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Opposition Calls for More Transparency and All-Sector Business Support

Leader of the Opposition Paul Lewis

Opposition Leader Paul Lewis on Thursday, called for government to extend the stimulus support designated for businesses in the tourism sector to all sectors as the COVID-19 crisis has affected them as well.

In a letter addressed to Premier Joseph E. Farrell, the leader called for elected representatives and government agencies “to collaborate even more than they have ever done” in the fight against COVID-19. Adding, that management of Montserrat’s response needed “a more unity driven and inclusive approach.”
The Opposition thanked the government for acting in haste to ease the burden of residents but reminded them of the need for their COVID-19 programmes and policies to be all-inclusive.

“The Government is accountable to all citizens of Montserrat, thus it is important that as Premier, you ensure the highest standards of transparency and accountability in the way relief is distributed to our people, as we work to combat COVID-19,” stated Lewis.
He added that the policy and criteria set exclude some businesses and individuals from accessing the much-needed help they require.
“The Opposition, after learning of the many businesses and persons that have been excluded and rejected from accessing financial assistance, is recommending that the Government revisit its present criteria, to ensure that all businesses and people heavily impacted and in need will be eligible to benefit from the programmes on offer. No person or business should be left behind. This crisis has shown no favour in who it has impacted. The Government’s response in giving out relief therefore should equally show no favour, or any mode of discrimination to the citizens of Montserrat,” the letter read.
The parliamentarian called for:

  • the $10,000 grant to pay bills and rent to be extended to all sectors heavily impacted, instead of only the tourism related sector, as it discriminated against other sectors which contribute to the economy.
  • As the mandatory lockdown of all businesses including the self-employed, it was only fair, Lewis stated that they be eligible to access relief grants and programmes.
  • Hazard pay for all frontline workers .
  • Continuation of support and assistance to children on the school lunch programme (Editor’s Note – GOM has previously stated that these children are eligible for support through the expanded Social Services being offered as a result of COVID-19)
  • Access to a computer and internet at home for all children so they can continue lessons online.
  • Inclusion of bus drivers in the current 80% of salary programme to allow for people who rely on public transportation to conduct business, with restrict social distancing and protective equipment guidelines.

Lewis also asked for information on the government’s plan to assist the promoters who were severely affected by the abrupt cancellation of the 2020 St. Patrick’s Festival.

He also called for more frequent press conferences where the media can ask questions and “gain clarity on behalf of the people.”