My friends, you have heard many of us in this election, who look to the future, mention the Green and the Blue economy. These are terms which can mean nothing in the voice of some and everything in others. I think those of you who know me will understand my commitment to these vital areas of our future prosperity.
The global interest in the natural economy, blue for the sea and green for the land, brings us to the threshold of an economic revolution here on Montserrat. I am talking about what can and should flow from the rebuilding of our overall infrastructure.
We have always been strong on the blue and the green economies which are just modern terms for the kind of economy we have been building on Montserrat.
We however now need to expand the sectors and fully engage in diversifying into areas previously only lightly touched and hype the ones we are already good at.
Historically our agricultural sector has been undertaken as green-centred. It is a vital part of the green economy that underpins our very existence here. Without our home grown food we would be entirely dependent upon imported goods. Similarly our fishers provide us with the fruits of the sea, vital to our continued survival. So we have a blue-green economy stretching back centuries.
The challenges and the opportunities that we now face are to harness our existing experience and expertise and ensure that we are at the forefront of new ways to use our skills to greater advantage.
We have already moved beyond just fishing our extensive waters. Citizens such as Veta Wade have set up business that attract tourists into our seas to see the abundance of sea-life just feet from our seashores. Her Fish n Fins project helps keep our children safe by teaching them the ways of the sea and inspires in them a love of the ocean and the sciences that help us understand the way our waters work.
Our farmers have been quick to re-establish larger scale agriculture now that the volcano is quiet. PDM has established a farming zone in Cork Hill. Yogi and other farmers in and outside the association are leading us in the right direction to work in tune with nature. Both blue and green areas need us to invest time, money and skills to reach the next level and beyond. PDM will continue to deliver modern support and finance to our farmers and fishers through JNCC, WAITT and other international donors. You need to be reassured that there are people who will bring onboard the investments needed not just for the next few years but as an ongoing process of raising the quality of life and income levels for all our people and preserving our future.
Another term we all use is resilience. If it does not mean sustainability then it does not mean anything at all.
We know that solar or photovoltaic power is now feeding into our national electricity grid bringing renewable energy to our homes. This is a first step towards becoming 100% self sufficient in renewable energy. Black sand beaches present the possibility to have passive radiation systems to supply homes near the coast with warm water. There are many ways including wind energy we can use again on this island to make it self sufficient in energy. All of these initiatives will bring new opportunities for employment and hopefully cut the cost of electricity in our homes and businesses. Going forward, we will invest in 3 main areas;
- New Technology &
In blue-green education we should be teaching agricultural good practice at schools and be pairing up suitable students with forward looking farmers;
- Use sustainable energy to help irrigate our crops;
- Use technologies such as wind and solar powered water pumps;
- Use whatever new technology is available to increase the quality and quantity of our produce;
Organic crops fetch a premium prices and would be the source of our niche exports. Our export cargo rates have been set low accordingly.
The sciences that are brought into play at projects like Fish and Fins should have a natural pathway through our education system ultimately leading to degree level education for those who wish; and more practical related work for others.
Our tourism product is perched on the edge of a major uplift into becoming a high value product. With the right stewardship eco tourism can be a major earner for Montserrat. We will protect our dive sites, create a waterpark that guides visitors inside our approved Marine Spatial Plan.
Along with other enhancements and the full re-establishment of our residential tourism going natural can lift the quality of experience of long and short term guests and so raise the revenue return we get for the island.
Recently 8 persons were trained in the installation and utilization of multibeam sonar equipment aboard the Heliconia Star. Multibeam sonar is used to locate topographical features on the seafloor. Ships also rely on this technology to avoid areas that would endanger their vessels or gear; to find fishing grounds; and to precisely map the seafloor. This will be an asset as we plan to welcome bigger ships into the harbour once our port project is completed.
Currently there are 3 Geothermal sites and solar plants are already in place on industrial buildings located in Brades. Our plans are to utilize open land space around the airport to install more solar panels which will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. There are also other permanent government buildings that can accommodate solar panels; and private citizens will be incentivized to import and install them.
We will continue to leverage GIS to make informed decisions to reduce our climate and hurricane risks.
The Department of Environment has an Urban Forestry Programme which has established green spaces with community groups and schools in addition to an annual tree planting day which allows persons to purchase fruit and ornamental trees for discounted prices. This year over 20 varieties to include citrus are available for purchase on December 4th at the Forestry Nursery.
Polices such as the Energy Policy which was passed earlier this year, the Agriculture Strategy and Marketing Plan (2016) and the draft Climate Change Policy and Action Plan 2020 will help us to further explore and develop sustainable opportunities and niche markets.
A Department for Sustainable Innovation is being considered by the next PDM government. There are many, many sources of funding available world wide and we will help the relevant practitioners in our communities with their applications for grants.
Friends this is our approach in the blue-green revolution that is happening. We can bring jobs and security to our land and I urge you to vote for PDM, a party that has demonstrated a commitment to the future wellbeing of our community.