I extend warm greetings to my fellow Montserratians, residents, friends of Montserrat and all our fellow ECCU neighbours.
As Premier, Minister of Finance and the Chair of the ECCB Monetary Council, it is both my duty and my pleasure to officially declare the 2021 Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) Financial Information Month (FIM) open.
In its continued efforts to bring about financial empowerment through education, the FIM focus for 2021 boldly charges ECCU citizens to achieve ‘Innovation in the Face of Financial Adversity – Respond! Recover! Rise!
Over the last year, Montserrat and the rest of the ECCU region were faced with the significant challenge of preserving our economies during the height of the pandemic. Firms and individuals would have faced the same challenge and struggled to maintain a healthy financial position during its peak. But by the grace of God, we have survived the worst. Now, we must pivot our focus from survival to rebuilding.
Let us rebuild by traversing avenues previously unexplored. Let us rise by tapping into the unique skills and creative minds of our people. Let us find new ways to spur sustainable growth at all levels of our economy. Let us respond better, recover stronger and rise among our peers.
The pandemic has taught us many lessons but one key lesson has been that there is no turning back and it is no longer business as usual. In this new era, we must equip ourselves for the digital way of life. As we experienced unprecedented levels of isolation during the last year, the only means of communication, ability to work and conduct business was through digital means. Some of us thrived and others faltered. However, it is my belief that given the right tools, training and equality of access, we can all function successfully.
Therefore, as we observe FIM this year, citizens can expect discussions and information from experts around online banking and payments, using tools such as the cell phone to make life easier, taking advantage of virtual platforms for work, business, education and staying in touch; and cyber security.
Listeners, another harsh reality of the pandemic, is that it revealed the financial instability of Governments and individuals alike. Governments, businesses and individuals struggled during the pandemic to cope with reduced or minimal income and in many instances, there were no savings or investments to make up for the loss. Therefore, as we seek to empower, the sub-theme ‘Make saving, budgeting and investing a habit for a more comfortable tomorrow’ will bring the issue of investments into sharp focus in order to increase your ability to generate passive income, for situations where it may be difficult to actively earn income.
This dovetails into the topic of keeping your business afloat of which I look forward to keenly, since the areas of focus greatly support the much-needed skills of SMEs in Montserrat and the region. Moreover, I expect topics like ‘adaptation and innovation…seeking new opportunities…and risk management’ to trigger the imaginations of local business owners as they prepare to benefit under Montserrat’s Enterprise Development Scheme which will begin accepting applications later this month.
Unfortunately, due to the continuing Covid-19 protocols, we will be unable to have our usual lively in person discussions/ trainings, however utilising the aforementioned digital means I am certain we will have a wider reach.
I should state also, that while the purpose of this month is to educate, there will also be activities that promote fun, health and community participation. Outside of the various presentations and panel discussions, there will be trivia/game nights, a Wellness Walk & Treasure Hunt and a church service to ask for God’s protection and guidance throughout the month of activities.
As I close, I express on behalf of my Government, thanks to the local ECCB Agency Office and its partners for their commitment in coordinating and implementing such a timely and important series of activities.
It is with great pride that I declare the 2021 Financial Information Month Festival officially open.