Author: Jeevan A. Robinson - MNI Media | Date: 07 October 2017
Montserrat is not sitting at the table as equals with the Department for International Development (Dfid).
The DFID Deputy Head of Department from the UK, Indranil Chakrabarti, recently spent a week on Montserrat. It would seem as if Mr Chakrabarti, came on a week’s holiday to Montserrat instead of really coming with a message that was meant to advance the development cause of Montserrat. Mr Chakrbarti came to the island, and he delivered no new message to the people of Montserrat.
(Montserrat's Governor Carrierre, and DFID's Deputy Head Indranil Chakrabarti)
It is so sad to observe, that the people of Montserrat keep falling for the same trap, playing ourselves repeatedly.
DFID sent their emissary in Mr Chakrabarti to Montserrat, and what he did mainly was plant the seeds of UK’s historical divide and rule policies; and like cattle to the slaughter, many of our people fell for it and went right back into the same old foolish conversations.
Montserrat has been devoid of development for the better part of 22 years, because apart from lacking a real leader to take the mantle forward, the bigger story in this development fracas - DFID - many of the island's citizens refuse to tackle with guns blazing.
Local commentator Chedmond Browne, wrote on it again, just recently, but alas, the usual and expected silence on the real issue was returned.
Mr Chakrabarti came to Montserrat to basically rub salt into an already gaping wound in telling the people of Montserrat that DFID "is only prepared to meet the reasonable needs of Montserrat", and they DFID, are waiting on the Government of Montserrat (GoM) to say what is next.
What the DFID Deputy Head told the people of Montserrat was in many ways a blatant misdirection of the facts.
For quite some time, DFID has been spreading this image of helping Montserrat, while at the same time doing all in their power to stifle Montserrat’s growth and development. How can they tell Montserrat that the island needs to work towards sustainability but at the same time, not willing to give the island what it needs to be sustainable?
Divide and rule is a historical British political and social ploy, and on Montserrat it was again on display in Mr Chakrabarti’s visit.
Let me outline for our readers the real mission that DFID’s Deputy Head came to Montserrat to enshrine.
Firstly, for DFID to be getting themselves involved in local politics is seemingly part of their mission to destabilize the island politically, so that both citizens and politicians become so consumed by fighting political tribal wars, that they then ignore the stagnation DFID is causing behind the scenes. For DFID to be feeding the Opposition Party on Montserrat information to use against the Government in the Assembly debates is an over-step, and a blatant plot to ensure that they, DFID, receive no blame for the stagnant state of Montserrat’s economy. The MCAP Opposition should be ashamed to be going along with DFID’s game in seeking to play divide and rule politics in their own country.
DFID’s Deputy Head stated repeatedly that they are waiting for the Government of Montserrat to say what is next. That is a blatant lie to the people of Montserrat.
For Governor Carriere and DFID’s Deputy Head to sit in that press conference, and allow the people of Montserrat to think there were never any plans for projects presented is a failing of leadership and representation.
DFID is asking the people of Montserrat to present for them reports on how to take the Fibre Optic project further along. What they are not equally telling the people of Montserrat is that these reports have already been done and presented to DFID.
In fact, the Fibre Optic Project was already an agreed to project to the tune of just under £5 million! Yet, because of an article in the UK Press earlier this year, which I highly suspect DFID themselves planted, they are now seeking to backtrack on the delivery of Fibre-Optics for Montserrat, in now seeking to put in place all these new conditions, while they know fully well that all that work was already done.
When DFID tell the people of Montserrat to go to market to find a partner who will help to fund the fibre optic project, but yet, they themselves refuse to say how much are they committing to the project so that a fruitful search can be done for partners; it says to me DFID are not serious about delivering this much needed development technology for Montserrat.
DFID are playing a serious game of moving the goalpost with Montserrat over and over, and the people just sit there and say nothing about it.
Where is the Value?
The people of Montserrat are faced with stagnation, and DFID is historically known to be embroiled in projects that continually produce wastage. Example in point is what they are doing with Montserrat’s geothermal development.
DFID’s failure to act on pushing geothermal to completion is nothing new. Hence, the people of Montserrat have to vigorously begin asking of DFID if they are more so into wasting UK-Taxpayers money? Or are they truly about value and delivery?
An example, is what the UK Telegragh Newspaper Chief Reporter, Robert Mendick, stated in his piece, "Hundreds of millions of British aid 'wasted' on overseas climate change projects". In that piece he argued that “serious questions are raised today over hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money being ‘wasted’ on climate change projects such as an Ethiopian wind farm and Kenyan solar power plant.”
A Telegraph investigation in March of 2017 showed one scheme, costing £260m of UK taxpayers’ money, has produced only enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of just 100 British households - about the size of a typical street.
I highlight that presentation in The Telegraph in the terms of the Montserrat geothermal project, where DFID is saying they are only funding exploration. i.e digging the wells in the ground, but power delivery into the grid from any geothermal resource to benefit even a single household on Montserrat, and to set the island on a new pathway for cheaper and affordable energy – they refuse to commit to. How does this help Montserrat I wonder?
Is this just another example of DFID waste, where they appear to be doing something, but in fact what they are doing is continually delivering half projects, or no projects at all, thus in effect killing the future hopes of the people of Montserrat.
A piece in the UK’s Guardian by Lawrence Hadded titled; “Is UK development policy fit for purpose? Just – but it's creaking." stated very aptly; “UK development assistance needs a better balance of accountability and flexibility.”
The piece went on to talk about the pains of working with DFID in stating “No one has said to me in the past couple of years: "DfID is getting easier to work with." The transactions costs are mind numbing and resource consuming. They have been put in place to demonstrate value for money. We all want value for money – I'm a UK taxpayer too – but when, by the very nature of the work, it is easier to track the money than the value, the focus will be too much on the former and not enough on the latter. This can lead to strange investments, where cost control is wonderful but value is not interrogated.”
That perfectly summarises what DFID is doing on Montserrat. They are so busy tracking the money and wanting to squeeze every drop of begging out of Montserrat, that they have lost track of also delivering value.
Putting Montserrat back on its feet with the tools it needs to be sustainable is value!
Delivering Fibre Optic Technology, so the island can have this resource to build a new and reliable 21st century economy is value!
Funding geothermal beyond just digging holes in the ground, but towards also delivering that energy into the grid to attract new industries to Montserrat, by way of cheaper energy, is value!
However, coming to the island as Mr Chakrabarti recently did, with a colonial agenda, and demanding that the TCs currently working on Montserrat be treated better than how locals are treating them presently, well that for sure is not value.
So it’s either DFID wants to truly help Montserrat, or they are hell-bent on playing games with their divide and rule tactics.
It is time for Montserratians to wake up and tackle the real beast in our development path.
Jeevan A. Robinson is Editor-in-Chief of Marketing, News & Information Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org