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Premier Romeo's Address at Opening of Financial Aid Mission

Good Morning, Your Excellency, Madame Speaker, Ministerial Colleagues, Honourable Deputy Governor, Honourable Attorney General, Honourable Financial Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, Other Members of the Legislative Assembly, DFID Representatives, Government Officials, Ladies and Gentleman.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome you all to these negotiations between the Government of Montserrat and Her Majesty’s Government. I know for some of our DFID representatives, this is your first visit to Montserrat and as Premier, and Minister with responsibility for Tourism, I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to Montserrat. I know that this is a busy week for you, but I hope you will get a chance to see and enjoy some of our beautiful Island. It would not be good value for money to come all this way and not get a chance to enjoy the sun, take a little hike, a sea bath and to visit a few sites including our one and only modern Pompei.

Most in this room would know that at a meeting held on Montserrat more than nine months ago with Debbie Palmer, Head of the DFID Overseas Territories Division we would have agreed on the need to strengthen the partnership between Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) and the Government of Montserrat; and to articulate what Montserrat’s vision, as set out in the Sustainable Development Plan (2008 – 2020), looks like in practice. To that end my Government is currently negotiating a (MoU) Memorandum of Understanding with DFID and the FCO under the auspices of HMG. Further, I met with the Honourable Minister Swayne, Secretary of State for DFID in December and I reiterated the need to strengthen our partnership; and agreed on the need for the Government of Montserrat to make a clear commitment to enhancing Governance and putting in place a sound economic business plan that will lead to sustainable growth in our economy.

In an effort to demonstrate our commitment to making “good governance” a reality we have progressed on a number of fronts:
Firstly, this year the Cabinet, as policy makers, developed a Policy Agenda which has set the priorities for our Government; copies of which are available today. Our Policy Agenda clearly shows that our priorities for the next 3 years cover a range of areas critical to Montserrat’s development, including Access, Health, Human & Social Development, the Environment and Governance;

Secondly, we have agreed priority sectors for development which include: Energy, Tourism, and infrastructure, including a focus on ICT. To this end my distinguished colleague and Minister of Communication, Works and Labour and his team have completed an Energy policy and also a draft Energy Sector Strategy which will guide our work in this area. In addition, my Office has completed a review and re-write of our Tourism Master Plan and has held consultations on the re-branding of Montserrat. As regards infrastructure we have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with DFID in the sum of EC20 million over a 3-year period.

It should be noted that the private sector is also a priority sector for development for my Government, not only in-terms of attracting foreign direct investment, but also paying greater attention to unlocking local resources to stimulate growth in domestic business. Therefore, we are currently seeking to procure consultants to develop an economic business plan, not a typical economic strategy, but something more practical that will be developed with high levels of engagement with the Private sector, citizens of Montserrat both here and abroad, and with residents and friends of Montserrat;

Thirdly, we have re-vamped the strategic planning process to align with the Policy Agenda, and integrated it with the budgeting process. Also, as Minister of Finance I am pleased to share that my Finance Team in the Ministry of Finance have recently developed a new Capital budgeting process which will enable Government to better evaluate capital projects and ensure value for money. Is this new process perfect? No, but significant strides have been made in ensuring that there is transparency and accountability within the process. The new strategic planning, budgeting and Capital Appraisal process will be published shortly in a Citizen’s guide.

Fourthly, and by no means least my Government is committed to Public Sector Reform. We have committed to the process and fully embraced and supported the Public Sector Reform Programme, Phase 2, which has assisted technicians to put in place foundational structures that will lead to greater achievements in good governance in phase 3. My Finance Team has also worked with CARTAC to develop a second Action plan for the continued improvement to Public Financial Management.

We acknowledge the support of DFID in agreeing a number of key capital projects including (i) Priority Infrastructure, (ii) Geo-thermal, (iii) a New Build Hospital (iv) Fibre Optics (v) and a New Build Ferry. It is our hope that following our improvements to the Capital Projects Appraisal and evaluation process we will, in the near future, be able to negotiate both our re-current and capital budgets together in one mission. However, over the next few days we would like to agree a package of support for the re-current budget which will allow us to drive our Policy Agenda. At the centre of which is a change in the development focus from post-volcano mode, to developing and implementing plans focused on sustainable self-sufficiency that capture the spirit of Montserrat’s past and preserve Montserrat’s culture.

With that I look forward to a very productive week, one that will demonstrate progress as partners for the good of Montserrat, the UK and all.

JANUARY 25TH, 2016