Every project has a grand launch. Dignitaries, experts and celebrities come out to say how wonderful the project is and hail the potential achievements, all in the glow of the media’s spotlights. Time passes and the launch fades to a distant memory while the money gets spent but rarely is there a follow-up to evaluate the project and let the public know the outcome. Before anyone gets upset, we know that sponsoring agencies usually require an evaluation post-implementation and completion, however our reference is in relation to the public.
It seems that the public relations effort is limited to the launch. The glare from the bright lights covering the launch is blinding enough to insinuate that everything will be successful even before the projects have begun.
For example, in yesterday’s paper alone, we learnt of six new projects. We heard of a $31 million Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) funding project that will be used to rebuild certain sectors in Barbuda such as agriculture and roads. We also heard about the plans to construct 22 hurricane resistant homes in Barbuda by the Prince’s Foundation, which is headed by Prince Charles of Wales,
Then there was the Global Environment Facility funded Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States Project (GEF IWEco) which is a U.S. $20 million five-year regional multi-focal area project financed under the GEF Focal Areas: International Waters, Land Degradation, Biodiversity, Sustainable Forest Management and the GEF Small Grants Programme. Sorry, we couldn’t resist adding the full names. Not to forget that there is a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC), signed between Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Grenada with the Green Climate Fund (GCF), for a U.S. $20 million project related to climate change resilience.
On the local front, we learnt of a project to create a synchronised computerised system that will make for the efficient collection of property taxes, and the Project Implementation Management Unit (PIMU) began a two-day consultation session with the ultimate goal of creating guidelines for advancing gender responsiveness within the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
Six projects and millions of dollars announced in a very short period of time. All good news with great photo opportunities but then what? Where is the structured follow-up to let people know what good is coming from these projects? In many cases, a lot of people, we dare say the majority, do not know what the full scope of these projects are, nor do they know what benefits they will deliver. And before the usual OBSERVER bashers get going, that is not our job so rest your critical fingers.
Projects undertaken by the government, whether home grown or funded by an international government or agency need to be properly explained to the people. As well, the implementing agencies have a responsibility to provide updates to the wider community. After all, the government and the implementing agencies are working on behalf of the people so they should report progress, etc., to their bosses. “Bosses” is a reference to the people and not to politicians.
Take for instance the generous gift of 22 homes for Barbuda. Instant questions arise. Who will qualify? What is the selection process? Are there any costs involved for the lucky recipients? And these are but a few. The point being, these questions are easy to forecast so before coming out and simply announcing the project and stating that the homes are already spoken for, have a positive public relations plan. Right now, we suspect that this will be the beginning and the end of the public information presented to the public, especially considering that the launch of the project included the fact that the homes have already been allocated. That leaves onlookers shaking their heads and wondering what happened behind-the-door? Not the question mark, we suspect, the good Prince wants attached to his generous gift.
The fix to all of this is simple – honest, transparent processes and communication. A refreshing thought, isn’t it?
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