First Diaspora Consultations open on Montserrat

BRADES, Montserrat – Incentives for returning nationals, investment opportunities and the development of a new town for Montserrat were all part of the first day of discussions at the Montserrat Diaspora Consultations.

The consultations, initiated by the Office of the Chief Minister, include representatives from the Montserrat Progressive Society in New York, Toronto Montserrat Association, and the Preston Montserrat Association in the UK. Two other nationals living in the UK Diaspora are also attending the talks.

Day One provided an extensive tour of the island, sponsored by the Montserrat Tourist Board. The tour, which was conducted by Rose Willock included a tour of the new town development at Little Bay, the housing developments in Look Out and a visit to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, where they viewed a short video on the history of the volcano and the impact on the island.

Jonathan Pond of the Preston association said he has not been home since 1995 and he was pleased to note that there is much happening on Montserrat, which gives him a totally different image than the one many people spread abroad. “You really have to come and see for yourself. I feel really proud to be a Montserratian and to see how much it is developing,” Pond said.

Day Two featured presentations from Chief Minister Reuben T. Meade on the state of the island’s economy, discussions on the tax incentives for people wishing to invest in Montserrat by Ms. Cynthia Farrell in the Ministry of Economic Development & Trade; and the benefits to nationals choosing to return home by Comptroller of Customs, Melroy Meade.

“Stimulating the Entrepreneurial Spirit” was the theme of the afternoon session. Presenters included Parliamentary Secretary Germaine Wade, who is the VP of the Montserrat Festival Committee; Michael Joseph of the Bank of Montserrat; Ms. Ernestine Cassell of the Montserrat Tourist Board and Joseph Cassell, General Manager of LIME.

The LIME GM said they fully endorsed the consultations and the possibilities that it holds for the island. He took the opportunity to promote the NetSpeak product which provides opportunity for people in the Diaspora to call home at a fixed rate and will also enable more options for entrepreneurs wishing to do business on Montserrat from wherever they live in the world.

Julian Daniel of the MDC spoke about the possibilities for nationals who want to purchase land in Little Bay to consider the lease to own option. He added that over 100 expressions of interest have already been received by the MDC for people wanting to establish a business in Little Bay. The investment guide for the new town in Little Bay is still to be developed.

Michael Joseph, General Manager of the Bank of Montserrat said they have money to invest in the island’s development but there is a need for businesses to meet the bank half way. He added often times the basic information which should be available in a business plan is not available when persons come to apply for a loan. Joseph stated the education system must begin to teach entrepreneurship to encourage a spirit of business, so it can be developed at an early age. Joseph said “The days for getting good grades and getting a job for the next 40 years are over.”

The consultations close on Wednesday with sessions with government ministers, members of the Opposition and with Director General of the OECS, Dr. Len Ishmael.