Citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat, and Montserratians overseas, I extend warm greetings and well wishes to you and your families.
Christmas this year will be slightly different to what we have become accustomed to over the years. Every year, we normally welcome our loved ones and friends back home to spend the holiday season with us; while at the same-time enjoying our cultural activities.
But we are now compelled to adjust to a world in which COVID-19 continues to be a reality and present challenges, which has triggered the need for physical distancing and other restrictions, as we work to protect each other from the coronavirus.
This year, we have experienced the worst Global Health Pandemic in modern times, we have lost loved ones as a result, and our economies have been placed under tremendous pressure, which has resulted in some persons losing jobs.
However, even under these circumstances as a people of hope, we reflect on the birth of Jesus, as a symbol of hope, and we say yes, to life and the birth of new possibilities.
So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ today, I want us to express our immense gratitude to God for his mercies on us and on our land. We have so much to be thankful for.
This year we have seen the most active hurricane season on record, with 30 named storms; yet by God’s grace we were not impacted by any of the named storms or Hurricanes. This is a testament of God’s mercy on us.
Through it all, this year has taught us the importance of togetherness, love for each other and an appreciation for this place we call home, and it has also reminded us of how fickle life can be.
Christmas is a time of sharing and this year more than ever gives all of us an even greater opportunity to spread love. In spite of a fragile economy, many of you will be making the sacrifice to purchase gifts for families and friends and as you do so, think of those children whose parents are unable to provide them with a gift.
When preparing your Christmas meals, think of those around you who through no fault of their own will be unable to enjoy a meal on Christmas day. I urge you to let the spirit of Christmas extend beyond your families and friends, and practice that great Commandment which admonishes us to “Love our neighbours as ourselves”.
As leaders, my colleagues and I remain committed to all of you and will continue to work in partnership with staff in our Ministries and Departments, and of course the wider Montserrat community, to advance the development of this island.
Despite the challenges we faced this year, I am convinced that next year will be a better year for all of us and I anticipate that the COVID-19 pandemic will begin to subside with the rolling out of several vaccines to be used against the Coronavirus— there is light at the end of the tunnel. As we have announced, Montserrat is in line to receive vaccines from the United Kingdom and we have already signed an agreement with Covax- a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine safety is a priority and must be satisfied before we agree to administer locally.
As a government, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic we were able to make considerable progress on key projects. We have seen the completion of the sub-sea Fibre Optic Project, work is nearing completion on the preliminary design for the new hospital and full design work will commence early in the new year.
Contracts have also been awarded for the following projects:
• Airport Runway Resurfacing
• Construction of the airport control tower,
• Design of social housing
Work will begin on these three projects early in 2021.
Listeners and viewers, rest assured that your government continues to explore ways to stimulate the economy, but in doing so, the health and wellbeing of all of you, remain a top priority for us. We want to ensure that our people are safe, healthy and are able to contribute to the progress of themselves and Montserrat on a whole.
As families and friends come together over the holidays, I urge you not to forget that the Coronavirus is still an active force to be reckoned with. You never know who might be infected, please do not lay down your guard.
Practice social distancing, wear your masks and face coverings especially when in the company of persons who do not belong to your household, avoid large crowds, practice good hygiene and sanitisation.
Let us celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and allow the spirit of love, joy, peace and hope to permeate our entire being now and into the New Year.
On behalf of the Government of Montserrat, my wife and my entire family, I wish each and every one, a happy and safe Christmas and God’s continued blessings in 2021.
God richest blessings to all.