About FRANKLY SPEAKING
Beach Access: An Opinion
Resident Tourism Policy
Paralysis by Analysis
Oil Refinery - Facts or Fiction?
An Oil Refinery for Dominica? - Part 2
A Place Called Home
Annual Awards Gala - DHTA
Dominica Cabinet - 2010
Thanks But No Thanks
The People's Business
Politics of Water
Message in a Bottle
Between the Lines
The 24/7/4/12/5 Campaign
The Answers Within
Foreign Direct Investment
CSME - Where now?
"En Brera" - No Choice
Closure of OECS, Ottawa
Does Size Matter
Growing DA's Agriculture
A University of Dominica?
Made In Dominica?
© Frank Watty
PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS and other fallacies
"The sentence first, the evidence after." Alice in Wonderland.
November 6, 2006 - In response to my comments on a White paper Proposal for Residential Tourism in Dominica, I was advised by one reader that my review would lead to "paralysis by analysis". Also, that while some of my suggestions might be useful for First World countries, they were unsuited to Dominica. I find this response coming from a well-placed, influential source to be alarming. Contributions by this writer to discussions on the future development of Dominica have been consistently qualified by the caveat that all proposals should be designed within the context of their appropriateness for the island's economy and society. For example, in the comments under reference:
"There is the need to identify what aspects of Dominican life and environment would make it attractive for that kind of clientele and at what cost (and inconvenience) would they be prepared to come and enjoy it as partial residents along with the local population…….."
"We need to learn from their (other islands') mistakes, while being sensitive to our own condition and aspirations."(Excerpts from my initial comment)
This does not, however, relieve policy formulators from the responsibility:
(a) To be aware of the theoretical foundations underpinning the policy initiative;
(b) To canvass experiences in other comparable jurisdictions;
(c) To identify critical local constraints and opportunities to be addressed directly or indirectly, currently or in the future, through enabling policy;
(d) To put in place a monitoring program or even indicators, to assist in determining the success or failure of the policy and to correct problems as they arise.
These are not First World trappings or niceties that Third World countries can afford to ignore. They are the required elements of responsible decision-making. Incidentally, this approach is the foundation of good decision-making in the (private) business sector as well, and those who come out of that milieu should be well acquainted with it. But of greater relevance, it constitutes the criterion for transparency and accountability so necessary in the public (government) sector.
There are, indeed, situations where decisions have to be made quickly and where there may well be important information gaps (Contingency Planning). However, both the information known and the information gaps ought to be documented and be addressed as time goes on.
Once upon a time, countries (and corporations) may have considered themselves free to introduce policies, programs (and products/services) solely within the context of their own self-interest ----- information, impacts and implications be damned! Today, this is less and less acceptable. The ramifications of Globalization through control and regulatory mechanisms such as:
(a) international and regional trading agreements;
(b) international product standardization protocols (ISO);
(c) international arbitration tribunals;
increasingly require conformity and adherence to non-national standards and criteria of performance. Whether we like it or not, Third World countries are obliged to comply with non-national standards and it is myopic to cocoon oneself within a wonderland of one's own dreaming.
The lessons of this short sightedness should have been well-learned by now, particularly from the Dominican experience. Dominica, as well as some other regional jurisdictions, had a short-lived entry into the world of Offshore Financial Services, when this initiative was designed essentially within their financial and institutional capacity. The implementation of the program clearly illustrated shortcomings that required redress for a more responsible operation of the program within an international context. (It is now understood that these will be addressed through a better designed program in the future). Another example lies in the Economic Citizenship program which, from all accounts, has been compromised by a variety of investigatory, analytical and documentation deficiencies. Even if these might have been tolerable within purely Dominican conditions and needs (which apparently they are not), the program has resulted in increasingly rigorous oversight by some foreign governments and international institutions to the extent of placing Dominican visitors to their countries on a restricted entry list. Thirdly, in developing a "made in Dominica" approach to overseas diplomatic representation, it is now clear that some foreign governments are not prepared to cave in when their national interests are threatened by inappropriate appointments which illustrate local deficiencies.
Examples such as these should ring alarm bells as new policies, especially those that have international implications, are being crafted. Lord Palmerston's policy of "Civis Romanus sum" still rings true today. Simply put, opening doors to nationals of other countries to visit, do business, invest or to reside for a while in your country, correspondingly places an onus on you for the reasonable protection of those persons and their interests or risk direct intervention by their governments. Witness the case of Grenada!
In a less intrusive way, trade goods and their payment regimes will increasingly be subject to foreign review, quality assessments, packaging, shipping surveillance etc, whether for reasons of international security, anti-terrorism, disease control, combating money-laundering, narcotics interdiction, among others. Can Dominica ignore these realities? Similarly, as large populations migrate from one place to another voluntarily or under forced conditions, countries will increasingly monitor these trends for reasons of political, social and economic stability, disease control, border security as well as to address national issues of social services delivery, integrity of political processes or displacement of vital population groups.
These are only some potential areas of stress and conflict that surround the development of national agendas involving foreign countries. To develop national programs, especially those with a high cost component without regard to their sensitivity and risk exposure is ill-advised. Witness current United States trend to require formal documentation for returning nationals into the homeland, and the potential impact on foreign tourism destinations, if this requirement is not phased in! The issue is not that answers to all potential risks have to be known but that there has to be some level of awareness of the risk/benefit involved, and every possible attempt should be made to reduce the former and increase the latter. To engage oneself in assessments of this sort is responsible decision-making, and not to be a victim of "paralysis by analysis".
I refuse to accept that Dominicans lack the mental capacity to engage in disciplined evaluations as part of policy development. I refuse to believe that the exercise that is implicit is this suggestion would unduly fetter national development efforts. I cannot condone the current approach of a disjointed, superficial leap from concept to action. Certainly, the process of tabling a White Paper for public comment on a proposal which requires broad public support for its implementation is a step in the right direction. But in a country where parliamentary debate is next to ineffective; and, stakeholders may be over-stressed, the process should normally welcome for intelligent examination, comments from all quarters.
I would suggest that any fear of paralysis of/by analysis is sadly misplaced. Analysis never paralyses. On the contrary, it provides freedom so that action may range over a wider variety of options. Rather, it is the inability to make rational decisions based on proper analysis that induces paralysis. Too many would prefer to seek refuge in the sanctum, "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up!"
Dominica is embarked on an admirable program of training of its young intellectuals in regional and foreign institutions. Strong consideration needs to be given to developing a corps of professionals trained in policy development, development planning, programming and administration. Equally necessary is a commitment by government to understand and respect professional advice from whatever quarter it comes. By that I do not mean that politicians of whatever stripe, persuasion or inclination must necessarily always agree with that advice. But they should be aware of the facts and be ready to explain their decisions, especially when they run contrary to the facts.
Anticipation of "paralysis by analysis", catchy though it may be, is neither a diagnosis nor a remedy. Nor is it intelligent comment.
Time to wake up, Alice!
The writer, W.R.Franklin Watty, a Dominican national, is a professional economist, land use planner and tourism consultant. He is a former economist and planner with the Province of Ontario; and, the former Director of Planning and Transportation for the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. In addition, he has served for twelve years as a professional adjudicator,mediator, negotiator and arbitrator in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Government of Ontario. He is currently retired from the Public Service; is the Principal of FRANK WATTY CONSULTANCIES INC., economic, land use and tourism planners; and, is Adjunct Professor, School of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Waterloo. He can be reached at email@example.com