Montserratians, residents, and friends, at the opening of this New Year, it gives me great pleasure to greet you and to extend best wishes to you and your families for a healthy, prosperous and happy new year – 2023.
As we reflect on the past year—the successes, the challenges, the lessons learned and the blessings; we can say with confidence that God has been good to us
I am aware that 2022 was a difficult year for many of our peoples and I am also mindful of the worsening situation brought about by the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia which has significantly impacted global food and fuel supplies resulting in increased cost to consumers, a reminder of how exposed we are to international shock.
As Montserrat joins the rest of the region in seeking to reduce its food import bill by 25% by 2025, it is my hope that our farmers would rise to the challenge and increase domestic food supply.
In the same vain, Government is seeking to further develop and expand its renewable energy resources to make the islands less dependent on fossil fuel.
Notwithstanding the harsh realities in 2022, your Government stayed the course and got on with the job done providing the services to its peoples without any serious disruption
In my 2022 New Year’s message I promised contributors to the Social Security Fund that my administration will strive to improve the sustainability of the Fund and we have delivered on that promise.
We have made amendments to the Social Security Legislation and have injected $1.8Million to the fund, be assured that my administration will continue to support the fund to ensure it remains viable.
During last year a modern Sewage system was installed in Drummond’s community, allowing for improved air quality to the residents. Improvement work was also carried out on the Davy Hill Sewage Plant.
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) provided $9 Million dollars to the government for the purchasing of life-safety critical equipment, including prioritized energy supply, medical equipment, and emergency response: We thank the FCDO for these funds.
The Ministry of Agriculture undertook repairs to some 19 homes in 2022 these are in addition to those repaired in 2021. Additionally, Materials, Financial Assistance and Home Improvement Grants ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 were designed to improve the living conditions of households and stimulate activities in the construction sector.
Government undertook other activities during the year:-
- Enterprise Development Scheme and Relief Support with grants and loans to the business sector;
- Produced in Montserrat Expo (PRIME) was staged: providing the spotlight for locally created goods and services. This empowered businesses to market their products, fuel and expand revenue and sales opportunities;
- Completed phase 1 of the roll-out of high-speed internet services connecting homes and businesses.
As we build on the successes of 2022, we can look forward with some measure of optimism in 2023
- In particular, I emphasize the new port project, the contract was signed in May of 2022 and the company has begun mobilizing with work getting underway in the first quarter of the year.
- Significant work has already been done in preparation for the new hospital. While we await the completion of the detail design for the new hospital. Work is expected to commence on retrofitting Margetson Memorial Home which will be used to temporarily housed the main office, pharmacy, kitchen Lab and laundry during the construction phase, once these are relocated, demolition of the existing buildings will follow paving the way for the construction phase of the hospital to begin.
Work on following will commence this year:-
- restoration the old Salem Primary school
- Construction of The Volcano Interpretation Centre (VIC)
- Construction of a Basket Ball court in Davy Hill.
These projects will provide significant employment, thereby generating economic activity in the private sector; as we have witnessed already in the run up to the port project.
In my Christmas message I indicated that your Government presented an ambitious package to the FCDO team which included a request for additional budgetary support and while we have no inclination as to what the 2023-24 budgetary support would be my government has committed to two additional New – spending priority areas.
- Improve connectivity to the island
- Public servant’s salary increase
- Now that the threat of the pandemic has been abated and traveler’s confidence is seemingly been restored, it is my government intention to improve connectivity to the island through the reintroduction of ferry service.
- The Access team is currently working on Access for St Patrick’s 2023 and will keep the public updated in a timely manner while they continue to work on a longer term solution for the 2023-24 financial year.
- Government will also work to provide a salary increase to public servants during this financial year.
Residents, 2022 is behind us, let us look to the future with confidence, I am very optimistic that 2023 will be a better year for all of us. My government will work to ensure that the named projects are rolled out thus creating jobs and contributing to private sector growth.
As we enter this New Year I am reminded that criticism and bitterness does not breed success, we must put away our differences and work together for the e good of all. Together we can!
Happy New Year and May God’s richest Blessings be with you and your families throughout this year.