Continuing, former UK Prime Minister Margaret H. Thatcher states, “plan your work for today and every day, then work your plan.” Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.” Moreover, effective planning must be a part of every leader(s) job responsibility.
Nevertheless, from afar, proper planning in the [British] Virgin Islands (VI) may not be as robust and structured as it must be. Consequently, in charting a new VI path forward, structured planning must be an integral part of the process. As such, in this short commentary, the focus will be briefly on a few planning topics, i.e., a) general types of planning, b) national development planning, c) business planning, d) master planning, e) budget, Finance, and tax policy planning, and contingency planning.
The American Planning Association defines planning as “The goal of planning is to maximise the health, safety, and economic well-being of all people living in our communities.” Planning entails goals, objectives, plans, procedures, and policies. It is the systematic approach employed to attain goals and objectives. Goals and objectives identify desired outcomes, while planning starts the process of how things will be done. Further, procedures articulate the step-by-step sequence of events followed to implement a plan. And policies determine the guidelines on what procedures are standardised. They are standard operating procedures (SOPs). In the universe of facility management, programming details the justification and scope of and the description of a project. It entails project objectives, facility and user requirements, total facility area, and scope of work.
Moreover, Cambridge Dictionary defines a project as: “a piece of planned work or an activity finishing over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular purpose.” It has a definite start and finish date. An example of a project is the implementing of the Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom’s Commission of Inquiry findings.
Planning and problem-solving are often confused with being similar; however, they are two different actions. Planning is part of the overall problem-solving cycle which includes a) identifying the problem, b) generating solution alternatives, c) selecting a solution alternative, d) devising a solution action plan, e) implementing the plan, and e) evaluating the results.
Typically, general basic planning entails a) strategic planning, which ranges between 5-10 years and consists of 1) goals, 2) objectives, 3) strategies, and 4) tactics; b) intermediate planning, which typically ranges between 1-3 years, and c) short-term planning, i.e., one year or less. All plans should be rolling plans to stay current.
Effective national development planning is critical to the smooth, functional, and progressive growth and development of the VI. There seems to be a significant weakness and vulnerability in national development planning. The condition of the physical infrastructure reflects this weakness. For example, an incoming government can easily and substantially change a project(s) put in place by a previous government(s). The sometimes apparent politically motivated stops and starts of a project(s) can counter effective growth and development, slow progress, increase cost, delay service delivery, etc. Consequently, to fix the problem, the government must develop a National Development Plan that should be approved by a majority of voters and codified into law by the House of Assembly (HoA). The HoA should approve any substantial changes to the National Development Plan.
Investopedia states, “a business plan is a document that defines a company’s objectives and how it plans to achieve its goals.” The VI (if it has not already) needs a well-structured and consistent public sector business planning process. Business plans provide the platforms on which the VI can plan its work and works its plan. The central government should have a master business plan, and each statutory body and department should have a business plan that dovetails with the central government’s business plan. Business plan success requires task tracking and performance monitoring, and reporting capabilities. Additionally, the business plan process should be equipped with a dashboard capability to roll up in real time to the highest levels of government. Several software packages can assist in managing business plans, i.e., Balance Scorecard, etc.
The World Bank outlines master planning as: ”A master plan is a dynamic planning document that provides a conceptual layout to guide future growth and development. A master plan includes analysis, recommendations, and proposals for a site’s population, economy, community facilities, housing, transportation, and land use.” Master plans for road network/transportation, water utilities [water, stormwater (drainage), wastewater (sewage)], land use, energy, etc., are beneficial to the VI’s continued growth and development.
Budget and Finance go in hand-in-hand, yet they are different. It is strategies v. tactics and long-term v. short-term. Financial planning entails building a long-term plan for aiming at and hitting established financial targets. In contrast, budgeting entails building a budget, which is a fiscal planning roadmap for managing day-to-day income and expenses. Moreover, effective budgeting and management entail maximizing budget efficiency to deliver the most and best services to the most people. Budget management skills require the challenge of streamlining and making structural adjustments to budgets without markedly cutting services.
Moreover, the VI is a small, resource-poor locale with a service-based economy (tourism and financial services). Consequently, most government revenues come from taxes and fees. Nevertheless, among the VI population is an increasing demand for more services but a disdain for increased taxes. However, the VI has a considerable infrastructure backlog and other critical needs. And to satisfy this backlog, the VI has to borrow and pay back the loan with increased taxation.
Consequently, the government must develop and implement a fair, reasonable, equitable, but unpopular tax policy. It must strive for a tax policy/rate that either maximizes economic growth, revenue collection, or a balance between economic growth and revenue collection. A National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) dated study (March 1991) suggests a).” On the average, governments collect the highest possible revenue when they take about 43.2 percent of gross domestic product in taxes, and b). “On the average, countries reach their maximum economic growth rates when they take no more than 19.3 percent of GDP in taxes. Note that the NCPA, founded in 1983, ceased active operations in 2017.
Generally, entities define contingency as an event or something likely but not certain to happen. Agencies typically plan for what they expect to happen. Nevertheless, despite their superb planning efforts, the unexpected can and often happens. Moreover, the VI is highly prone to natural disasters, i.e., hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Consequently, it must have a well-structured and detailed contingency plan.
Finally, planning is critical and vital and treated as dynamic. It is linear and conceptual and should be flexible, active, and rolling. Effective national planning is critical for allocating scarce resources to achieve optimum growth and development.