More UK Medical Support and Multi-Year Ferry Contract Part of Montserrat-DFID Budget Talks

A need for more medical support from the UK for Montserrat residents was among the talking points at last week’s annual Financial Aid Mission (FAM) between the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Montserrat.

Hon. Premier Donaldson Romeo told members of the press following the end of meetings Friday that there is a constant and increased demand for residents to access medical care in the UK. The current maximum of four per year who can receive full support as if resident in the UK is inadequate. The premier added another critical need is for housing for residents during the period of care abroad. He said his government has made a request for more medical and housing support.

“Medivacs are costing a lot of money.  One individual can cost us several hundred thousand dollars,”  stated the premier. The Ministry of Health presented their case and the challenges which necessitate an increase in UK support in this area.

Romeo said he believes DFID has a better understanding of the health care, government maintenance needs following the meetings. ” Not all things will be resolved with this one mission. It depends on the decisions in the weeks to come,” he added.

(l to r) GOM Financial Secretary Colin Owen, Premier Donaldson Romeo, Laurin Janes, Economic Adviser DFID, Catrina Campbell, DFID Deputy Programme Manager at Friday, January 18, 2019 press conference on the FAM.

Laurin Janes, the DFID Economic Advisor responsible for financial aid support said his team has seen that “the budget increasingly credible. Spending by ministries is going up … they are using the money they’ve been allocated.
Janes said there is a clear trajectory of improvements over the past few years.

Janes revealed that in regards to the ferry service, they are “trying to move away from an annual contract. We wanted to make sure their is good evidence of what kind of access modalities are suitable for Montserrat.”

To that end, the government is preparing an access strategy to cover the costs, safety and other needs for positioning the island for an high-end tourism target market. Janes said come October 2019 when a new ferry contract will be needed it is the intention to move to a multi-year contract.

Premier Romeo added that this goes along with the plan to improve air access as well by adding Twin Otter service to and from Montserrat. This, he said, will be open to the private sector for bidding. The access strategy, he said would need to be completed in the next few months to be able to implement by October 2019.

The leader of government said his DFID colleagues shared that financial aid is about delivering services at certain standards. “We have a dilemma,” Romeo said. “What are the standards for Montserrat?” As this is standard is unclear it presented a challenge how to determine the financial aid to support it.

It was necessary to define the standard at which Montserrat is to be provided with services as this will affect every area of delivery to the public.