Minister of Finance and Montserrat’s Premier Joseph E. Farrell said Wednesday that his government had received confirmation of additional funds for Montserrat’s 2020/21 Financial Aid allocation as a first step to assist with it’s response to hardships created from the lock down in an effort to halt the spread of COVID 19.
Premier Farrell said in his weekly update that through written correspondence the UK Department for International Development (DFID) will be adding £2.5million to the annual budget support. An email from John Gordon, Deputy Director, Overseas Territories and the Caribbean, to the Financial Secretary, Hon. Colin Owen, indicated that the Government of Montserrat’s proposal will be discussed further by his team over the coming days as they work to agree a specific support package as soon as possible. In the meantime however, Mr. Gordon confirmed “an initial uplift of £2.5m to Montserrat’s 2020/21 Financial Aid allocation, which will be ring-fenced for COVID-19 mitigation measures,” while discussions on the content of a UK
support package continues; once agreed a further boost will be provided for Montserrat from the UK Government.
Premier Farrell expressed his gratitude for this first step of financial assistance and anticipates favourable commitments in the UK support package. “The Government and people of Montserrat are extremely grateful for this initial release of £2.5m, especially at a time when we are cognizant that the UK and indeed the entire world, is grappling to control and contain this pandemic. Montserrat’s economy has not fully recovered from previous crises and so our limited resources are being stretched considerably, we therefore anticipate favourable news regarding the scope of the UK support package, as we work collectively to ensure that Montserrat remains strong and resilient.”
The minister said the government is ready to roll out the first phase of a stimulus package which was announced last week. Workers in the tourism sector: hotels, restaurants, guest houses, taxi and tour operators and taxi drivers will be the first group of workers who will receive a percentage of their monthly wages. In the coming days, an application form will be made available online for employers to apply on behalf of their workers.
“We are also rolling out the food package component which will be for persons who were not working but who are in need of assistance, this relief package will be administered through the Social services department and the details will be announced shortly. Please note, this food package is not for persons who are already on the established social welfare monthly assistance programme,” Premier Farrell stated.
In addition to receiving a food package, self-employed individuals are eligible for the COVID-19 benefit package of financial assistance. “These supportive measures would be for three months, in the first instance. Other assistance packages will be forth coming once this first phase is fully up and running.”
The premier said it will take time to fine tune the system to accommodate these packages and asked residents to be patient as the necessary checks and balances are put in place to ensure that those for whom the benefits are intended receive their fair share.
He also revealed that at the 1st Special Meeting of the Monetary Council, held virtually with all members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, member states discussed and approved a range of matters; most of which were COVID -19 related. The Council has approved a proposal from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to make a grant of EC$4M available to each members state from the fiscal reserve tranche to assist us with COVID -19 preparation and purchase supplies as required.
More detailed information will be provided on when the financial packages are available once finalised.