BVI News

COMMENTARY: Good governance – a will to change

Shaina Smith-Archer

By Shaina Smith-Archer, Contributor

In August 2020, I wrote a commentary discussing the constitution being a tool for good governance and it turned out to be a prelude to current affairs. 

The launch of a Commission of Inquiry into alleged corruption should be a wake-up call for us and possibly a teachable moment if we choose to learn from it. After the initial emotional shock subsided, I began to reflect that this did not just happen but has been in the making for a long time. 

When I returned home from college in 2003, I was employed by the Ministry of Finance which had recently gone through some changes the year before, where public officers were removed from office. If we did not realise it then, we have been on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s radar for an exceptionally long time. 

How and why did we get here?

In 2003 – 2007, we started the process of reforming our financial management systems in response to recommendations made, but it was incomplete because there was not a strong enough will to change. Business was carried on as usual, which was not a good thing and we were slapped with the Protocols for Effective Financial Management in 2012. 

I remember sitting at my kitchen counter reading a copy of the protocols and shaking my head at every page because it was a restatement of the financial management reform that was not fully implemented. If we only had done what we knew we should have in order to avoid the ball and chain on our legs. 

Why did we need to get to a place where we were mandated to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money? 

Now, here we are again in the spotlight, being accused of not governing ourselves well. The concept of governance is as old as human civilization and simply put is the process of decision-making and process by which decisions are implemented. To say I am disappointed with the latest development is an understatement because, at the end of the day, governance is in part elected officials’ responsibility and in part the people’s responsibility. 

The things we say we want but can’t seem to commit to

In my last commentary, I explained the characteristics of what is referred to as “good governance”. It is not a magic word, that if we say it enough, things will change. People must be willing to change their collective mindsets and behaviours. Let me remind us of the thing we say we want but we do not seem to be willing to commit to: 

1. Participation – Question: Do all men and women have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through organisations that represent their interests? Or are persons shut out if they have a differing point of view? 

2. Rule of Law – Question: Do we have laws that are fair and enforced impartially? Do we know the rules that we are expected to follow in the first place? Sidebar: I find the National Security Council has been too quiet over the last year of increasing criminal activity and lawlessness. 

3. Transparency — Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Do we have processes, institutions, and access to information directly? Or do the thrushes have to leave information on the speedbumps still? 

4. Responsiveness – Question: Do we have systems and processes that try to serve all stakeholders and are solutions-oriented? Or do we always hear about how to maintain the status quo? 

5. Consensus orientation – We are so fearful of conflict that we perceive a difference of opinion as an argument and what should be a healthy debate of views turns into a fish market where who shouts the loudest wins. The goal should be what is in the best interest of the wider society. 

6. Equity – Question: Do men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being? Or are people discriminated against based on everything including their last name? 

7. Effectiveness and Efficiency – Do we have systems, policy and processes in both the public and private sectors that produce results that meet the needs of the people while making the best use of resources? 

8. Accountability – The overuse of this word has caused it to lose its meaning over the last decade. Decision-makers in government, the private sector and organisations would do well to remember that they are accountable to the public and not themselves. One question in my mind that needs to be answered, though, is ‘who is the Governor accountable to’? 

9. Strategic vision – Unfortunately, this is still a NO for too long and underpins the other characteristics. It is the WHY behind the WHAT? We are long OVERDUE for a broad and long-term perspective on the development of our country and I am not referring to a political manifesto full of projects. I also believe we do not need to reinvent the wheel and can use the UN sustainable development goals as the launching point to create a 10 to 15-year national development strategy. 

Our goal is to build a country that our children’s grandchildren will be proud to live in. We must think legacy and focus on what our priorities should be and build towards them. 

Will the COI be the tipping point for BVI?

I question whether this inquiry will take a hard look at any of the above. Also, will it do a 360-degree view of the total governance structures which includes the Governor’s role in the rule of law and public service oversight? While the Commissioner goes about his job, we need to ask ourselves, regardless of the outcome, ‘will this be a tipping point for us?’ Are we willing to make the changes for “true good governance” that is sustainable and not a reaction to an event? Our international image is being tarnished with these allegations. 

It also appears to me to be a set-up for justification for possible draconian actions to come. Virgin Islanders are hard-working people, and I am offended at the portrayal of us as money-launderers and drug dealers.

Suspension of our constitution

Considering history, I would be horrified if our constitution is suspended because more than likely it will not be restored with the current levels of responsibilities. Do not take my word for it, ask TCI where they found themselves over ten years later. 

Again, we the PEOPLE, that make up our social institutions – the public service, social clubs, associations, churches, businesses – we need to change our mindsets and behaviour. 

We must overcome the fear that has silenced us and take personal, as well as collective responsibility if we want good governance. It is time for us to represent our forefather’s legacy and not let their blood, sweat, and death go in vain. 

Simply put: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — President Barack Obama. 

The choice is ours.

Copyright 2021 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

26 Comments

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  1. Watchwell says:

    I’m tired of these articles seriously. Please go mine you husband.

    Like 6
    Dislike 51
    • @watchwell says:

      Really? Ots an awesome article and the BVI needs to sort its self out and stop letting the few bully the rest. With backward comments like yours it shows why the BVI is not taking responsibility for its affairs.
      Would you like her to be chained to the kitchen??
      No one is a slave to their other half and the little lady crap is just soooooo 1950’s.
      The billions that have not been used as it should in the past 20 years could have been used to make the BVI a shinning example to all but instead money has been wasted and we have s**t schools and infrastructure.

      Like 43
      Dislike 1
    • Just Wrong says:

      You don’t have to read it you know. You can skip right over it.

      Like 11
    • @ Watchwell says:

      If you have nothing to contribute positively; rather than letting everyone know that you have dismissed capacity and comprehension issues. This was a well thought out op.Ed. We the people have more power to influence change than we admit or realize. It is the partisan politics and the influence of American styled politics that has us lost. Mrs. Archer has given those without intimate knowledge of how we arrived here the requisite info. I concur with her viewpoints. We are at a critical crossroad- where will we land from here….?

      Like 13
    • @ Watchwell says:

      Why so envious? No-one sees, knows, or hears about her significant other so leave her business alone

  2. Opportunistic. says:

    Shaina you and the PVIM are to blame in my book for this government that we have. Now that the VIP has caused a train wreck you all are peeping out your heads again trying to grab power. It is too much greed. All of a sudden you are hearing your ads on the radio about your party. Where were the interests all the time? And here you are now putting out a statement. All because a COI was called and you all think that you could scoop in and get the government. This smacks of opportunism from what I see. I know politicians often times believe that voters are short sighted but not all voters are that way.

    Like 18
    Dislike 17
    • @Opportunistic says:

      You are absolutely correct. Their thirst for power and trying to keep one man out of the Premier seat caused this and now they are pretending as if they can save us from it. Election cannot come soon enough and this individual here better not be contesting a seat because she can never get a vote from me.

      Like 5
      Dislike 9
    • Wow says:

      You are a boil jack donkey. Actually, the blame is on YOU! Dumb azz comment.

  3. Mirror says:

    All of a sudden everyone has something to say, to be published for the world to see, and to be heard. Forgetting that they to were part of the problem.

    Not because you can speak to articulate yourself well means that you get a pass to be exempted and you represent the views of the masses.

    This family connection in high places was a problem from way back when. Now VIP and Mr Fahie has decided to spread the wealth, they went squealing like pigs to the Governor.

    I said it before and will say it again. This COI is a make up by the same people who was IN and don’t have their hands on the public purse just because a new and younger generation is now receiving a part of the wealth.

    The corrupt ones and king pins lost power falling like fíes and their children don’t want to carry on their greedy deeds.

    You need to write a book to see if it will sell entitled “BVI is full of crabs in a barrel” instead of airing off your mouth on the online media because YOU was always apart of the problem.

    Like 7
    Dislike 17
  4. Nice and Genuine piece says:

    However, we all know these politicians say and do all most anything to get in power, once they get in power and see the opportunity to make money easily, they become greedy and selfish and forget about the people who sent them there, they forget why they are there,, their focus is and getting for themselves, and anyone gets in their way or dear to question their dishonesty is crushed, oppressed, transferred, fired, or ask to resign…This the pattern of all politicians, Dont think it will ever end until people start going to Prison..

    Like 6
    Dislike 1
  5. Yawn says:

    All talk, zero substance!

    Like 4
    Dislike 5
  6. Citizen of BVI says:

    Well said Shaina as the bible says in Mather:13 whoever have ears let them hear,
    Knowledge of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you.
    You can’t used your eyes to hear greed set in. used wisdom.

  7. VG Resident says:

    To opportunistic: It is people like you why we can’t get anywhere in this country. And so what if PVIM members make a comment about the situation in our country? We all have to unite to get us out of this mess we are in. It is high time for us, from those in authority to everyone else who live here, to take our heads out of the sand and realize that
    we are spiraling downwards, and fast. SOS, SOS, the ship is sinking. Lord, send help.

    Like 9
    Dislike 2
  8. BVIROYALE says:

    All yoh too rude. Learn to respect people. That is why many are going to be ruled by the Oppressors.

    Like 4
    Dislike 1
  9. @ mirror says:

    SaY-Wah ! 👀

  10. No PVIM says:

    Shaina and Mitch are not the answer. sorry

    Like 4
    Dislike 1
  11. Wow says:

    Don’t fool the people with Famcy words . They know when Govt bad spending money and not given to the public . We don’t need a degree in Economics to know when people are bias a d social networking to family and friends go sit down

  12. islandguy says:

    Those are great words……..now act on them

  13. @Mirror says:

    Really! You actually believe what you wrote? Spread the wealth? Be..s is already wealthy. Pa..y is already wealthy. The Fl…s are already wealthy. The Cra…s are already wealthy, and many others who are reaping the sweet. The spreading of what you call wealth happens to be taxpayers funds that everyone has to pay into the Treasury by law. So giving handouts to your friends and supporters or giving contracts only to those supports certainly, in my opinion, and any right-thinking person’s opinion is not about spreading wealth. It is more like greasing palms so that when the four years are up I continue to feel obligated or I feed that money back into your campaign.

    Ensuring everyone is a benefactor of their tax dollars is about spreading resources. How? in ensuring that our roads are properly repaired, our schools are upgraded and renovated regularly, proper internet service, which means an upgrading of the systems and strengthening of the TRC and so many other things would be to me spreading the wealth in our Treasury. Even something as simple as fixing the damn mailboxes since the 2017 storms can’t be done. I mean how hard is it to build back a few mailboxes that it has to take years and years? Simply telling the world that you have a $400 million dollar budget and no one can see what it was spent on lets us and the world know that there is stealing going on.

    Mrs. Archer is a very bright young lady, but we are in the state we are because a little $500 under the table is all some of us needs to say the Government is doing well. The Government is there to run the country in the best interest of all of us. The present Government is lost. Gambling law and marijuana law? Come on. Think before you speak or blog. No one has to tell a sensible person that things are not right. PVIM or any M is better than what we see going on around here. And the lies are the worst of all since people actually believed what they were told when campaigning was going on. There is that saying that we get what we deserve, but I just look up and say, Lord, please turn this country around. The majority do not deserve this. Please, help us.

    Like 9
    Dislike 1
    • Soldier Crab says:

      Lord you need a contract ma boy! LOL LOL

      Somebody help this hungry belly and stop looking at we Crabs.

      We hustle and you blog so stop the jealousy.

      • @Soldier Crab says:

        Don’t get it twisted. You are a BVIslander just like me. I don’t need a contract. I can’t do what you do and am not interested in trying, but between every multi-million dollar wall built, the least they can do is properly pave and repair a couple miles of road that those duggone huge trucks destroying when fulfilling these contracts.

        Just saying, you eating, good. I don’t begrudge you that, you work hard, but the problem is the majority is being ignored and the infrastructure need some attention. Everybody don’t need a contract. Do the best that you can for the country at large. That is what some of you vote for anyway, contracts. It’s allyou need. when you buy your expensive cars you have millions to buy a new one, but everybody don’t. Let us think of others for a change, please.

  14. SITDON SHAINA says:

    YOU JUST WANT PUBLICITY- … AND STOP WASTING YOUR TIME IN POLITICS

    Like 2
    Dislike 1

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