Leader of the Movement for Change and Prosperity (MCAP) and new premier of Montserrat Easton Taylor-Farrell used the occasion of the opening of the new parliament to outline his government’s vision for the next five years.
Parliament officially opened on Tuesday, December 17 at the Montserrat Cultural Centre.
Teresina Bodkin who became Montserrat’s first female Speaker of the House in the MCAP Administration of 2009-2014 has returned to the position. In her opening remarks the Speaker said that she intends to “maintain at all cost the dignity and civility of this venerable institution. While there will be times we will disagree on interpretation I am quite certain …we will together agree the way forward with respect and due regard of the sanctity of our parliamentary democracy.” She added that there will be no tolerance of personal attacks or abuse of parliamentary privilege leveraged at unsuspecting members of the public who cannot sit in the house and defend themselves.
Parliamentary Secretary Veronica Dorsette-Hector has been appointed Deputy Speaker of the House. During the ceremony she and members of the Opposition former premier Donaldson Romeo, former ministers David Osborne and Claude Hogan were sworn into the new roles on the other side of the house.
Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell said in his address “it is my hope that as we gather for this opening of a new parliament session that we are neither Red, Blue, Green Yellow or Brown we are all Montserratians, whether you were born here or adopted Montserrat as your home we are all one people.”
He thanked his family and the party supporters for their work during the campaign and said his government will engage the electoral commission to undertake electoral reform in time before the next election.
“For almost twenty five years we have been experimenting with the one constituency system and it is our view and that of many voters that the system has outlived its time hence the need for reform.”
The premier said his party’s “victory has laid the foundation to build on the changes and to rescue the nation, the momentous task will not be easy, but we are here to serve you and we will work together to ensure that each of you overcome the challenges of change and as a village grounded in a united Montserrat, we aspire to be a peaceful society.
He continued to say that his party’s mandate is to rebuild the economy, restore hope, and empower the people. “Madam Speaker we are indeed thankful for the generous assistance which Montserrat have received and continue receiving from its funding partners over these many years – The department for International Development, The European Union and the Caribbean Development Bank through it Small development Fund (BNTF).
“They have kept us alive but as a government we are convinced that Montserrat must not only be kept alive we must become sustainable and may I say even financially independent and that is the why my government has taken the bold step to move beyond the boundaries of aid financing and to seek foreign investment as a means to rebuilding the economy, while at the same time creating an environment which will foster private sector growth.
“Madam Speaker we will seek to work with the private sector to allow for the reinvestment of a portion of their profits on a tax free basis as long as these profits are ploughed back into the business thus creating employment opportunities for others. Madam Speaker, government is not in a position to provide housing for all who wish to own one. However, my government will agree on a package of incentives to any private sector entity who would wish to enter the housing market thus making housing solutions more accessible and affordable.
“Health care is undoubtedly the most talked about subject among residents and visitors. I am reminded Madam Speaker that it was the Movement for Change and Prosperity’s ambition to build a hospital in our second term but that was not to be. Madam Speaker now is the time and my administration will do all in its power to ensure that the hospital is built within our first term and to ensure that some basic equipment is provided for the hospital. The aim will be to reduce the demand for some test overseas and relieve the pressure placed on the budget by such referrals,” he continued.
The leader of government also singled out initiatives to reward young innovators and provide assistance to young people who wish to set up non-traditional businesses. “There is a bright future for our young men and women in the field of sports a my government will give recognition to our sports men and women to serve as a motivation for excellence.”
He closed by saying his government’s agenda was to pick up from where the previous MCAP administration left off in 2014. He encouraged the members of the opposition to be a part of the rebuilding process.