I have often heard the leader of the Opposition Mr Romeo, state that the Premier argues against himself. But what does he mean by that? ‚Ä®On Wednesday night as I attended the MCAP meeting in St. Peters I heard a perfect example of where the Premier, in an effort to show how clever he is, actually made an argument against Montserrat’s ambitions of improving access. I realized right then that Romeo is correct. Mr Meade is too clever for his own good.
Mr Meade said something along these lines; not a direct quote.‚Ä®"They keep talking about the £300 million that St. Helena got for their airport. Well, let me explain something to you, listen carefully."
Then he went on to explain how difficult it is to get to and from St. Helena, the fact that the round trip takes 2 weeks from South Africa, and also gave a graphic example of someone in medical distress having to call to see if a ship was passing close by to get them off the island; and therefore why it made sense to build a large and expensive airport that could accommodate long haul aircraft for St Helena.
Ok fine, on the surface that makes sense right? Wow! Mr Meade knows what he is talking about, and Don and them are foolish. The choir said Amen!‚Ä®‚Ä®
But wait!, let’s think about this some more. ‚Ä®‚Ä®Mr Meade was making this clarification statement in the context of Mr Romeo and PDM saying that they believe they can argue successfully for similar levels of investment to what St. Helena got. Mr Meade was in essence trying to rubbish the notion that DFID would be willing to go along with Romeo, by pointing out that the needs of St Helena are several magnitudes greater than that of Montserrat. By extension therefore Meade is suggesting, and others in his party have stated, that Romeo’s position is fanciful and unrealistic.
Well if Mr Meade, and the MCAP supporters approach is right; there goes our 100 Million Carrs Bay Port and any possible upgrades to our Airport. They have said it themselves. We are just 15 minutes away from Antigua. Ships come and go at our port every day. Even if we have bad weather it does not usually last a week. The UK government has already promised to build an adequate breakwater to protect Port Little Bay.‚Ä®So what do we need a large new port in Carrs Bay for? ‚Ä® ‚Ä®Ah!; but our Master Plan calls for a larger and more protected port to allow for Cruise Ships and safe docking for the Ferry at all times, and a Yacht Marina, and we are considering creating a Transshipment Port etc. etc.‚Ä®The Carrs Bay Port is Mr Meade and MCAP’s holy grail for the development of Montserrat. Without it, the whole Pipers Pond town center concept quite likely fails.
Surely then you can see where Mr Meade is going wrong with his arguments? If Mr Meade through his St. Helena geography lesson, is in agreement that Montserrat does not qualify for that level of grant aid, why did he propose it to DIFD?
By trying so hard to ridicule Mr Romeo, Mr Meade openly supports the obvious argument that the British government has used and will continue use against making such a huge investment in Carrs Bay. This is why the UK Minister was so comfortable in rebuffing him and pointing him back to Little Bay.
All the ridiculous comparisons of Sub Saharan Africa and Haiti to Montserrat run counter to any development aid requests we put forward. ‚Ä®What is fanciful is for Meade and the MCAP to think that some investor will spend 100 million pounds or US$ on our port dream. I have never heard of benevolent investors at that level of funding. I wish I wake up from the dream and hear that some Chinese or Dubai company will fund the port; but the truth is that we ourselves have yet to develop let alone present a case indicating how the port on its own would recover such large sums and make a profit for an investor.
And while making snide remarks about Romeo’s dependence on DFID funding, Mr Meade would do well to remember who gave him the extra money to bail out the cost overruns on the premature Gunn Hill removal.The unavoidable truth is that for any port development to work, Montserrat would have to get significant amounts of grant funding from either DFID and or the EU.
The issue of Port Development is for long term sustainable development which is a goal for both St Helena and Montserrat. ‚Ä®That therefore is the only angle we should approach the discussion and negotiations from. The only comparison that we must entertain in our discussions, is that St Helena like Montserrat is a British overseas Territory; both with populations of approximately 5,000 people. ‚Ä®The British government has highlighted what they did for St. Helena, and assured us that they are committed to putting us on a path to self-sustainability, similar to what they have done for the Saints.
We have to hold them to their word, and make the case for the port in that context only. It is required for self-sustainability. If DFID starts making excuses and irrelevant comparisons we must remind them that we need large grants now to save them from having to fund us forever.‚Ä®If however, we continue to make or entertain the wrong economical, geographical and social comparisons to St. Helena and other parts of the world, then all our requests for development aid will fail.