Former Premier of Montserrat and current Member of the Legislative Assembly Donaldson Romeo is calling on the UK Government to fast tracking stimulus for residents of the island.
Romeo called on Governor Andrew Pearce, who is the local representative for the FCDO and Premier Joseph Farrell to request a financial package of at least EC $7.5 million to ease the accumulated shortfalls caused by the multiple lockdowns faced over the past year. This package should be followed by further measures to put “our people, businesses and economy back on its feet.”
The member of the opposition said in a release “Despite obvious hardships faced by the people of Montserrat over the past seven to 10 months, the GoM has been giving the impression that things are generally okay with the state of our economy. At the same time, the GoM has given the impression that they are waiting on the FCDO for a response to their proposals to provide assistance to struggling businesses and people.
“Due to lack of transparency on the part of the GoM since May, 2020 regarding the 2021/21 recurrent budget, it is unclear whether the FCDO is holding back aid, or if Government proposals are faulty. With no evidence, I am unsure of who is responsible but one thing I know for sure, there is an urgent and obvious on-the-ground need that has not been met over the past eight months, and now during
this sudden lockdown, is unlikely to be met and clearly, immediate action needs to be taken.”
The former leader of government is recommending that the package of assistance should be made available to every household within the next five days, as is done in the US and elsewhere.
“As a start, as little as at least $7.5 million (£2.0 million sterling), the “Lockdown Stimulus” could be used to minimally ease the accumulated shortfalls caused by the multiple lockdowns faced over the past year, including the current 14-day lockdown we are experiencing. This Lockdown Stimulus should be provided to every household on island (National and Non-National residents, all working adults, all elderly and unemployed and all school-age children). Certainly, we must avoid the obvious pitfalls experienced during past lockdowns outlined in the attached June 16, 2020 letter.
Romeo said as the lockdown impacts everyone, the stimulus is needed to bolster the economy regardless of economic level, and therefore should not be rigidly means tested. “This Lockdown Stimulus could assist every household with a voucher or cash for basic necessities such as food, cooking gas, and essential utilities as well as assistance with housing costs (rent or mortgage). Clearly, this Lockdown Stimulus will not address the losses and hardships experienced over the past seven-month-long wait for assistance.
“At another stage (sooner rather than later) there needs to be a more robust calculation to better target assistance where needed most to address similar lockdowns in the future. Specifically, this Lockdown Stimulus is proposed for individuals, and not businesses. It is important that a similar provision of financial assistance/stimulus needs to be carried out without delay to help businesses which will be negatively impacted by the pandemic so far,” the letter to the government officials read.
“It is my understanding that negotiations for further assistance since June 2020, have been ongoing for the past seven months. This delay must end. It is only reasonable that, just as the UK Government can be proactive and address lockdown assistance in the UK, the GoM must be able to do the same,” Romeo added.