Picking up from where I left off recently about a national development plan, let us talk about the value of planning. If you missed that article, it can be found on my Facebook page.
First off, planning is simple, and we do it all the time in our personal lives. When we wake up in the morning, we decide what we want for breakfast: say, scrambled eggs with onions, peppers and mushrooms, bush tea, and a fruit salad. We also decide how we are going to get it (make it myself, go to Omar’s Fusion, or ask my mother nicely); when we want to eat; who we want to eat with; and so on. You get the drift.
When it comes to building a territory, being intentional is even more important, and setting goals is the first step in the process. What are the root causes of the problems? What are the priorities? How long is the timeline going to be to accomplish these goals? How much will it cost? What human resources do we need to get it all done?
Also, it is helpful when identifying our goals that we have accurate information to solve the right problem. We must reform or upgrade the public service processes and procedures to deliver the types of statistical reports needed so we know what is really happening in our society.
With the information in hand, let us brainstorm what the Virgin Islands in 2040 will look like, sound like, feel like, taste like, and smell like. I cannot overstate the importance of setting objectives, because it 1) focuses our attention and 2) helps us understand development is not projects but a life experience, or what I call quality of life.
I think the measure of the territory’s progress should be by its people’s progress. How well are they living?
Residing in a territory where the average annual salary was reported to be $40,000-plus but most of the population does not experience this is a problem to me.
When our governments have spent billions of dollars over the last 20 years and it is not visible in the infrastructure or services we receive, we must ask ourselves why this happened and how to correct it?
It is because we have not been spending according to long-term goals or a vision. Not to mention we have suffered from what I call “party-politics insanity,” where ministers cancelled or shelved programmes because they did not start them. I will say no more than “leadership matters!”
To show what goal setting looks like, let us say, for example, that our plan is to spend $15 million over the next five to 10 years to upgrade our education system based on what the data collected says are the priorities. The goals could include supplies and resources in the schools; the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum known as STEM; teacher development; a salary review for the teaching service; scholarships targeted to new industries; new or upgraded facilities; and a national library and a national museum, because in my mind we are building the national education system, not a school system.
Sidebar: I would go as far as to say we are setting up a generation for failure by not providing access to their history that will help guide their future, and this is unacceptable.
Next, how do we measure success? Graduation rates and literacy levels are important metrics, but I think we must also measure how qualified are graduates for the jobs in the current and future economy? If they are not, why not and how do we correct it? We also need to look at how many college graduates return home.
If we reflect on this, I think we have suffered from a brain drain over the last two decades because we have not been intentional about job placement and paying our people what they are worth. There are several Virgin Islanders who are successful in another man’s country, and we need to bring them home to build this one. A vision helps them understand where they fit in.
‘Power of planning’
I hope you are starting to see the power of planning and that it starts with our commitment to making the best decisions about how we use our resources — people, money and the environment — and stop accepting political rhetoric.
As Teacher Elmore use to encourage us as students, “We must move with a purpose!” The principle applies to governing or “running” a country as well. “Developed” countries like China and Singapore started out as colonies, and while we might be a small island, we need to move with a purpose over the next two decades and believe we can accomplish remarkable things.
Excellence is in our DNA, and we must remember we are writing history every day and we want the story told to be one our ancestors and future generations will be proud of.
Next time, we will discuss what the economy in 2040 will look like. Until then, keep planning for a successful future!