Category: Island Talk Created on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 06:40
In the near future, a tobacco company called MonTobacco Limited is due to begin operations on Montserrat. That fact has been confirmed by the political directorate and it is one of the few facts surrounding MonTobacco that we do have.
The debate about the establishment of a tobacco company on Montserrat has been revisited by the Hon. Donaldson Romeo in the form of a letter to the acting Premier, Hon. Easton Taylor. The issue of whether or not the tobacco company will be good for Montserrat’s image was his focus. This, I do believe, is a subjective argument. Ethical investment decisions largely are based on individual choices when dipping one’s feet into the myriad of investment funds and dynamic vehicles that are available in the marketplace. Governments, frankly, do not base their investment choices upon the ethics of the capital flow, but on the economic wisdom of it.
Energies, in my view, are misplaced arguing ethics and image. If we are going to argue ethics, then why not we put forward an ethical argument for stopping the sale of alcohol after certain hours at night? Or why not consider a moral and ethical argument regarding the police rounding up the alleged operators of prostitution services plying their trade on the island? Not likely to happen, but you see the dilemma and circular motion of the ethical argument to do with tobacco?
The more direct concerns about MonTobacco, in my mind, surround the transparency or lack thereof as it regards this tobacco company coming to Montserrat. Three weeks ago, a series of questions surrounding MonTobacco were posed. To date, they have largely gone unanswered.
Those who are bringing the tobacco company to Montserrat may see it as wise to consider a public information exercise, telling the people of Montserrat more about MonTobacco Limited.
Some questions to consider are similar to those that were posed before, but in the interest of transparency I will list them once again:
• What are the benefits, beyond 14 jobs, of this tobacco company setting up in Montserrat?
• What type of tax breaks will this company be receiving?
• Who is the parent company of MonTobacco Ltd?
• How does Premier Meade intend to ensure that MonTobacco will abide by the ISO & WHO environmental control standards when it is well documented by researchers that tobacco companies exploit developing countries where the restrictions on what tobacco companies do, tend to be less stringent?
• Finally, who is Steven Fagen, listed as the Director of MonTobacco Limited? Is he a tobacco industry head honcho or just an investor with some extra dollars who happens to have fallen in love with Montserrat and wishes to help our economy rebound?
The idea of absolute transparency is deeply grounded in the statements put forward by this administration, prior to being elected, as to how they intend to govern. Let’s reacquaint ourselves with the manifestos from the elections in 2009.
The MCAP Manifesto stated: “An MCAP Government is committed to the development of the private sector by the pursuit of transparent and equitable policies that will create an open and inviting environment that will facilitate the expansion and growth of investment that is consistent with the island’s chosen path.”
The Manifesto also said, “An MCAP government is committed to open government and the participation of the peoples of Montserrat in whose name we govern and to whom we report.”
In the Investment Policy section, the author(s) of the MCAP manifesto wrote: “We will ensure that the Government will assume its role as regulator and facilitator of economic development while ensuring transparency, fair play and equality of treatment.”
Finally, the manifesto states a very important segment, “ Our Agenda responds to the fact that following Montserrat’s experiences with natural disasters, our people and our island demand a new beginning, a new thinking, a new direction, and a new leadership…….
“……Our agenda brings a new spirit of inclusion to the governance of our affairs; in which all have a stake and a say……
“….Our agenda reconnects the Government to the people and restores that spirit of trust, which binds a Government to the people.”
All of these statements, enshrined in the administrations’ manifesto, are belied in this MonTobacco debate.
MonTobacco may be irreversible but it is not too late to request there be more transparency and the shield of secrecy be broken.
Jeevan Robinson is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive, the Caribbean's global online marketing, news and information (MNI) media house.
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