Governor Andrew Pearce held a press conference on Wednesday to share his thoughts on a number of matters, including next week’s Financial Aid Mission (FAM), COVID-19 vaccines, Public Sector Reform and COP 26.
Financial Aid Mission (FAM)
Pearce said the members of the FAM team will arrive today and conduct a three-day mission to discuss the island’s recurrent budget, once they have completed a mandatory five-day quarantine.
All indications, he said, are that the 2022/23 recurrent budget allocation will be flatlined to the current one. The 2021 revenue projections have been positive. There have been a number of savings as international travel was low and quite a few vacancies are unfilled in the public service. This coupled, with increased customs revenue has put the island’s budget in a better position than expected, considering the challenges of a second year with a pandemic. Montserrat has fully paid up its international subscriptions despite the challenges of the past year.
FAM meetings are scheduled to begin on Wednesday, December 15 until Friday, December 17.
The governor said the joint UK and Government of Montserrat Geothermal Committee have agreed to execute a viability assessment for Mon1 and Mon2, the first two geothermal wells which were drilled on island. The third well was never completed due to some infrastructural issues.
The Ministry of Communications & Works recently announced that it would be inviting submissions to pursue public private partnerships for developing the geothermal resource.
When asked whether was to blame for the delay in approving access to Zone V for sand mining, Governor Pearce said there were still a number of outstanding issues that the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and the Environment needed to complete.
An Environmental Impact Assessment has not been done in the area which is to be mined. The land has not been surveyed and this is necessary to know how to distribute royalty payments to landowners. There also needs to be a decision taken on the amount of ash and frequency of access for the sand mining companies to ensure it is fair.
Public Sector Reform
Switching to the on again off again public sector reform programme, Governor Pearce said the issue was a complex one that requires transformation of both the culture and the processes.
The governor has often made known his frustration with the numerous commissions that are part of the island’s governmental structure. Internal decision making has been devolved, he said, to the Public Service Commission (PSC). This undermines managerial grip, undermines managerial authority, and lengthens processes. Line managers and permanent secretaries must make decisions. Pearce said too much red tape and indecision leads to multiple litigations and because managers have not properly documented the issues with staff, the government most often loses the cases. PSC is needed for most serious matters, but the public service needs to step up and run itself. More power and decision making needs to return to the senior management, he added.
Watch the hour-long press conference here