Overcoming International Challenges in a Small Country Context – Raising the Bar for Small Countries’ Senior Officials
La Teisha Sandy, this country’s Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), was selected by the Small Countries Financial Management Centre (the Centre) to participate in this year’s Small Countries Financial Management Programme (the Programme), a wholly sponsored executive education programme which takes place in the Isle of Man and Oxford University, England.
The Programme delivers a unique executive educative experience, empowering officials in small countries through learning and collaboration and providing them with a wide range of skills and techniques that directly help them in their day-to-day roles and in instigating change and improvement.
The Centre is a registered charity, established in June 2009 and based in the Isle of Man. The Programme was established to help the world’s least populated countries to develop a cadre of senior officials with the skills to handle key tasks in economic management and financial sector regulation, in recognition that many small, developing nations operate in an uncertain global environment, where rules, trends and pressures are outside their control. Such nations not only have to face inherent challenges in economic development but are also obliged to meet onerous international standards on an equal footing with larger, developed countries, in a context where resources are often limited and economies of scale hard to achieve.
Against the background of the major challenges which the Isle of Man had to itself overcome in a similar international context, the Isle of Man Government decided to make a direct and useful contribution to international development and economic growth through capacity building in small countries, by sponsoring the Programme and acting as its host.
The Programme stands out owing to an exceptionally relevant curriculum tailored for small countries, offered through interactive learning from a teaching faculty of the highest calibre. The agenda covers leadership and management skills including finance management and the design of long term strategy, financial sector regulation and supervision, policy and other negotiations, economic growth and development issues, international initiatives and emerging issues impacting the financial sector and financial management in small countries.
The Programme fosters transformational change, developing future leaders by encouraging officials to think ‘outside the box’ about how to tackle problems and negotiate solutions. Indeed, a key message of the Programme is that ‘One person can make a difference’ so the Programme urges self-innovation and mobilization of all resources at one’s disposal, including relevant engagement with stakeholders, to overcome challenges and achieve desired outcomes. Its duration is phased over two weeks, the first week in the Isle of Man and the second at Oxford University. In the Isle of Man, key representatives of the Isle of Man Government and the private sector make themselves available to share their experiences with the participants and respond to their questions.
This year, Sharda Bollers, former inaugural director of the FIU and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) respectively, was invited by the Centre to share her experiences as an alumna of the Programme, on its impact since participating in the Programme in 2009. Bollers was selected from the inaugural class, in view of her work in the areas of financial regulation reform and supervision, anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism, international tax, insolvency and financial management issues in general, from the practical perspective of a small country dealing with and overcoming inherent and international challenges.
Thus far, SVG has benefitted by having many of its most senior officials receive this high quality training, including Laura Anthony Browne, then Director of Planning; Kelvin Pompey, Comptroller of the Inland Revenue Department and the Department’s Legal Officer, Kezi Francis; Debbie Antione, Accountant General; former Comptroller of Customs, Grenville John; and Carla James, then Director of the FIU and presently Executive Director of the FSA; Geshell Peters, Legal Officer, FSA and other key senior officials of the FSA.
Countries are allowed one place on the Programme however on two occasions, SVG received two places based on the high quality of applications. Bollers aforementioned, attended the Programme as the then Executive Director of the International Financial Services Authority and has been serving as a director on the Board of the Centre on a pro bono basis since 2012.
In 2015, Prime Minister, Dr Ralph E. Gonsalves, then the Minister of Finance, had taken the time to write to the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, to express SVG’s appreciation of the Programme, indicating “There has been a significant and enduring enhancement in the leadership, strategic management and negotiating capacity of those who have attended the Programme. Whilst enhancing the leadership attributes of senior officers is worthy in itself, it is evident that they have also been able to apply the learning and skills gained by attending the Programme to benefit the Government and people of St Vincent and the Grenadines in a tangible manner and for a sustainable period. It is a unique Programme which is of particular value to us.”
The above-stated words were very well received by the Isle of Man Government and the Centre and have been prominently etched in the Programme material, Billboard and agenda of the Programme for the past several years, including up to current year, albeit anonymously from a Caribbean Government Minister. However, SVG and Caribbean participants are usually pleased to claim ownership of these words on behalf of their country and region, as well as to learn of a Vincentian representative on the Centre’s Board of Directors.
The SVG alumni of the SCFMP have unanimously endorsed the benefits of the Programme as a unique and unsurpassed executive educative experience and join hands in strongly encouraging applications of appropriate persons (the selection criteria is on the www.scfmc.com website) to apply to participate in this outstanding annual programme.