Government of Montserrat

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER ATTENDS FIRST COMMONWEALTH DATA FORUM

paul lewis gibraltarThe Honourable Minister of Communications, Paul Lewis is in Gibraltar for the first ‘Commonwealth Data Forum’, which is being held under the theme ‘The Data Revolution: Maximizing Opportunities & Managing Risks’.

 

The forum, from February 21 to 23, is being held by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Development and Telecommunications in Gibraltar. The organisers said the forum will be a highly interactive platform with facilitated discussions on how data management can enhance economic and social change, and will examine how standards can assist change by determining regulation that will reduce breaches, whilst ensuring compliance.

 

The key topics to be covered include: monetising data; data ownership; privacy; security (especially on social media); legal and jurisdictional issues and data centres. Session one on ‘Monetising Data’ was held earlier today. During that session, Mr. Lewis was part of a panel which presented and discussed the topic, ‘Creating National Opportunities for Economic Growth Through Big Data’. Other panelists on the topic included, the honourable Minister for Economic Development, Telecommunications and the Gibraltar Savings Bank (GSB) of Gibraltar, Sir Joseph Bossano and the Honourable Minister of Home Affairs, Transportation and Communication of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Vaden Williams.

 

The organisers indicated that the event is being held before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is put into effect in Europe and will assist the international audience in getting a clear understanding of the current policy, legal and regulatory issues as well as the market trends and available data solutions.

 

The audience is comprised of international policy teams, national regulatory bodies, legal firms, managers working within big data and data analytics, service providers and additional stakeholders with an interest in data compliance.

 

TOURISM DIVISION EFFORT BRINGS STEVE HARVEY SHOW WINNERS TO MONTSERRAT

The lucky winners of the holiday giveaway, ‘Montserrat Villa Vacation’ which was awarded on the Steve Harvey Show, arrived on island on Thursday February 15, for their four-night vacation package.

 

Mr & Mrs Adkins Montserrat Villa Vacation WinnersAdriane and Erick Adkins from Chicago, Illinois won the award in March 2017 during their appearance on the US based television programme.

 

The couple’s visit to the island is as a result of the Tourism Division’s efforts, through the US-based PR Agency, Cheryl Andrews Marketing, to source and secure a promotional trip giveaway opportunity. Product Development Officer at the Tourism Division, Rosetta West-Gerald explained, “Steve Harvey Producers were looking for a tropical giveaway for their St. Patrick’s Day episode in March 2017. They wanted an over-the-top experience for their winners and in recognizing this opportunity, The Tourism Division of the Office of the Premier, enlisted the PR Agency Cheryl Andrews Marketing to secure the promotional trip giveaway opportunity to enhance visibility and recognition of Montserrat in that Market place.”

 

The Tourism Division also partnered with a number of stakeholders to put the holiday package together. The Montserrat Villa Vacation package included a four (4) night stay at Wing Song villa, sponsored by Tradewinds Real Estate; Jet Blue sponsored return flights for the couple from Chicago to New York/ New York to Antigua.; dinner for the couple were also sponsored by Olveston House, Summer Breeze and Good Eats Restaurant, respectively. The Tourism Division also provided overnight hotel stay in New York; return flight between Montserrat and Antigua; an island tour; a boat tour, a snorkel trip; spa treatment and dinner for two.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Adkins said they never knew about Montserrat before the show and now that they have visited the island, they intend to return again.
Adriane said they were happy and surprised when they won the trip to the island but also a bit worried because they had never heard of Montserrat. She admits that following her research and learning about the volcano, she was a bit hesitant, but is now happy they came because “it’s definitely been an amazing experience and something we definitely will share with others,” stated Adriane Adkins.

 

“The experience has been great, the people have been great, the food has been very good, the view of the island is amazing, the authenticity of the island is amazing, something I never expected,” stated Erick Adkins. While expressing his love for the island and desire to stay, Mr. Adkins stated that he has things to take care of back home before they can think of moving to Montserrat.

 

Mrs. West-Gerald said, “The show has certainly raised the visibility of the island and we know that Mr. and Mrs. Adkins will share their positive stories with others in the US. We hope that their experiences will inspire other persons to visit.”

 

Mr. and Mrs. Adkins are expected to leave the island on February 20, 2018.

 

The Steve Harvey Show is a one-hour daytime show hosted by T.V. personality, comedian, radio show host and best-selling author – Steve Harvey. The show averages over 2.6 million viewers daily. He also has 4.5 million Facebook fans, 2 million Instagram followers and 343 million views on YouTube.

 

PREMIER ROMEO SIGNS MOU TO CREATE A DIGITAL PAYMENTS ECOSYSTEM IN MONTSERRAT

The Honourable Premier and Minister of Finance of Montserrat, Donaldson Romeo, has signed on behalf of the Government of Montserrat, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Barbados based financial technology company Bitt Inc., to create a Digital Payments Ecosystem in Montserrat.

 

Premier Romeo stated that Bitt Inc. will work with the Government of Montserrat and other domestic stakeholders, such as the private sector, commercial banks, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), to create a digital payments ecosystem in Montserrat.

 

He explained that “the people of Montserrat will benefit from increased financial inclusion, and a significant reduction in their need for cash to make payments for goods and services, or as a means of saving. Anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer, will now be able to conduct these domestic transactions securely, efficiently, digitally.”

 

This initiative is both historic and essential to the future socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Montserrat.

 

“The decision to move closer to a cashless society is in keeping with our overall development strategy, and also that of the ECCB,” explained Premier Romeo. “Montserrat, and indeed the wider Caribbean, has a renewed focus on building resilience and securing sustainability. Indeed, creating a modern, digital financial ecosystem, is a key element of this drive to build back better. Though we are small, we are by no means insignificant. The people of Montserrat are proud to be raising the bar, taking the lead, and setting the example, with this groundbreaking initiative,” he added.

 

The MOU between the Government of Montserrat and Bitt Inc. will provide a framework for Bitt Inc. to collaborate with Montserrat to develop a pilot programme, which includes a feasibility study designed to test the viability and functionality of Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollars (DXCD) in the financial ecosystem of Montserrat. The feasibility study in the pilot programme will also facilitate proof of concept experimentation and will use a phased approach within controlled environments to deploy, test and assess the effectiveness of suggested implementations.

 

Premier Romeo, while highlighting the importance of creating a digital payments ecosystem in Montserrat, added that, “The use of cash, as we all know, has risks and costs associated with it. It costs money to print money, and saving in cash ‘under the mattress’ and walking around with cash can be risky.” He further stated that “the need for cash or for everyday transactions like purchases, or sending money locally to your loved ones, would be eliminated, as you would be able to use Bitt’s mMoney mobile wallet for free peer-to-peer transfers of money using your smartphone, tablet or computer.”

 

The digital payments ecosystem, once implemented, will include a number of free services. Consumers who use Bitt’s mMoney mobile wallet to send money to loved ones locally or within the ECCU, and to make payments for goods and services, would be able to do so for free. Consumers would be able to download Bitt’s mMoney mobile wallet for free from the Google Playstore or Apple App Store, add funds to their mMoney wallet at any of the Digital Wallet Merchants for free, and make local payments for free.

 

The MOU between the Government of Montserrat and Bitt Inc. will be for an initial period of three years.

 

“Bitt congratulates the Government of Montserrat on this progressive move, and is honored to assist the island in meeting its objective of boosting financial inclusion, while reducing reliance on cash, as together we build resilience and sustainable socio-economic progress,” said Rawdon Adams, CEO of Bitt Inc.

 

Bitt Inc. is a financial technology company that utilises distributed ledger technology to offer secure, efficient, and cost effective digital payment products and services, including digital asset issuance software. Bitt Inc.’s suite of software can efficiently and securely issue an immutable DXCD, which, with the blessing of the ECCB, equates to the XCD – the existing legal tender of the ECCU.

 

FIRST STAGE OF SUSTAINABLE FISH TRAP PROJECT UNDERWAY

Stage one of a two-pilot experimental fish trap project which aims to protect the island’s fisheries resources commenced last week.

 

Trap being madeThe project, which is a partnership between the Government of Montserrat and the WAITT Institute, got on the way with the arrival of the material, with the exception of a bio-degradable wire on Thursday, February 8, 2018. The materials needed in the construction of the traps are currently in the possession of the lead trap maker for the project, Mr. Ethan Bonteen who has already commenced work on the trap.

 

The four apprentices conducting the project have met on several occasions with the Honourable Parliamentary Secretary and Project Coordinator, Gregory Willock. They held discussions regarding the execution of the project while ensuring the final details are put together to ensure a smooth running of the project over the next 12 months.

 

Upon the arrival of the trap materials, Mr. Willock expressed his delight in seeing the project finally getting on its way. He said, “I think this is really an exciting moment for all of us. I am just so overwhelmed that the materials to make these fish traps are finally here.”

 

After the completion of the traps, they will be laid and data will be collected to determine if the project is sustainable on Montserrat.
As the weeks and months roll-on, the general public will be further informed on the happenings of the projects.

 

The traps are expected to be laid by May of 2018.

 

Montserrat’s Environment Minister Discusses The Future of The Environment At OTs Meeting

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment, David Osborne attended a two-day environment meeting in the Isle of Man aimed at discussing the future of the environment in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

 

EnvMinConf 6aMinister Osborne joined other Ministers and senior officials from the UK Overseas Territories (OTs) and Crown Dependencies (CDs) in Douglas for the February 6th to 7th meeting.

 

The agenda for the meeting focused on sustainability in the terrestrial and marine environment, climate change, the impact of natural disasters on communities, environmental resilience and the Isle of Man’s designation as the first entire nation UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

 

The discussion also focused on common opportunities and challenges as it relates to issues such as the role of the environment in growing the economy, energy efficiency, sympathetic development, enforcement and the impact of plastics.

 

The meeting was hosted jointly by the Isle of Man’s Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, Geoffrey Boot MHK and Gibraltar’s Minister for Education, Heritage, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Professor John Cortés. The meeting was co-ordinated by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), a non-governmental organisation.

 

This was the third Council of Environment Ministers of UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. Previous meetings took place in Gibraltar in 2015 and continued in Alderney in 2017.

 

Photo Credit: Department of the Environment and Climate Change, HM Government of Gibraltar

 

MINISTRY OF WORKS CONTINUES TO IMPROVE ROAD ACCESS IN COMMUNITIES

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 – The Ministry of Communications, Works, Labour and Energy is continuing its efforts to improve road conditions and access to communities across Montserrat.

 

Collage of Road WorksThe Ministry is currently conducting road rehabilitation and improvement works in the Barzey’s community. The work is being undertaken in the northern section of the Barzey’s road and is a continuation of the extensive work which has already started on the Barzey’s main road.

 

The Honouarble Minister of Works, Paul Lewis explained that the work is being undertaken in stages and includes constructing retaining walls in some areas, road widening and bridge installation. The construction of retaining walls is currently being done.

 

He further stated that the road works are being financed under the Montserrat Priority Infrastructure Needs Project. Mr. Lewis said, “We negotiated an infrastructure priority project for roughly $EC20 million, over three (3) years, and this particular piece of work on the Barzey’s main road is funded from the Infrastructure Priority fund.”

 

The Ministry’s Civil Engineer, Rawlson Patterson explained that the work in the Barzey’s area is considered critical. He said, “There is a lot of land slippage happening in this area and it is one of the main bypass roads which gives access to the north and especially to our key infrastructures, such as the Hospital, Airport and the Port.”

 

As it relates to the construction of the retaining walls which is currently being done, Mr. Patterson explained that this aspect of the work was important due to increase rainfall and home developments in that area which have been exaggerating the land movements. Therefore, he said, “It is important that we construct retaining walls here and apart from that it helps with the widening of the road as it allows for safe access for pedestrians and motorists.”

 

The project in Barzey’s will also include bridge installation works which have been delayed. Once work on the bridge begins, the aim will be to “increase the capacity and size of the bridge for the flow of water and also taking into consideration debris flow, falling trees further upstream and maintenance”, explained Mr. Patterson.

 

The Public Works Department (PWD) and contractors are undertaking the works in the Barzey’s area. Two Contractors are currently working on the retaining wall and other contractors will be engaged for the road and drainage works.

 

Apart from the road works in Barzey’s, the Ministry is also undertaking works in the Judy Piece community. Excavation works is currently taking place on a portion of road in Judy Piece, as part of a wider project which began in the area to provide proper drainage and road access. Minister Lewis said once the budget is passed, the portion of road being excavated will be completed and will conclude the road works in the Judy Piece community.

 

Mr. Patterson noted that the intent is for communities to have roads that are resilient to storms and other events. He said in the past it was quite difficult to get out of this area (Judy Piece). The Civil Engineer explained that project entails drainage work and constructing concrete roads that will link back to the main road.

 

The road works are part of the Ministry’s thrust to provide safe road access across the island.

 

Mr. Lewis and Mr. Patterson provided updates on these road projects during a site visit to the areas today (Wednesday, February 7).

 

View the video version of this press release here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwEV_-kk0Wk

 

HOUSING INITIATIVE SIGNED UNDER GOVERNMENT’S HOME IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Lands, Housing and the Environment (MATLHE), signed off on another housing initiative under the Government of Montserrat’s Home Improvement Program.

 

In the upcoming months, contractor Leroy Gerald of Gerald’s Construction, will construct a 3 bedroom house in Mongo Hill, for Vernia Joseph, who currently works for the Government of Montserrat. Miss Joseph is the recipient of a Reduced Interest Mortgage, a program which continues to provide mortgages for persons who already own land, but who would not normally qualify for a mortgage with private lending institutions.

 

Miss Joseph and her three children, have been living in a 2 bedroom sheltered accommodation since 2005. Director of Housing and Acting Permanent Secretary for MATLHE, Mrs. Eulyn Greaves, explained that persons living in sheltered housing accommodations, are given housing priority.

 

Mrs. Greaves said the Honourable Minister for MATLHE, Mr. David Osborne is encouraging the Housing Unit to make every effort to assist people in acquiring more hurricane resilient living structures, especially since another active hurricane season has already been predicted for 2018.

 

Contactor Leroy Gerald, was issued a cheque on Friday February 2 from the Housing Unit, which represents mobilization fees for this project and will begin works immediately.

 

Miss Joseph expressed her gratitude to the Government of Montserrat and the Director of Housing for doing everything to make her dream of acquiring her own home, a reality.

 

Minister Osborne explained that there are over 300 persons on the priority housing list, however he states that over the past few months, his Ministry has been looking at making additional lots in Look Out and Drummonds available for houses.

 

He further stated that it is important for persons to register their housing needs with the Housing Unit, so that an accurate view of the housing needs on Montserrat can be documented and carried forward. Minister Osborne said he is interested in creating more revolving door housing programs, in an effort to lessen the dependency of the Government of Montserrat on external funding agents.

 

In the upcoming weeks the contracts for the four Social Houses will be signed and construction works will begin later this month.

 

SECOND SECRETARY TO THE HIGH COMMISSION OF INDIA VISITS MONTSERRAT

Friday, February 2, 2018 – The Second Secretary of the High Commission of India, Trinidad and Tobago, Aniruddha Das arrived on Montserrat on Thursday 1st February, for a five-day courtesy and familiarisation visit to the island.

 

Premier and Second Secretary of High Commission to IndiaThe purpose of Mr. Das’ visit is to meet and hold discussions with Government of Montserrat officials and to make the necessary arrangements for the High Commissioner of India, Trinidad and Tobago, to visit Montserrat in the near future.

 

Since his arrival, Mr. Das has paid courtesy calls to H.E. Governor, Andrew Pearce; the Honourable Premier, Donaldson Romeo; the Honourable Minister of Education, Health and Social Services, Delmaude Ryan; the Honourable Minister of Communications, Works, Labour and Energy, Paul Lewis and the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, Easton Taylor-Farrell.

 

The Second Secretary of the High Commission of India to Trinidad and Tobago said, “I am here to renew our contacts with the Government of Montserrat and one of the purposes of my trip here, is to pave the way for the visit of our High Commissioner who will come to Montserrat very soon”.
Mr. Das will also meet with the Indian community on island to get an understanding of what they expect from the High Commission of India in Trinidad and Tobago.

 

During his courtesy call to the Office of the Premier, the Honourable Premier, Donaldson Romeo welcomed Mr. Das to Montserrat and held discussions with him about the island and the Indian Scholarship Programme, which a number of Montserratians have benefitted from, over the years. They discussed providing the Government of Montserrat with a listing of courses being offered, for a decision on priority areas for training in India.

 

Premier Romeo thanked Mr. Das for the contribution that the programme has had on Montserrat, and noted that the island and the people of Montserrat have benefitted from the work produced by individuals who have acquired skills from courses in India.

 

Mr. Das said he is keen for persons from Montserrat to take advantage of the courses. He explained that the two types of programmes are the ‘Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme (ITEC)’ and the ‘Know India Program’. Mr. Das is encouraging persons to visit the website www.hcipos.in for more details on the programmes.

 

As it relates to the administrative support needed for the upcoming plans and programmes, the Second Secretary to the High Commission of India also met and held discussions with the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Premier, Daphne Cassell.

 

Mr. Das is expected to leave the island on Monday, February 5, 2018.

 

GOVERNOR’S SWEARING IN SPEECH

Governor-Andy-Pearce-photoHonourable Madame Speaker
Honourable Premier
Honourable Ministers of Government
Honourable Deputy Governor
Honourable Acting Attorney General
Honourable Financial Secretary
Honourable Leader of the Opposition
Honourable Members of the Legislative Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Thank you all for your kind words of welcome.

 

I am deeply honoured to have been sworn in as Governor of Montserrat. I will do my utmost to fulfil my responsibilities to the Government and people of Montserrat and the UK Government and to represent Her Majesty The Queen honourably and diligently.

 

In the few short months since my appointment was confirmed, I have heard and learned much about Montserrat, its charms and its challenges. But nothing could have prepared my wife and me and our daughter for our first sight of Montserrat as we approached the island yesterday, circled the north and landed. The first line of the chorus of the territorial song, “Montserrat, by nature blessed” could not be more appropriate. My wife and I feel equally blessed to be here and to be given the opportunity to spend the next three to four years working with you and living among you.

 

You might want to know a bit about me. I grew up in rural Norfolk in England and am very much still a country boy at heart. I love the natural world and am at my happiest hiking on a ridge top or digging about in a garden. I studied chemistry at university and did a bit of research into new battery technologies before joining the Foreign Office. My career saw me find my lovely wife, Pornpun, whilst on my first posting to Thailand. We have been posted together with our family since to Israel, South Africa, Romania and Thailand again. Most recently I have served as Head of Security for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, a fascinating and demanding job navigating the threats of the Arab Spring, and as Charge D’Affaires in Vilnius in Lithuania.

 

I have enjoyed all my jobs – well almost all. But I am genuinely delighted to work now on a new field in Montserrat. And most importantly, to do my part in making things better for the Montserratian community. I have been fascinated by the UK Overseas Territories since following the Falklands War as a schoolboy. The remote, exotic islands which make up so many of these territories, with their resilient and friendly communities, have always had a strong pull on my imagination. Now being appointed as Governor in Montserrat is a very special opportunity to satisfy that personal quest.

 

I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Elizabeth Carriere, and the work she did in a number of areas. It was clear from my conversations with her how much she loved Montserrat. She worked tirelessly, I know, to improve the island’s safety and security systems, the criminal justice system, child safeguarding, support to the Royal Montserrat Police Service and Her Majesty’s Prison and on disaster preparedness and response. I applaud her in particular for the work she started, with the Honourable Deputy Premier, on public sector reform through the Empowering Excellence Programme. Work is still at an early stage but I understand that great progress has been made and, in my role as the Head of the Public Service, I will give this work the same support and priority that she did. A modern, motivated and efficient public service is a cornerstone and driver of a thriving economy and business environment in Montserrat. The two are indivisible.

 

But the Governor is one person. I know that the Honourable Premier, Deputy Governor and all members of our Cabinet and Government also work unstintingly to deliver the best future for Montserrat. None of us can achieve real improvements on our own. It is through the support, work, creativity and commitment of many other people, both inside and outside the public service, that we can make a real difference. The cliché of “working in partnership” is often used and sometimes over-used. But, for me, it will be the watchword of my time as Governor. Partnership – friendship and respect – are central to so many crucial relationships: between the Governor and the Government, the public and private sectors, the Government of Montserrat and the UK Government. And to progress in so many key fields, including:

 

Good governance, the rule of law, criminal justice, safety and security and human rights – these are also foundations of a thriving economy. Without them, visitors, investors and businesses will not come and certainly will not stay. I will support all of these areas and work with the Government of Montserrat to ensure that Montserrat maintains its reputation as one of the safest places in the Caribbean and is a safe place to live, work and do business.

 

2017 saw the most devastating Atlantic hurricane season in history. So many islands and countries, including the mainland United States, were hit very hard by four major hurricanes. Our thoughts are with all those affected as they try to rebuild their countries and their lives. Montserrat was very lucky to escape the worst and I know you count your blessings that you did. As we approach the 2018 season, I will work with all the disaster preparedness and management agencies in Montserrat and in the UK to ensure that we are as well prepared as we can be. After last year there can be no room and no excuses for complacency and a lack of preparedness. The governments and peoples of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, British Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos Islands and others know that it only takes one storm.

 

In a place like Montserrat the preservation and protection of the natural environment is also vital to the economy and well being of the island. A pristine environment attracts tourists and foreign investment. They do not want to visit beaches, dive on reefs or hike on trails that are strewn with rubbish. The scourge of plastics and other non-perishable rubbish in the ghauts, on the beaches and in the sea is a growing problem. My wife and I will do what we can to help the government and people to keep this beautiful island clean.

 

My wife’s and my priorities in the next few weeks are to get to know as much of the island and as many people as possible. It will be a steep learning curve, including (I hope) hiking the Oriole Trail in the next couple of weeks! We will begin our learning visits and meetings immediately, and hope to have visited most parts of the island within our first couple of months. We will do our best but please bear with us. It will take us time. You will see us out and about under our own steam, especially at weekends. So do please say hello.

 

It is the people of Montserrat who matter. Please do let us know your feelings and concerns. We can’t solve everything and cannot do everything, but I will always be keen to listen and learn. And above all I will always do my best to help make things better – simpler, stronger, nicer and happier – wherever possible.

 

Thank you again for your warm welcome and may God bless Montserrat.

 

Premier Romeo’s Welcoming Speech for New Governor-His Excellency Andrew Pearce

Your Excellency, Mr. Pearce, Honourable Speaker, Deputy Governor, Fellow Ministers and Members, Sir Howard Fergus, Men and Women of the Clergy, other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, a very pleasant good afternoon.

 

IMG_0323Your Excellency, on behalf of the Government and People of Montserrat I welcome you, Mrs. Pearce and your daughter to our beautiful island on this sunny afternoon. Those before me have done a marvelous job of welcoming you on our behalf, which allows me to say a bit more than welcome. Unlike most first time visitors, as of today it is within your influence to keep and make Montserrat a safe and prosperous paradise. In welcoming you, I also have the opportunity, duty and privilege to share with you our people’s vision, ambition, needs and concerns.

 

Since 1997 and still today, the people of Montserrat have remained committed to fulfilling our national vision to achieve “a thriving, modern economy with a friendly, vibrant community in which all of our people through enterprise and
initiative can fulfill their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society”

 

Indeed, this has been the dream of our people since before the abolition of slavery. This year, on March 17, 2018, we will commemorate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the 1768 uprising of our enslaved ancestors, who fought and died for our liberty. Over the two hundred and more years since then, our forefathers and their political leaders with the help of God used art and skill, toil and sweat, used well-deserved aid and private investment to bring our people to economically stand on our own two feet by the mid 1980’s. Montserrat was and still is, the paradise of the Caribbean, with hard working and ambitious people who take pride in owning and building our own homes and businesses, educating our children and making our community and visitors around us safe and welcome.

 

I know that you have been well briefed, but I crave your indulgence as I share with you a front seat drive into our journey in responding to natural disasters over recent years that challenged our ability to stand while carrying our vision and ambition in our hearts. In 1989, Montserrat was devastated by Hugo, a category 4 Hurricane; but our greatest challenge is our response to the Soufriere Hills Volcano that came alive in 1995.

 

Please indulge me in sharing a summary from my recent presentation to the UN:

 

In just six years [after Hugo] our houses and key infrastructure were largely rebuilt both better and stronger and Montserrat was standing proudly on its own two feet economically.

 

Little did we know that we were rebuilding key infrastructure in the wrong place. Yes, in the path of a sleeping but potentially destructive volcano. In 1995, six years after Hugo struck, the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted, forcing the evacuation of more than 60% of our population to live on one third of the island, away from its wrath and away from key and the newly rebuilt infrastructure – our only town, our government buildings, our only sea and air port, our only hospital, our main hotels, our only golf course, our most arable farm lands, newly built telecommunications center, newly constructed and well maintained road infrastructure.

 

All of these were eventually destroyed or rendered useless over a five (5) year period, between 1995 and 2000.

 

Only by God’s grace have we survived those early days of uncertainty and loss. Yet as we journey along the people of Montserrat have carried their dream, their vision and ambition of “a thriving, modern economy with a friendly, vibrant community in which all of our people through enterprise and initiative can fulfill their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society”.

 

Your Excellency, over the past seventy years, there has been a British administrator or a Governor on Montserrat, down to this very day. You are about the 7th Governor in the past 20 years of volcano crisis since Governor Savage, the third for my Government’s three plus year stay.

 

Your Excellency, neither you or I can change painful, tear-stained history, but we can learn from it. Nor can we bury our head in the sand and pretend. We have got to face the truth if we are going to overcome and achieve our vision.

 

Indeed, in her final press conference, your predecessor, former Governor Carrier, reminded us that the leaders of the UK Overseas Territories which were hard-hit by hurricanes last September are determined that after twenty years, their Territories must not be where Montserrat is today – waiting on basic but key, resilient infrastructure. In taking her place we invite you to join the Government and People of Montserrat in making sure that this does not continue to happen under your watch. Montserrat must be treated with urgency just as Anguilla is being treated.

 

On the issue of priority, Your Excellency, you are well placed as head of the public service, disaster preparedness and Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO)representative to fight alongside the Government of Montserrat (GoM) for a positive outcome to capital project negotiations in the coming weeks. Especially because the FCO’s long-standing policy declaration is that UK Overseas Territories are a priority on the UK development aid budget. Also, Your Excellency, the FCO has the internationally legally binding force of the UN Charter, Article 73 to back making Montserrat’s development needs a priority at last.

 

It is obvious that it is not healthy for us to be arguing back and forth for basic support needs and the necessary transformational infrastructure projects. So, although between the UK and the Government and people of Montserrat we have long had the means, the proper motive and many opportunities to break through and deliver what is necessary to achieve our vision and ambition, not enough has been done. We all have known for the past 20 years that if Montserrat is to grow out of dependency that we need a proper and adequate sea port, we need an adequate airport, we need a reasonable hospital, a new capital town, hurricane resistant housing, fibre optic connectivity, road and other key infrastructure, as well as public sector reform, private sector development, etc.

 

This is the challenge we face together. I am sure, you agree that there is no other way to achieve our vision than to “spend to save”; in other words to provide the right level and type of recurrent and capital aid in both the short and long term that will help us to build a sound future.

 

Also, that “this is the time to move Montserrat forward.” For, another several decades of recurrent budget aid, directly funded by the British taxpayers is not in their or our best interest. The choice at this economic crossroad is clear; strategic capital investments to return Montserrat to self-sufficiency or continued annual aid for generations to come.”

 

So, as you spend your days and years on this Island I would like you every morning to be reminded of the ambition and vision of our people. I would like you to join me in reminding your superiors in the UK of the people of Montserrat’s ambition and vision. When we sit in Cabinet, when you sit with the Deputy Governor to discuss building the Public Sector, when you shop in our stores, buy locally grown vegetables, take a swim in the beach, or a hike in the mountains, I would like you, with God’s help to think about our vision and ambition.

 

In closing, I am reminded of a famous quote by Winston Churchill, which states “A nation that forgets its past has no future.” Your Excellency, this country has a very accomplished history of enjoying a thriving economy and being a regional leader.
• We led in aviation with the establishment of LIAT
• We led in Financial Services with Offshore Banking
• We led in international radio communications with Radio Antilles
• We led in villa tourism with our developments in Richmond Hill, Foxes Bay, Isles Bay Hill, Old Town, Woodsville and Woodlands.
• We led with the best medical school in the region and much more.

 

This is why, today, in swearing in as Governor, you have joined us with fresh hands and feet. To understand us, is to know our history and feel the challenge we now face. It is a challenge that requires us to work together towards a common, united national vision. It will require courage, diligence, and a determined effort on the part of us all. Our predecessors, past and present public servants, our private sector and our National Heroes have paved the way for this very moment to fulfill our destiny and rebuild this great land.

 

So, in your days, weeks and years here, I invite you to join the Government and people of Montserrat in using our art and skill, sweat, tears and laughter to one end and be connected to our destiny of getting our people out of dependence by creating “a thriving, modern economy with a friendly, vibrant community in which all of our people through enterprise and initiative can fulfill their hopes in a truly democratic and God-fearing society.”