Listen to the full Audio version of Honourable Claude Hogan's 2018 New Year Message to the people of Montserrat below, or read the full script as follows:
My fellow countrymen and women, supporters, friends and neighbours,
As we enter now this brand new year of 2018 we should, as a people, welcome with optimism the challenges and hopes that this time of rejuvenation offers.
I am sure that for many of us 2017 was a year of many ups and downs. Last year, my objective of seeking a national debate to strengthen our mandate was, it seems, not appreciated by the few, though judging from the great support I have received, was appreciated by the many.
I view a New Year as a time of renewal and I wish to renew to you my commitment to good governance and the rebuilding of Montserrat for a sustainable future and a positive vision for our society.
One of hope not frequent disappointment.
One of unity not division.
One of growth not dependency.
I have used my spare time tending my garden well and I hope that my renewal of effort will bring a similar good yield to our homeland. I stand firm in my belief that we need God's continued love and guidance and that this, and our own effort will deliver the future we hope for.
In 2014 the PDM campaign team outlined a sound manifesto of promises and pledges. I helped to form these pledges and promises and an outline or mission for Government that I stand by to this day. I have asked, and continue to ask, have we delivered on those promises? If not, then why not ? We are mature adults; even I am not the hothead I once was, so what is so wrong in seeking to discuss with those mature adults who put their faith in us at the ballot box, where we have failed and how we can seek to improve? If we cannot have such a discussion in a democratic country then something is wrong with the state of our national body politic.
We need that national discussion thus I now put before you a few of my own priorities in a constructive way.
1. We must press ahead with the major infrastructure projects - the Port, Hospital, Geothermal, Fibre Optic etc. These are strategic goals in and of themselves but one would be forgiven for thinking that they represent the whole of government ambition. Perhaps these days they do. Government needs greater vision. These big projects should become catalysts for further development so we ought to be planning for how that growth can enhance the community rather than make it up on the hoof and risk losing maximum benefit. You might recall we promised you growth clusters; and one certainly doesn't sleep all night and wake up to see these ready made.
2. No one can deny my attentiveness to environmental issues. We need to put these at the heart of policy making for growth and development: the future of Montserrat and the world depend upon us taking appropriate action. All projects from the smallest should be informed by well researched environmental policy. It is all too easy to make wrong decisions based on sketchy information. As a Government we should ensure we have the best information and that we use it. You are witnesses to the results of my strategic networking with good local help that produced a number of internationally funded aid projects on island. Green and resilient is a profitable global business.
3. Our soft infrastructure is much neglected, even as building skills, growth and jobs from within our own community needs to be given prominence. Working towards a thriving private sector with a highly skilled and competent workforce is very important to us. We still need to put people first.
3a. Our TC Programme is a contentious one, but it does not need to be so. If we adopt it and incorporate it as a legacy initiative into GOM, this would improve the skills and compliance of our own Civil Service. With time we could, with certainty and confidence, appoint these positions from within our own population. Let us pursue the adoption of the TC Programme as one route to improved pay packages and working conditions for our public servants. Eliminating any double standards in this regard will take strategic thinking and actions at the political level. We need to care about our own.
3b. Similarly, I would like to see initiatives address youth unemployment. Hon Gregory Willock has made inroads and I applaud this. The UK has comprehensive apprenticeships to improve skills, job and life opportunities for young people. Montserrat should engage UK colleagues in the implementation of such a scheme for our youth both here and in the UK to learn practical skills to enable them to either find or create work here on island. The UK is our partner: they have this ability and system; so let's link and learn how to do it; lets ensure our youth have marketable skills.
4. Finally and perhaps most importantly we need a mindset change. We have been victim to a major natural catastrophe; and the aftermath of this volcanic eruption. We have been failed by the very organisations which should have ensured a rapid rebuilding of our community and we have seen very little meaningful development over the last 22 years. We have been victim to all this but we need to remind ourselves that we are NOT permanent victims. We are a proud and resourceful people of great tenacity; reinforced by the additional energy and strengths of the new Montserratians who have chosen to live amongst us and help us rebuild. We must all remember to take pride in our home, in our island, to clean up after ourselves and, yes, clean up any mess left by those who are not so thoughtful; the message will get through. Our Hon Speaker Shirley Osborne has been championing this cause for a clean environment with enthusiasm and vigor. We also need to replace the dependency that has seeped into the hearts and minds of a few and replace it with the resilience, hope and self-respect that we are known for. The hope and pride of the many can and will make a difference to our island and ourselves.
In summary, my mind, my heart and my life experiences tell me that we have the ability to accommodate and facilitate our own change in building our own future. Some of the catalytic projects seem now to be on the path to realisation. We need as a nation to decide how these projects should shape our future rather than passively accept whatever comes along; we need an apprenticeship programme alongside an improved academic programme; we as a Government must find better ways of tapping into the databank of international talent and knowledge including our people Overseas; lets keep going Green and reap the benefits; let our TC programme transition to excellence for our public servants; and certainly with help via DFID, the EU and others alongside our own skills we can leverage a greater good for Montserrat. Holding on to our faith in the goodness of God we can and shall achieve our goals.
Thank you for hearing me.
A very happy and prosperous New Year to you all.
Claude E S Hogan Esq. MLA
Government of Montserrat