Though the government’s new “Recovery to Development Plan” lists general spending projections and touts many laudable goals, it is disappointingly vague.
Because the document does not include specific priorities and deadlines, it does not communicate a sufficiently comprehensive vision for the way forward, and the public will not be able to use it to hold the government properly accountable.
Such omissions are a missed opportunity. Leaders did a good job of engaging the community before finalising the plan, holding several public meetings around the territory to gather input.
The document rightly mentions much of the feedback that was gathered, but the lack of specific timelines will pose challenges for business owners and other citizens trying to make their own recovery plans.
The document, for example, doesn’t include projected start dates or completion timelines for work on schools; ferry terminals; mooring fields; sewerage systems; police, fire station and clinic repairs; roads; the Central Administration Building; or other projects that are urgently needed around the territory.
Officials have argued that the plan needs to be open-ended because it is likely to change in the future. We understand this point, but more than 11 months after Hurricane Irma government should be setting hard benchmarks for the short, medium and long term that will help keep the recovery on track even if a new administration takes over in the near future.
The lack of the specificity suggests one of two possible conclusions: either there is no detailed plan setting specific priorities for the way forward, or there is one and government is keeping it from the public. Either scenario is extremely troubling.
Moving forward, then, leaders should pinpoint priorities and timelines and keep the public regularly updated on the progress toward those goals. If the benchmarks change over time — as they surely will — residents will doubtlessly be sympathetic if they are kept in the loop on the reasons for any modifications.
There is also another issue with the new plan. The Recovery and Development Agency Act states that it should be subject to “affirmative resolution” by the House of Assembly. But to date no vote has been held.
Instead, the plan was tabled without discussion in an HOA meeting last month, and since then Premier Dr. Orlando Smith hasn’t responded to the Beacon’s queries about whether a debate is forthcoming. He should do so soon.
Much of the recovery work will be administered by the Recovery and Development Agency, but the government sets the agenda and decides the priorities. Proceeding without a well-coordinated plan will inevitably stall progress, which the territory can ill afford at this time.
Unfortunately, planning has rarely been the government’s strong suit. Now is the time to turn over a new leaf.