Britain To Finalise Montserrat Aid Package By End Of March

Last week's visit of Head of Overseas Territories Tom Kelley brought Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and the government of Montserrat closer to finalising a new aid package for the 2012/2013 budget year.

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Last week's visit of Head of Overseas Territories Tom Kelley brought Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) and the government of Montserrat closer to finalising a new aid package for the 2012/2013 budget year.

According to DFID private sector representative, Dr Kato Kimbugwe, it is hoped that the business case can be finalized by the end of March ahead of the April 1 start of the government's new budget year.

Last October the government committed to creating a Strategic Growth and Development Plan (SGDP), which is linked to receiving future financial support from DFID.

Some of the reform commitments being considered are: a streamlined tax administration system to increase tax collection and compliance; implementing the egovernment strategy and introduce online payments for public services; increased accountability and service delivery in the public service; increased private sector participation in the economy; and the outsourcing of several services, including cleaning, school meals, and hospital laundry services.

Kimbugwe said he is impressed with the level of work already completed to deliver a revised master plan and prospectus on the new town at Little Bay and the port project under the leadership of John Cox. By the end of March the plan should be about 95% complete, only awaiting the comments and suggestions gathered from stakeholders during the 60-day public consultation, which is now in progress.

He added that, as no private sector companies have expressed an interest to drill two test wells for geothermal exploration, a paper is being drawn up to request that UK ministers approve the use of public funds for the project.

This project, along with delivering completed plans for the new town and port and also investment in improving the island's access are dependent on the government delivering on its agreement to achieve the targets set out in the SGDP.