Inbetween MCAP and PDM are Montserrat's Real Needs

The date has been set for Montserrat’s elections – September 11, 2014. I won’t get into a discussion of the date and whether it is a good or bad omen as that is neither here nor there. What is clear is that both the incumbent government, the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) and the upstart People’s Democratic Movement Montserrat (PDM) have about four weeks to help a critical group make a decision.

The social media and barber shop noise would make you believe that the election is already decided but that is far from the truth. There is a group of undecided voters who can shift this election in a major way. They are educated, employed and empowered with the right to vote and a passion to see Montserrat do well. The lives of their children depend on it.

Neither party has yet been able to convince this group that they can get the job done. I don’t have exact numbers on this group but from discussions online and within the community, I recognize it is more than either party would care to admit.

PDM is presenting a campaign which is grand on plans but short on an execution strategy. In my mind’s eye I see them with constant outstretched hands to the British in the same way they’ve shown us Montserratians with hands outstretched wanting more but without an idea of how they can do more for themselves. Their messaging sounds as if they’ve got a direct line to the UK’s purse and blank checks will be handed over to spend at will.

There is no acknowledgement that the UK has consistently been speaking out of both sides of its mouth and we’ve got to make a decision as a nation of how we will deal with it.

“We want to help you be self-sufficient,” their officials say.

“Great we need a new port about this wide,which can help us attract increased cruise tourism and cargo shipping so we can be on our own faster.”

“Oh no, no. It won’t take all that…How about one yay high? Not as many boats but it will be better than what you have now,” is the suggestion/recommendation/edict.

“But sir, great sir that would mean you would have to keep sending us money. Aren’t we supposed to be working to be on our own?

And this back and forth continues on every project. Every time we say this is what we need, they say it “doesn’t take all of that.” Every time they say do it this way, next year a new policy and strategy with the compulsory consultations and economic impact assessments take us back to the drawing board.

The years go by and we can’t see progress because we are constantly on the drawing board and shifting people and money around, neither of which is adequate for the job at hand. We are fearful of breaking the rules which they keep changing and so we stay trapped. Wanting freedom but without the courage to make the tough decisions which will get us to a tomorrow where we can fly solo.

PDM’s strategy sounds like it will have us breastfeeding for years to come. We are almost 20-years-old post volcano and still the overwhelming message is to keep sucking for as long as they will let us.

MCAP has been assertive in its push to be more self-sufficient. They authorized the taking down of a mountain as a symbol of future intentions to build a port despite the fact no investors had come on board. The intention seems to wean the nation from milk but they haven’t presented an alternative to the milk.

They call for patience for that great day when the port is built, new town is open and we have a major hotel property. But what about now when even civil servants are asking for one-off support from social services? Is it alright for a few to benefit now, while everyone else waits for the Sweet By-and-By? That can never be right. Some may not live to see this bright future. Others may opt for the bright lights of a city if it means they can have the benefits now.

So,how do we get from here to there?

How do we get to walking and running on our own from the current position of being carried?

How do you shift a nation of people who live as if shell-shocked and unwilling to shine, to one which is proudly offering its gifts to the world?

Do we invest large sums of a very limited resource to buy medical equipment which we may not need more than three times a year or uplevel our visiting specialists program so that more people can benefit from the regular visits of doctors giving their services at little or no cost to Montserrat?

Do we settle for a miniscule port which limits us in the way our airport does now?

Do we keep engorging a civil service which has no enforced penalties and benefits for unsatisfactory work or exemplary performance?

Do we increase our social benefits to encourage more government dependency or provide more ways to empower our people to create jobs? Is it as simple as either or?

Do we add a new round of public policies which contradict each other when it comes to execution?

Is it possible to have a local government that truly looks after the needs of each physical community while considering the cultural dynamics of the various nationals now resident here?

Which party is offering solutions which show innovation and understanding of how we can get what we need while fully participating in a global marketplace?

Somewhere in the middle of MCAP’s plans and PDM’s dreams lies the needs of the people who have the power to decide on the next government for Montserrat.