Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat.
I wish everyone a Joyous Season and a bright and prosperous 2016 when it comes.
I must make special mention of all the visitors who have travelled from far to spend this Festive Season with friends and family here on Island. I am told that over 1000 persons have arrived so far and I think that most would agree that the increased traffic and activities are warmly welcomed. Thank you for coming!
Let us reflect on the true spiritual meaning of this season, and as we ponder resolutions for the New year, let us include working together to rebuild our nation. Especially at this time of the year, let us remember that Jesus came and sacrificed himself to give us a second chance. Likewise we must remember to love one another, to be caring, kind and continue to extend a friendly welcome to all visitors.
This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the first volcanic eruptions on July 18, 1995. As we reflected on the Journeys of the last twenty years of Volcanic Crisis, we have drawn many lessons which will guide us. I am quite grateful that at the close of the year, Her Majesty’s Government and especially the Department for International Development, have committed to
working with our government to formulate and carry out a 15 to 20 year plan that will not just provide short term employment, but will place Montserrat in a better position to be self-sustainable and stand on its own two feet, independent of UK Aid. This means a lot for the youth and people of our nation.
In the meanwhile, we will work hard to see that various projects due to come on stream in the weeks and months are expedited to put bread on our tables and put vital infrastructure and programs in place.
I am confident that 2016 will bring for us a change for the better.
For example, the Power Plant Project is almost completed. The new 1.5W Generator will deliver a more reliable and efficient
electricity supply. Thanks to DfID, too, in early 2016 the drilling of the third Geothermal well is expected to begin as the steady path towards 100% reliable, cost effective renewable energy is set.
Additional road works and the 5 emergency homes will go to tender in a month or so. As the New Build Hospital project moves
ahead, work to improve the existing hospital building and to provide new equipment are in progress and will continue from
here on. Thanks to EU funding 62 material grants and another 5 new homes are already in train as I speak. Then there is the ever faithful BNTF with a new road and other projects intended to build our communities which will start in January and continue throughout the coming year.
With the support of the Tourism staff and a team within the Ministry of Finance the new Vue Pointe Hotel project aims to have its restaurant, conference room and main building in good repair by March of 2016. Then by next Christmas twelve guests rooms will be made available to increase occupancy on island.
Apart from brightening up and energizing the real estate and beach front in the neighbourhood, the revived Vue Pointe Hotel venture is expected to create a number of construction related jobs in the short-term. It will also lead to long-term employment as our tourism sector begins to redevelop; jobs for administrative staff, waiters, cooks, gardeners, pool maintenance, musicians, taxi men and more.
So thanks again to our aid partners and our local tax payers that there is such good news at this Christmas time.
We must also remember the social, governance and spiritual concerns and initiatives that are just as important to building a wholesome and economically viable community. Indeed, good governance reforms have to go hand in hand with economic development initiatives. I am even more convinced that improved governance, better protection of children and others who are vulnerable, as well as enhanced health, education and social services and facilities, will be key ingredients in the recipe for redeveloping Montserrat; a redevelopment that will be done in full partnership with the UK Government.
That is why I was so encouraged early this month, when the Montserrat delegation attended the annual Joint Ministerial Council of the Overseas Territories and HMG, and when we also had meetings with DFID officials in London. For instance, as a part of this process, we had discussions with the Hon. Desmond Swayne, Secretary of State for International Development. In his follow up letter to me on December 15th, 2015, he wrote: “Your Government needs to quickly put in place a clear strategy, improved policy capability and an economic business plan to begin to address the many issues that you are grappling with including job creation, access, tourism, housing, health and engaging the Diaspora. I am confident that if the necessary change is realized, it will pay dividends for the people of Montserrat. My team stand ready to help.”
So it is all in our hands as a Government to see that the necessary strategy is put in place; to see that our vision of a Montserrat standing on its own two feet comes true. At this point, I wish to recognize my family members and very close friends who give me their support through thick and thin. I must also say special thanks to my fellow Ministers and Members who have worked hard to make things happen. Thanks to the Opposition as well and to all public servants, private sector individuals and businesses and all other workers on Island.
Special thanks to NGO’s, the media, and all for their hard work, good ideas and other support. I especially want to say thanks to our elderly ones, not only for their lifetime contribution to our Nation, but for often taking the time day by day to pray and to encourage those of us who stand watch today.
So, as we pause again to reflect on that first Christmas, let us give thanks for the many blessings received throughout 2015. Let us join hands and minds as we seek to work together in 2016 to make Montserrat great again for our youth today and those to come.
Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat: May God bless each and every one of you and may God bless Montserrat.