawg – Part 1:2017 – Dissecting a smear – Fibre Optics Facts vs UK Tabloids.

The Fibre Optic cable project is of quite modest scale – £4.9 millions – and is an obvious necessity for a twenty-first century industrial infrastructure for Montserrat. And yet, notorious UK tabloids felt they could get away with headlining it as a capital example of waste (or worse). Something is deeply wrong in our relationship with the UK public, and even more importantly with DfID. Where, DfID is the arm of the UK Government charged with carrying forward aid to Overseas Territories that meets day to day necessities and aid that sets a base for economic transformation. Aid that, under the LEGAL force of the UN Charter, Article 73, should “ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned . . . political, economic, social, and educational advancement.

“Ensure,” we can all agree, is a very strong word.

One that still has LEGAL force despite Brexit. One that still has LEGAL force, regardless of other aid commitments the UK may have elsewhere. Whether, out of compassionate concern – and to be fair, there are a lot of people in Africa, Asia or even as close as Haiti that can do with all the compassionate outreach the world can muster. Or, as a means of exorcising ghosts from the very painful colonial past.[2] Or even, as a means of so-called “soft power”  on the global geopolitical stage. (And yes, we can all agree that soft power exerted by the UK through development aid and through participation in international forums does a lot of good around the world.)

However – as the GoM November 2016 Update, “Building Montserrat’s Future” notes[3]“while we must acknowledge a lot of good work by DfID over the years, it is also fair comment that many credible development projects for Montserrat have been unduly delayed through a pattern of starts and stops, and re-starts.”  Worse, too many projects that did go through were cut down to a point of being obviously inadequate. Which, cannot be “good value for money.”

On the other hand, the already noted “failure” of the MDC, leading to its closure and to a devastating whistleblower report[4] in one of the same UK tabloids means that we too here in Montserrat have some serious problems to answer for. Problems that go beyond political finger-pointing games. Clearly, we have hurt our credibility. 

It is time for a fresh, clean re-start.

One, that will not get mired in endless delays and policy debates with ever more consultancy reports rehashing the same things that were already said and were supposedly agreed to and that were to be acted on with urgency. For, over twenty years have now passed since the onset of the volcano crisis.

Whichever way the budget debate goes, we can agree that the November  2016 Update put DfID’s own list of catalytic foci for transforming our economy back on the MNI front burner:

“I: ‘develop a tourism-driven capital town . . . 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 . . .’ ;

III: ‘improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets’. . .  ” [DfID, MDC Business Case, 2012]

What were the projects actually implemented over the past five years that contributed significantly to these three goals?  Fair comment: not much.  Just go look around Little Bay (aka “Boat Parking Lot”), Piper’s Pond, Carrs Bay, Gun Hill (now falling into the sea) and the Airport.

So, we need to ask: what hindered us?  Answer: many things, few of which can stand up to the cold light of day. Chief among them, poor governance, poor financial and strategic management, needless lack of capacity [the UK is a leading global state!], constant distraction from true priorities, needless delay/ obstructionism, and more.

What, then, are the steps DfID will be taking over the next six months to three years to “ensure” that such projects move forward? And, what about the steps to be taken by our own local government? Let us ponder:

1: Acknowledge our mutual responsibilities and serious failings, rather than just listing our rather modest successes. (Let us face the hard truth, together.)

2: Recognise that during 2005/6 – 2013/14, DfID’s budget doubled from about £5 billions to over £10 billions, and that this was the best time to have done what was needed, out of growth. (So, we have lost a major opportunity, and it will be hard to make up for it.)

3: Accept that MDC should have worked, but didn’t, because of various failures tied to poor governance, want of sound strategic and financial management, as well as needless lacks of capacity. (These gaps have to be set right, and the current TCO’s credibly can help us do this.)

4: Build on a two-track approach. We need some fast, fairly simple projects right now, that help spark growth, create jobs and build up towards the long-term development programme. Then,

5: we need to move on to a programme of credible priority projects that will catalyse economic transformation. (That we are doing something at long last about the port breakwater, however small, is a beginning. The new diesel power plant, fibre optics cable, the hospital and the airport can also make a difference. Building a few houses, roads and facilities will help, etc. Tourism needs a major, sustained effort.)

6: Document our agreement with FCO and DfID under the UN Charter Article 73 commitments, in a Development Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Also, at the same time, set out a Charter of Good Governance that commits us to sound governance reforms to be carried out under the upcoming phase three public sector reform programme.

7: use the new Programme Management Office as a centre of world-class capability to carry forward the strategic transformation projects.

Surely, we can do this.

END

[1]           http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[2]           “Healing the land, 3 – the ghost in the room,” TMR Feb. 3, 2017, p. 5. cf. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-42017-healing-the-land-3-the-ghost-in-the-room/

[3]           TMR, Feb 3, 2017, p. 11, cf. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FL-Building-Montserrat-Future-PO-JMC-Nov-1-2016.pdf

[4]           http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

DfID’s duty – and ours

BRADES, Montserrat, March 11, 2017 – Last time, we highlighted perhaps the most worrying recent indicator of the problems with development aid for Montserrat:

“. . . after the MDC “failure” – DfID’s word, from its 2012 Business case[1] – we have a much more tense atmosphere for development aid. That is why some of the more notorious UK tabloids recently held up our much needed fibre optic cable project as an imagined example of waste (or worse).” TMR January 6, 2017 front page. (£5million on Fibre Optic Cable offends UK media) and De Ole Dawg – Part 1:2017 – Dissecting a smear – Fibre Optics Facts vs UK Tabloids.

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The Fibre Optic cable project is of quite modest scale – £4.9 millions – and is an obvious necessity for a twenty-first century industrial infrastructure for Montserrat. And yet, notorious UK tabloids felt they could get away with headlining it as a capital example of waste (or worse). Something is deeply wrong in our relationship with the UK public, and even more importantly with DfID. Where, DfID is the arm of the UK Government charged with carrying forward aid to Overseas Territories that meets day to day necessities and aid that sets a base for economic transformation. Aid that, under the LEGAL force of the UN Charter, Article 73, should “ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned . . . political, economic, social, and educational advancement.

“Ensure,” we can all agree, is a very strong word.

One that still has LEGAL force despite Brexit. One that still has LEGAL force, regardless of other aid commitments the UK may have elsewhere. Whether, out of compassionate concern – and to be fair, there are a lot of people in Africa, Asia or even as close as Haiti that can do with all the compassionate outreach the world can muster. Or, as a means of exorcising ghosts from the very painful colonial past.[2] Or even, as a means of so-called “soft power”  on the global geopolitical stage. (And yes, we can all agree that soft power exerted by the UK through development aid and through participation in international forums does a lot of good around the world.)

However – as the GoM November 2016 Update, “Building Montserrat’s Future” notes[3]“while we must acknowledge a lot of good work by DfID over the years, it is also fair comment that many credible development projects for Montserrat have been unduly delayed through a pattern of starts and stops, and re-starts.”  Worse, too many projects that did go through were cut down to a point of being obviously inadequate. Which, cannot be “good value for money.”

On the other hand, the already noted “failure” of the MDC, leading to its closure and to a devastating whistleblower report[4] in one of the same UK tabloids means that we too here in Montserrat have some serious problems to answer for. Problems that go beyond political finger-pointing games. Clearly, we have hurt our credibility. 

It is time for a fresh, clean re-start.

One, that will not get mired in endless delays and policy debates with ever more consultancy reports rehashing the same things that were already said and were supposedly agreed to and that were to be acted on with urgency. For, over twenty years have now passed since the onset of the volcano crisis.

Whichever way the budget debate goes, we can agree that the November  2016 Update put DfID’s own list of catalytic foci for transforming our economy back on the MNI front burner:

“I: ‘develop a tourism-driven capital town . . . 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 . . .’ ;

III: ‘improve and sustain access through investments in air and sea access assets’. . .  ” [DfID, MDC Business Case, 2012]

What were the projects actually implemented over the past five years that contributed significantly to these three goals?  Fair comment: not much.  Just go look around Little Bay (aka “Boat Parking Lot”), Piper’s Pond, Carrs Bay, Gun Hill (now falling into the sea) and the Airport.

So, we need to ask: what hindered us?  Answer: many things, few of which can stand up to the cold light of day. Chief among them, poor governance, poor financial and strategic management, needless lack of capacity [the UK is a leading global state!], constant distraction from true priorities, needless delay/ obstructionism, and more.

What, then, are the steps DfID will be taking over the next six months to three years to “ensure” that such projects move forward? And, what about the steps to be taken by our own local government? Let us ponder:

1: Acknowledge our mutual responsibilities and serious failings, rather than just listing our rather modest successes. (Let us face the hard truth, together.)

2: Recognise that during 2005/6 – 2013/14, DfID’s budget doubled from about £5 billions to over £10 billions, and that this was the best time to have done what was needed, out of growth. (So, we have lost a major opportunity, and it will be hard to make up for it.)

3: Accept that MDC should have worked, but didn’t, because of various failures tied to poor governance, want of sound strategic and financial management, as well as needless lacks of capacity. (These gaps have to be set right, and the current TCO’s credibly can help us do this.)

4: Build on a two-track approach. We need some fast, fairly simple projects right now, that help spark growth, create jobs and build up towards the long-term development programme. Then,

5: we need to move on to a programme of credible priority projects that will catalyse economic transformation. (That we are doing something at long last about the port breakwater, however small, is a beginning. The new diesel power plant, fibre optics cable, the hospital and the airport can also make a difference. Building a few houses, roads and facilities will help, etc. Tourism needs a major, sustained effort.)

6: Document our agreement with FCO and DfID under the UN Charter Article 73 commitments, in a Development Partnership Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Also, at the same time, set out a Charter of Good Governance that commits us to sound governance reforms to be carried out under the upcoming phase three public sector reform programme.

7: use the new Programme Management Office as a centre of world-class capability to carry forward the strategic transformation projects.

Surely, we can do this.

END

[1]           http://iati.dfid.gov.uk/iati_documents/4158833.odt

[2]           “Healing the land, 3 – the ghost in the room,” TMR Feb. 3, 2017, p. 5. cf. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-42017-healing-the-land-3-the-ghost-in-the-room/

[3]           TMR, Feb 3, 2017, p. 11, cf. https://www.themontserratreporter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FL-Building-Montserrat-Future-PO-JMC-Nov-1-2016.pdf

[4]           http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3084557/400m-foreign-aid-fiasco-paradise-Bribery-kickbacks-tax-money-siphoned-pet-projects-tiny-Carribean-island-British-worker-blew-whistle-paid-devastating-price.html