Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat, I take this opportunity to bring you greetings for the new year.
2020 is a significant year for us, as it will mark 25 years since the start of the volcanic crisis, and will also mark this administration’s first full year in office.
I therefore see this as a turning point in Montserrat’s development as we proceed with the strategic implementation of major projects designed to restore this island to its former glory, and place us on a steady pathway to self-sustainability, and to once again restore hope to us as a people.
We know “Rome was not built in a day”, so I cannot say that all projects will be rolled out instantly or simultaneously. But, what I can say and promise is that as your leader, I pledge my unwavering commitment and support to the development of this land and our people.
In my last message to you, I identified three areas of priority for my government. And indeed, we will be progressing with the implementation of these priority areas while also exploring new possibilities for a better and more prosperous Montserrat.
I stated that job creation is critical for the improvement of livelihoods and for the retention and expansion of the population, which is a key component for economic growth.
I also stated that Montserrat’s future cannot be based solely on aid funding and that my government will provide an agenda to build a strong economy which will move beyond the boundaries of aid financing and seek to attract foreign investment, while at the same time creating an environment for growth in the local private sector.
We recognised the state of the health and education systems, and as a Government, we pledge to improve the working conditions of our nurses and teachers, while at the same time improving health care service and creating a better learning environment for our children.
Since we came into office we have been receiving updates on projects, which the previous administration had been speaking about. We will prioritize these projects and progress with their implementation, while at the same time exploring new possibilities for a better and more prosperous Montserrat.
The construction of a new hospital has been the number one priority of past administrations and remain the top priority for this present administration. The delivery of quality health care is vital to maintaining a healthy population, reducing the cost of seeking health care overseas, and is a catalyst to attracting retirees and others to Montserrat.
I am pleased that we have reached the point where a company has been awarded the design contract for our new hospital, and we can expect to formally sign the contract with the successful bidder later this month. As this project is being rolled out, we will keep you informed.
Access is another key priority area and my government will do all in its power to provide a near hassle free travel in and out of Montserrat.
The Port Project is one of the projects which my government inherited, and while it is our intention to complete every project there is, this project is one for which some discussion and negotiations must begin immediately on charting the way forward.
I have been advised by the experts that in trying to design a port within the limited finances available, serious adjustments will have to be made to the length of the breakwater and berthing, to the point where a continuous breakwater as envisaged at the outset cannot be realized, and the length of the jetty will be greatly reduced.
It is clear that unless additional finances can be found we will be provided with a facility which is less than acceptable to meet our access needs at port Little Bay. My government will however enter into negotiations with a number of stakeholders to see how best the project as envisaged can realize its original goal.
The runway resurfacing is another project which must be dealt with urgently. The continued closure of the Airport when it rains is not an acceptable option. My government will do everything within its powers to have this project completed expeditiously.
The built out environment at the Montserrat Secondary School is far from acceptable. My government is not in the business of constructing temporary class rooms at MSS in this phase of our development, to this end we will seek to use funds earmarked for the construction of temporary class rooms and use it to undertake remedial works on Blocks L and M; putting them back into use as soon as possible. We must and we will enhance the learning environment for our children.
While these projects are being rolled out, we will also take some time to explore new possibilities and opportunities:
- We seek to encourage the private sector to get involved in home construction either in partnership with government or independently.
- We will seek to enhance and expand our tourism products, seeking to add new sights and providing some level of entertainment for our tourist.
- We will reach out to the diaspora with a view towards encouraging them to invest in their homeland.
As time goes by, we will share with you our plans for taking Montserrat forward and out of dependency.
My vision and that of my Government is to move Montserrat forward economically; creating an environment in which the private sector can grow and the youth can see opportunities, and also be creators of opportunities on Montserrat. In our vision of Montserrat youth are also rewarded for their innovative abilities, and we can all see ourselves as making meaningful contributions to this Nation and each other.
It may not be an easy task but with all of us committed and working together, we can make this vision a reality.
This New Year, 2020 is said to be a period of regeneration and healing, and so I expect to see this being reflected in all aspects of life on Montserrat, this year and beyond.
On behalf of the Government of Montserrat, I wish each and every one of you God’s richest blessings and a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.
God Bless all of you.