Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat.
With Christmas and the festivities over, our minds turn with hope and the expectation that the New Year brings health and prosperity in our personal and family lives, communities and as a Nation.
I know you will all join with me in committing to make 2016 a year of progress for our Nation, both economically and socially.
At this time of the New Year it is important for me to reassure the People of Montserrat that while we continue to face challenges, our Government is making significant efforts towards making our economy better for all the Peoples of Montserrat.
My administration in partnership with HMG spent our first year in office laying the necessary foundations for us to be able to agree a number of projects and despite what is being said, much has been happening.
You will have seen the commencement of work by a local contractor in the rebuilding of the Vue Pointe Hotel. Our Government, through its Tourism Growth Project has contributed a cash injection of EC$200,000 and an additional investment of EC$600,000 is being made by the owners. This will be the first of such projects, which will provide construction jobs over the next few months, as well as enhancing our Tourism offering, leading to long term employment aside from construction. EC $300,000 is still available to further successful applicants under this scheme. This demonstrates our commitment to enabling private sector development.
You may also have seen, if you visited Antigua recently, improvement works at the New Ferry Terminal in Antigua. This project places the Ticketing facility alongside Immigration and Customs, and provides for seating in excess of 100 persons, with ample space for baggage handling to facilitate the traveling public. This work was unfortunately delayed for Christmas but will be finished by the end of this month -- well before the St Patrick's festival in March so that our visitors will experience greater comfort and ease when traveling to and from Montserrat.
Similarly, work will soon be under way to improve baggage space and handling, passenger reception and departure areas at our own Ferry Terminal in Little Bay. These too, should be completed in time for March. Our government is committed to improving customer service and passenger comfort.
In a recent discussion with BNTF it was agreed that we will provide support for several new projects. These projects include:
a] The Water and Sanitation Sector portfolio (January), including: Elevation of Water Mains across Four Ghauts, Hope Water Storage Tank Replacement and Drummonds Septic System Replacement. Total, EC $1,515,000.00
b] Completion of the Drummonds road rehabilitation project valued at ECD$900,000.00.
c] The Banks Road Rehabilitation project is scheduled to commence early in the first quarter of 2016. EC $500,000.00.
Further, the BNTF office is awaiting the final approval of the Education and Human Resource Development projects from CDB. It is expected that this portfolio will be approved late January 2016, EC $1,580,300.00. Mainly targeted at the youth, this includes:
* Electrical installation skills training part 1
* Electrical Installation part 2
* Davy Hill Baking and Agro processing Skills training
* MSS Agriculture Science Enhancement
* Expansion of ICT programme in Primary Schools
* Managing Community Resources.
* Completion of Davy Hill Community Resource Center
* Completion of St Johns Community Resource Centre.
Presently, there is the EC 21 million Montserrat Priority Infrastructure Needs Project, funded by DfID. While this project faced challenges early last year, works began over the last quarter of 2015 and have continued into 2016. This initiative comprises eight different specific projects and will run for a period of three years. These include:
* Roads and Bridges – A new Asphalt Paver has been purchased for the Government of Montserrat and the works have already commenced in the Barzey’s area.
* Power – Upgrading of the underground electrical supply systems for Isles Bay.
* Water - Supplies and equipment to upgrade the water mains through Salem and Olveston have been ordered and works will begin as soon as the supplies have arrived on the island.
* Liquid Waste Management – A new sludge truck has been purchased, and a project to fence in the ponds at the New Windward site will take place.
* Emergency Shelters – several shelters from Salem to St Johns are to be upgraded
* Social Housing – while there have been delays, this is to proceed. Five emergency homes will go to tender shortly.
The Geothermal project has been approved, with an estimated EC19 million for Drilling and Testing of the third Geothermal Well (Mon#3). Most of the preparatory work has been completed with actual drilling to commence in the second quarter of this year.
More broadly, Projects with limited activity in 2015/16 will pick up momentum in 2016/17. With that understanding I wish to mention some additional projects that are "in the pipeline":
* Agriculture Resilience Project – to provide irrigation for farmers - EC $100,000
* Promotion and Development – EC $800,000
* Water Course Embankment Project – EC $265,000
* Thanks to EU funding, 62 material grants totalling EC 2,000,000 are presently being processed along with a further EC$1,000,000 to build 5 new homes under the Credit Union Support to Housing project.
* As the New Build Hospital project moves ahead, work to improve the existing hospital facility and to provide new equipment are in progress. This will improve the health care on Island from here on.
Many public servants have expressed gratitude for having Increments reinstated; increments which they have been denied for many years. By this measure our government is reaffirming its commitment to putting people first.
The residents of Barzeys, Drummonds and Dick Hill breathed a breath of fresh air to be able to drive on well-built new roads in their area.
Garibaldi Hill has now taken on a new look to which visitors and residents can better enjoy its new fauna and scenery.
In the past year construction in the private sector has added so much activity that at one point it was difficult to find a carpenter or mason. While this appears unnoticed I am being informed that more houses were built in the past year than in the years before. There a several private sector construction projects in train this year from Isles bay Hill to Lookout. One such private sector project is an apartment project in Dick Hill scheduled to start in March with a projected cost of several million dollars.
Despite what the critics may say, by God’s grace 2016 will bring for us a change for the better.
Montserrat saw the beginning of weekly visits from Windstar Cruises on December 8th, 2015 and we look forward to the resumption of visits from Jeansforfreedom, a ferry from Guadeloupe, which is expected to start frequent day trips to Montserrat on March 19th, 2016. Although many believe that the visit of Robert De Niro to Montserrat on his private yacht in December 2015 should have been given greater publicity, we continue to believe that the tourism product which Montserrat is seeking to develop, encourages privacy and exemplifies the tranquillity which we advertise.
Passengers from both the Windstar and Jeansforfreedom vessels, will have the opportunity of experiencing some of the 2016 St Patrick's Festival, providing Montserrat with a firsthand advertising experience that we could not create, even with the best tourism strategy.
As well, we are laying the foundations for a trade, investment, tourism and development promotion corporation to replace the failed MDC. That is what the economic development plan MoU, which we are currently developing with DFID is about. We are determined to move this point forward later this Year and we have already begun to set things right and in place.
Likewise, we desperately need to upgrade our telecommunications access through bringing in the new fibre optics cables. Which – I am happy to report – is well underway.
This year is a year of Hope and Action, to help move our beloved Island forward on the path to redevelopment.
Fellow citizens, residents and friends of Montserrat: May God bless each and every one of you as God continues to prosper Montserrat.