Montserrat’s Premier, Donaldson Romeo, now has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate his negotiation skills, and deliver for Montserrat the additional required funds towards a much needed infrastructure development project at Port Little Bay.
It was announced on ZJB Radio, on Tuesday August 30th, 2016 - via a three-way Ministerial briefing featuring the Honourable Claude Hogan, Honourable Paul Lewis and the Honourable Gregory Willock – that Montserrat has been allocated a total of £14.4 million (US$18.9 million) towards Port Development in the north of the island, at Little Bay.
The announcement of this significant funding allocation is welcomed news for Montserrat, as the island has been struggling for the better part of 20 years towards finding a funding solution for port development in the north. Various proposals and drawings have been presented in the past by previous governments for port projects at both Carr’s Bay and Little Bay.
Tuesday’s announcement of the £14.4 million by Minister Paul Lewis, whose Ministry holds responsibility for Port development, could not have come at a more opportune time. Montserrat is struggling for an infrastructure project of note to take root on the island.
The allocation of the £14.4 million funding comes from the UK Caribbean Investment Fund (UKCIF), announced last September, in Jamaica, by former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Prime Minister Cameron in his announcement allocated a total of £300 million; which he stated was to "invest in vital new infrastructure in the Caribbean such as roads, bridges and ports to help drive economic growth and development across the region."
The fund is being managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), of which Montserrat will receive the stated £14.4 million. This amount though, will not be enough to build the breakwater and the berthing facilities required for improved safe docking at Port Little Bay, as an upgrade to the current facilities.
On the table presently are several options to improve the port at Little Bay and provide, at best, a 300 metre breakwater and berthing facility.
According to information shared on air by the Members of Parliament, Option 1 of this port project is expected to cost US$41 million.
There is also an Option 2 on the table for Port Development at Little Bay. This would include all of the developments offered under Option one, but with the increased phases of a Marina dock, Duty Free shops and other such amenities. This option would cost just over US$80 million it was announced.
What is now evident is that both these options will require significantly more funding than the allocated £14.4 million/US$18.9 million.
Doing the math; for option one at US$40 million, an additional US$21.1 million or £16.05 million would be required.
For Option two at US$80 million, an additional US$61.1 million or £46.5 million would be required.
Let us assume that option one is the choice that Government of Montserrat seeks to pursue. Then, the Premier now has to go and employ his diplomatic and negotiation skills and seek to secure the additional £16 million from the highest Ministerial levels with responsibility for International Development in the UK.
What is further critical is that Premier Romeo has a very limited window to show his true negotiation mettle, as the £14.4 million must be committed to a project by November, 2016.
Furthermore, the situation is such that senior officials at The Department for International Development (DFID) cannot commit to spending over £5 million without first gaining UK Ministerial approval. So Romeo's engagement on behalf of Montserrat becomes even more in focus.
With these key facts in place, and considering the magnitude of the opportunity now presented before Montserrat, to finally get a port facility of significance at Little bay, it is imperative that Premier Romeo now steps up to the table, and actively seeks to engage the new Secretary of State for International Development in the UK; The Rt Hon Priti Patel, towards making the case for the additional £16 million at the highest level.
The time has come for Premier Romeo to truly show that he can up his mode of delivery, and take this to the next level and bring home that additional investment capital for the Port Project at Little Bay.
It’s over to you Premier. The ball is now in your half of the court.