Fellow Citizens, Residents and friends on
Montserrat and around the world, as we celebrate the end of one year and the
beginning of another, I want first to thank God for blessing and keeping us to
see this day, the 1st of January 2018, and to wish you all a happy
and healthy New Year.
In 2017 our nation faced many challenges, some
of which we have overcome and others we believe we shall overcome. As we look back on this past year, may
we do so with the understanding that brighter days are ahead – that while our
challenges are great, each of us has a unique part to play, and that every one
of us is equipped by God with the courage and determination to rise up and meet
This year marks our island’s 23rd year
in our journey since volcanic eruptions began in July 1995. This year we must seize
the opportunity for a breakthrough or paradigm shift. This will require us all,
as citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat, to come together as a single
community with an overarching unity of purpose.
Unity of purpose and action, above and beyond
our differences, will be vital to Montserrat’s progress, now and in the years
ahead. It is still my conviction that if we – citizens, residents and friends
of Montserrat, choose with God’s help, to pursue unity of purpose and mutual respect
as a permanent lifestyle for the New Year and beyond, there is no limit to what
we can achieve.
It is that very agreement of purpose that
achieved, as I perceive, a step in the right direction for both the UK
Government and the UK Overseas Territories just over a month ago.
After the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria
last September, the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) which were severely
affected, joined with other British Overseas Territories in presenting our case
to the world and to Her Majesty’s Government (HMG). As a result, at the end of November’s Joint Ministerial Council
meetings in London, the UK joined with its Overseas Territories in a communiqué
to declare that, in accordance with UN law (Article 73), we must ‘ensure’ that
the development needs of Montserrat and other BOTs are to be treated as a
This change of thinking happened because
Montserrat was no longer making the argument alone, as we have done year after
year for twenty-plus years. This
time, working together with other OTs we were able to meet and make a strong case
to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as to Secretaries of State and other Ministers
of the UK Government. Also, this
time around, the UK media were already agitating on our behalf by challenging
the UK Government to be prompt and adequate in its assistance to British
Overseas Territories in desperate need.
For over 20 years, UK Prime minister after UK
Prime Minister, and Chief Minister after Chief Minister on Montserrat along
with their administrations have fought to accomplish the things pertinent to
Montserrat’s sustainable development; things needed to take Montserrat out of a
20-year dependency on UK tax payers.
Today, Montserrat still needs urgent action to have basic and key
infrastructure lost to the volcano replaced, and to address our
hurricane-worthiness, just as is the case for three BOTs recently devastated by
hurricanes Irma and Maria.
We in Montserrat have learnt it the hard way;
to be effective, aid must be both adequate and timely. As I said in my appeal
at the United Nations in November, we must not let what has happened to
Montserrat over the past 20 years continue, and we must not let what has
happened to Montserrat happen to our fellow Territories. The world now knows that Montserrat
still needs and deserves an urgent response.
Any day now, we expect to be signing the financial
agreement with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for the long-needed
breakwater and berthing that will allow tourist and cargo vessels to dock
safely at our Port in Little Bay. Similarly, the Department for
International Development (DFID) has recently assured Government of Montserrat
(GoM) of their continued commitment to the Subsea Fiber Optic Project, and the
Government of Montserrat is on track to present a funding model that meets
their new requirements in January. Significant progress on the project is
expected to take place in 2018.
agreement for the European Union Development Fund (EDF 11) of 18.4 million
Euros for 2018 to 2020 is to be signed in a few weeks. The first tranche of these moneys should be available as part of the 2018
March budget. Thanks to the
European Union these 18.4 million Euros will fund energy, tourism,
projects in other sectors.
As we all know, January to March are generally slow months for our economy,
so it is important for the people of Montserrat to be aware of what is in the
pipeline to create employment over the next few weeks and months.
This year we
expect several projects for the remaining portion of this year’s capital budget
to start shortly. Many of the following will be completed or well underway by
· The four, two-bedroom social needs houses went out to tender in December. Bids have come back in and are being evaluated with the hope of having a winning tender and contract in place shortly.
· A contract has been awarded for the installation of a new roof on the Montserrat Port Authority building while the extension to the Ferry terminal building in Little Bay is in its final stage of design before procurement. Construction is expected to start very soon.
· As a result of the damage across the island caused by the recent hurricanes Irma & Maria, we will continue, over the coming weeks and months, to spend relief funds to assist our farmers and fishermen, and to carry out urgent repairs and rehabilitation to several tourist attraction sites, clear roads, cut verges, as well as urgent works on the Carrs Bay Bridge - due to start in the first quarter of this year.
· The drilling of the 3rd well as well as short and long term testing is to be completed by DFID in 2018. GoM has taken the initiative to conduct early market engagement for the development of the Geothermal surface plant.
· The public service is presently the principal driver of Montserrat’s economy. We therefore hope that funding a major reform and modernisation programme for the public service will also be approved in the coming months.
· During the coming months, we will approve an Economic Growth Strategy and Delivery Plan following further consultation. The Economic Growth Strategy aims to accomplish two critical goals regarding the development of the private sector.
The first is to
continuous and open dialogue with the private
sector on critical issues for moving Montserrat forward.
The second is
to get the private sector fully involved in creating sustainable and inclusive
economic growth for all Montserratians.
economy must and shall be transformed for the better of all.
I am convinced that even after 20
years of dependency it is not too late to put corrective measures in place for
our resilient and sustainable growth and development. 2018 offers the British Government and the Government and
people of Montserrat a unique chance to show the world what can be done, when
good will and unity of purpose, backed by adequate funding, are finally applied
to our own volcano-devastated island.
This does not mean that we are going
to depend solely on HMG who have an important part to play in funding the
replacement of key infrastructure and other development needs, for which we are
thankful. With that foundation we
must build a modern and vibrant Montserrat with our creativity,
entrepreneurship and the hard work of all, young and old.
We must all, Government, and people of Montserrat
near and far, be committed to the vision of the sustainable development Plan for Montserrat
which speaks of “a thriving, modern
economy with a friendly, vibrant community in which all of our people through
enterprise and initiative can fulfil their hopes in a truly democratic and
I believe that our vision of a democratic and God-fearing Montserrat
that is resilient, modern, lively, prosperous, yet peaceful, safe and welcoming
is shared by all who love this island. With all hands on deck, and all pulling
in the same direction, Montserrat will not remain a welfare-dependent state for
long and our vision of a Montserrat standing on its own two feet could soon be
There is a time for everything and it is now
time to let Montserrat Grow. We are all called
for such a time and purpose as this.
Fellow Citizens, Residents and friends of Montserrat as we begin 2018, I want once again, to thank you for your cooperation, hard work and contribution over the past year. Finally, on behalf of myself, my family, and the Government of Montserrat, to those of us here on Island as well as the many overseas I wish each and every one a New Year of restored hope and faith in Montserrat's future under God.
God bless you all and God bless Montserrat.