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school feeding

Caribbean countries meet to create pathways to food and nutrition education

BRASILIA, Brazil, Oct 3, CMC – Delegates from several Caribbean countries are meeting here this week to discuss a new vision for school feeding programmes that is being promoted through regional and national interventions based on the fundamental elements of education for sustainability and the production of food for schools.

The interventions aim at strengthening the process of how policies for food and nutritional education in schools are institutionalized in 17 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

school feedingThe International Congress of School Feeding Programmes, being held from October 3-5, brings together nutrition and education experts from Brazil, Latin American and Caribbean countries to discuss and disseminate good practices, as well as provide the necessary inputs for building of knowledge of content, methodologies and didactic-pedagogical procedures necessary for the development of qualitative actions of food and nutritional education in schools.

The Congress will focus on three main areas and is expected to generate the opportunity to meet and discuss different perspectives and approaches of the main theme “Food and Nutrition Education”.

The organisers said that discussions will be held through lectures, workshops and exhibitions on topics such as the development of food and nutrition Education concepts, methodologies, best practices, and policies for school feeding programmes, as well as national developments and their impact on School Feeding Policies.

At least 17 countries from Latin America and the Caribbean including Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada are attending the talks being held within the framework of a regional project entitled “Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Since 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Brazilian Government, represented by the National Fund for the Development of Education (FNDE / MEC) and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC / MRE), under the International Cooperation Programme, have been carrying out this regional project.

It is part of the agenda of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) with the aim of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 on eradicating hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition.

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EU disburses EC$806,000 in humanitarian aid to Dominica

TRINIDAD-POLITICS- Rowley disappointed in response to invitation extended to Dominicans

PORT OF SPAIN,Trinidad, Sep. 22, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has expressed disappointment at negative comments following an invitation extended to displaced Dominicans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Rowley, who was a guest on the local television station – TV6, on Friday morning, said he was disappointed with reports of some saying  that humanitarian gesture was a means of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), securing votes in upcoming elections.

DominicaHowever, the Prime Minister told the host of  TV6’s morning edition, that  he would not dignify that claim with a response.

Asked if he expected political backlash over his decision to ease immigration restrictions and allow Dominicans into the country, Rowley said: “No I don’t. It is my view and I believe genuinely that the vast majority of people in T&T are decent and caring people. And from that standpoint I don’t expect that, that would cause any political calamity for me and the PNM.”

Rowley said the decision is a response to a specific natural disaster for a specific period of time and for Dominicans, “to return from whence they came.”

He however added, that under the United Nations charter to which the twin island republic is a signatory, if people arrive in the country without a place to stay, they would then become wards of the State.

“There is a United Nations charter where we are signatories where such person can be viewed as a refugee and you are duty-bound not to turn them back. They will become a ward of the State…if Dominican refugees come here in any significant number we in Trinidad and Tobago have the ability to treat with it because it would be a situation we had not planned for before, the circumstances would require we put our best foot forward. But I don’t expect an overwhelming number of people to do that,” Rowley said.

During Thursday’s post cabinet press briefing, the Prime Minister said his administration will wave the immigration requirements for residents  of Dominica for a period of six months as the CARICOM member state rebuilds.

He also said places could be made available in schools across the twin island republic for Dominican children to continue their education.

“In situations like these, whatever we have available to us, we the people have always been generous are and willing to share…..for the next six months, TT will open our doors, our homes, our pots and I daresay out schools to the people of the Commonwealth of Dominica,”Rowley then said.

He said those Dominicans taking up the offer must be able to clearly identify friends or family who will be able to accommodate them.

The Prime minister  said arrangements will be made for  any citizen who has accommodation and is willing to help provide shelter .

He stressed that Dominicans who choose to come to the country, will not be classified as refugees.

From Roseau to Loubiere, a reflection of the fury of a hurricane

September 22, 2017

By Peter Richards

ROSEAU, Dominica, Sept 22, CMC – When I lived in Dominica, nearly two decades ago, it would take me at least 15 minutes to walk from the capital, Roseau, to Loubiere in the south.

On Friday, it took me nearly two hours. I had no choice. Transportation was impossible given the widespread disaster that Hurricane Maria brought to this Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that was just emerging from the ravages of Tropical Storm Erika two years ago.

Maria 4
My home in Loubiere (CMC Photo)

Unofficially, the death toll from Monday’s storm that, in the words of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit “brutalised” the island, is as high as 60, depending on who you meet. But, so far, the official death toll is 28.

The figures vary because the authorities have not been able to visit some of the villages that were hit by the storm with winds in excess of 180 miles per hour. As I joined in the exodus of people making the daily walk to Loubiere and other villages such as Point Michel, Grand Bay, Bagatelle, Petite Savanne and Soufriere among others, the talk centered on many people who were killed on Monday night and have since been buried.

“There were at least 14 people that died in the storm in Point Michel,” said Vincent john, while Thomas Kentish, the former Windward Islands cricketer, described the hurricane and the aftermath as “brutal.

“It is brutal, boy Peter, it is brutal,” he said.

Another of the walkers, John Vincent, said “I am even afraid to mention the word, Maria. It is terrifying.

“In fact the wind was so strong it was actually communicating, saying something we could not understand. But it was so powerful that it was actually saying ‘get out” it was hollering and, clearly I understood what we went through”.

His remarks about the wind reminded me of an earlier conversation with Chris Rolle, who when I lived here, used to be a transcendental meditation (TM) follower.

“I was whistling, it was singing, it was, I can’t say, but it was not normal,” he said, recalling how he sat in his home, a stone throw from the official residence of President Charles Savarin.

Maria 2
Roman Catholic Church in Newtown

“I was doing nothing and just wondering, what next,” he added.

On the way to Loubiere, we are passed by some people, armed with suitcases, others pushing wheelbarrows with goods surely that were not bought from any of the stores.

It’s like an organised system. Young men armed with cutlasses make their way into the capital and even where some businesses have survived the onslaught of the hurricane, seem to think it is their duty to loot. They also did not confine their activities to businesses.

“They take our fridge, our computers, like it is theirs,” one woman bemoaned, while others were resigned to the fact that their homes would be “looted” because “you could stay on the road and see right through the house”.

As we walk towards our destination, we come across a writing on a piece of wall.

“Jesus is coming soon. Satan the dog is doomed. Mystery Babylon is doomed. To god be the glory”.

The Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, one of the villages that divide Roseau and Loubiere, is providing much more than spiritual help to the battered residents.

In front of the church, several clothes lines have appeared, as the residents take advantage of a river nearby that has changed course and made the once main road, its new path to flow.

Children run happily in the yard, oblivious to the pain and suffering that the hurricane brought upon their parents, who have also found shelter in the ground floor of the church.

Maria 3
Anchorage Hotel

The road to Loubiere has changed dramatically. Now you have to climb hills and mountains of debris and mud, galvanise, some with rusty nails still protruding, streams and rivers, which until Monday were not part of the network.

Dominica used to be green with envy. The rolling hillsides underscored the “nature isle” tag that had been placed on the island. The flora and fauna were sights to behold.

“Dominica is a desert, from green to brown in just eight hours. Transformed from lush greenery to desert brown, “said Jano Jacob, a local writer, adding “the rivers vomited wood and mud, left in basins since Erika two years ago.

“We went through a nuclear hurricane, “he added.

The hotels along the route have also suffered, and it is not likely that they will be receiving guests in any hurry. The destruction, as in other parts of the country, according to reports, is indeed intense.

Despite, the company, the walk is extremely tiring but at least I am entering the village of Loubiere, but just before I do, a friend tells me to prepare myself for the worse.

I looked to the left for divine intervention. The Roman Catholic Church, which on many Sundays brought nearly the entire village together in prayer, stood like a shell as water from the nearby river meandered across its new found route, with big boulders as its only stumbling block, albeit for mere seconds.

He was indeed right. After going through the mud and rivers to reach my home in Loubiere, where in the past, I sat in the verandah and watched the junction as traffic and people crossed each other like an international airport, each going about their respective businesses. I was stunned.

While the structure stood there, it had no windows, the roof had disappeared and my room was no longer visible.

A 32-seater bus that belonged to the Voice of Life radio station, a good half a mile away was parked neatly among the rocks that the river had brought down from the interior. My Aunt, Lucy Alexander, a retired public servant and her two daughters, who had to be rescued from the house, are now in a shelter.

“But there is hope, by the grace of God we have life, pray for us,” she said in a Whatsapp message to her daughter in the United States.

And as I started the journey back to the capital, Roseau, I reflected on the situation in other parts of the country, where efforts are now underway to try and reach villages cut off by a rampaging Hurricane Maria.

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Minister of Education Myron Walwyn Myron-Walwyn-3-1

Walwyn silent amid outrage over ‘top student’

The usually vocal education minister Myron Walwyn has opted to be silent as calls mount for him to be more transparent and fair regarding his choice of the territory’s top student in recent exams administered by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).

In a statement to some media houses on Friday, Walwyn announced that the territory’s top CXC student is Gabriella Chicester, who was enrolled in the recently established Grade 12 at Elmore Stoutt High School – a public institution.

But some education stakeholders who contacted BVI News Online said the top performer should be Chris-Tiann Roberts of St George’s Secondary – a private school, which did not subscribe to the minister’s recent push to introduce Grade 12 in the education system.

Stakeholders, who asked not to be named out of fear of the education minister, think the private school student was not named top performer, because that would be a blow to the minister’s decision to introduce an extra school year (Grade 12) in the school system.

In essence, they theorize that the education minister is trying to save his own face and to punish the private school. Hence his ‘willy nilly’ decision to go against a regionally accepted norm in assessing who is the top CXC student.

CAPE has no place in assessment

Across the Caribbean, countries determine their top CXC performer based on a single CXC exam known as the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC).

That is because CSEC is the only mandatory exam, and arguably the only one that provides a level playing field for assessing all (not just some) students leaving secondary schools.

Other CXC exams – including the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) – are not mandatory in secondary schools, and are not pursued by an overwhelming majority of students leaving secondary schools across the region.

Here in the British Virgin Islands, CAPE is also not mandatory, and it is not yet clearly structured in the education system. In other words, students who pursue CAPE do so on their own accord.

That controversial exam, nonetheless, is what the education minister said he brought into the equation to declare Chicester the territory’s top CXC student.

Had CAPE not been considered, the top student would instead be Roberts, considering that she is the most successful in CSEC – the only CXC exam that is mandatory here.

Roberts was successful in a whopping 12 CSEC subjects; 11 of which the minister said were attained with Grade One – the highest grade possible. Those grades placed Roberts among the best CSEC performers in the history of CXC across the entire Caribbean.

Hidden grades

Chicester, on the other hand, passed 10 CSEC subjects. The education minister did not reveal her specific grades – something his critics say is questionable. Chicester’s grades would have been necessary for the public to judge her CSEC performance against Roberts’.

What the minister did, however, was to disclose that Chicester passed two subjects in CAPE – the exam that, as stated before, is not mandatory and not pursued by most students in the British Virgin Islands and other countries across the Caribbean.

One of the disgruntled education stakeholders told BVI News Online: “No one is disputing that both students performed well, but the fact remains that one did better than the other. The minister should come clean, and stop putting the students through this distress. He does not have to take anything away from Gabriella Chicester. But he should also declare Chris-Tiann Roberts is the top CSEC or CXC student too. He can’t just do things as he finds them convenient. There should be clear guidelines – clear to all of us, not just to him and to his friends.”

When contacted, the education minister, Walwyn, declined to respond to the call for transparency and fairness. He told BVI News Online to contact a particular examination officer on Monday.

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CXC looking to increase e-marking

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, August 15, CMC – The Barbados-based regional examinations body, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), has announced plans to increase electronic marking of annual exams.

CXC’s Director of Operations, Stephen Savoury, said that since e-marking was introduced in 2013, this year saw the most papers being graded using this method, and all but four subjects were marked electronically.

Stephen Savoury- CXC’s Director of Operations (CMC Photo)

“In the 2017 effort 231 papers were marked electronically … there were three e-book markings and then we had 73 e-coursework marks.  And overall, over 700,000 candidate papers were scanned, and approximately 8,000 markers were invited to participate,” Savoury said, adding that the Council is now focused on improving the quality of its assessments.

“We expect that e-marking is not only here to stay but we want to improve it as we go forward, and we want to ensure that … there is a richness of experience for all involved,” he said.

The introduction of e-marking was a break away from the traditional face to face assessment, where markers – mostly teachers – gathered at marking centres across the Caribbean to grade the annual secondary school examinations.

CXC explained that the goal is to improve the validity of the tests undertaken and the reliability of scores issued.

“Some of the proposed benefits of e-marking include continuous marker monitoring and the presence of systems to eliminate errors from incorrect transcription or addition which are a feature of the system used,” CXC said.

Savoury also disclosed that e-testing was introduced in the 2016-2017 academic year, for the multiple choice papers (Paper One) in the January and May-June exams.

“For CAPE, there were 11 territories that were tested electronically, 32 subjects, and they were just short of 2,000 candidates that were tested. For CSEC, seven territories participated electronically, there were 30 subjects that were tested, and a total of 7,827 candidates who participated.  At CCSLC (Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence) there were four territories, six subjects, 789 participants,” Savoury told reporters.

According to him, effective January 2018 all subjects will be tested online for both Paper One and Paper Two, “and we will be going forward with this, moving through to ensure that all of our territories have the option of doing this particular e-testing in their individual territories.”

He added that CXC’s long-term goal is to offer more frequent exams in addition to the January and May-June sessions across the region by 2020.

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Juilliard School of Music play at RC church mass

Arts Council gets ready for third year music festival

Juilliard School of Music play at RC Church last year

The Montserrat Arts Council has announced the return of Montserrat-born, Miss Robyn Quinnett, return to the island in August 2017 with a delegation of professionally trained musicians, some by the world renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York. 

This year marks the 3rd Annual Montserrat Music Festival and this year’s delegation includes Robyn Quinnett, Molly Goldman, Julia Henderson, Josh Henderson, Mikael Darmanie, Anton Rist, Edwin Rist, Yonni O’Donoghue and Sonja Osborne.

The music workshop for young people between the ages of 8 and 16 years old will offer classes in violin, cello, clarinet, flute and piano. The workshop, conducted by the 9 member team, begins on August 21st and culminates with a closing recital on August 25th. Registration for the workshop is now closed as the allocated spaces have been filled.

The team will be featured in a concert on Saturday 26th August, 2017 at 7PM at the Montserrat Cultural Centre. They will also visit the homes for the elderly and the Montserrat Children’s Society summer camp.

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MSS compound (section)

MSS reports on its CXC Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) 2017 Exam Results

MSS compound (section)

The Montserrat Secondary School has received the preliminary results for students who wrote the CSEC EXAMINATIONS in May/June 2017, and the principal Mrs. Cherlyn Hogan publishes this fairly comprehensive report:

Seventy-six (76) students entered to write CXC exams this year.  The students wrote a total of four hundred and sixty-eight (468) subject entries in the 2017 CSEC Examinations at General and Technical Proficiency Levels.  Based on the provisional results Grades I – III passes were obtained in three hundred and fifty-five (355) of them yielding a pass rate of 75.8% down from the 79.8% obtained in 2016.

Of the 23 subject proficiencies taken at CXC CSEC examinations:

100% passes were recorded in eight of them namely: Principles of Business, Agriculture Single Award (SA), Food and Nutrition, Building Technology (Woods), Information Technology, Technical Drawing, Electricity and Physical Education (PE). 

 (2) Pass rates ranging from 90% to 97% were recorded for Biology, Office Administration, Principles of Accounts and Electronic Document Management and Preparation (EDPM).

(3) Pass rates ranging from 80% to 86% were recorded for History, French, Geography and Physics.

(4)  Social Studies and Visual Arts returned pass rates of 43.9% and 40% respectively.

A pass rate of 66.2% was recorded for English A, down from 76% in 2016.  Math recorded a 56.9% pass rate up from 53% obtained in the 2016 exams.

Notable student performances in the examinations are set out below alphabetically by surname:

  Passes in eight subject areas were obtained by:

Thiren Allen               –           3 Grade 1        2 Grade 2        3 Grade 3       

Enver Browne           –           4 Grade 1        2 Grade 2        2 Grade 3

Jadon Daniel             –           3 Grade 1        5 Grade 2                   

Veron Duberry           –           2 Grade 1        3 Grade 2        3 Grade 3

Christal Edgecombe –          4 Grade 1        3 Grade 2        1 Grade 3

Stévikha Foster         –           4 Grade 1        4 Grade 2                   

Mikala Gittens           –           2 Grade 1        3 Grade 2        3 Grade 3                   

Nia Golden                 –           3 Grade 1                                5 Grade 3                   

Geneve Meade           –           1 Grade 1        3 Grade 2        4 Grade 3

Lanicia Robinson     –           4 Grade 1        1 Grade 2        3 Grade 3       

Jayesh Sadwahni      –           7 Grade 1        1 Grade 2

Jameina St. Hill         –           2 Grade 1        1 Grade 2        5 Grade 3

Alene Weekes            –           3 Grade 1        3 Grade 2        2 Grade 3


Kadesa Cabey, Twila Fenton, Mackeda Madden, Joel Mendes, Kenecia Powel, Akeem Richards, Chenece Semper, Joyann Tuitt and Kenneth Walcott, each recorded passes in seven subject areas.

Twelve students recorded passes in 6 subject areas, while seven students passed 5 subjects.

Forty-two of the 65 students (64.6%) who wrote 5 or more subjects, obtained passes in at least 5 subject areas, with 46.1% of them gaining passes in 5 or more subjects including English and Math.  80% of this group of students gained passes in at least 4 subject areas.

Boys performed exceptionally well in the technical areas of Industrial Technology Building and Electrical, Technical Drawing and Visual Arts as well as in PE and Sport, gaining 100% passes in these areas. In the other areas, the performance of the girls was better than that of the boys. The narrowest performance gap was observed in the Math and English, with a 2.9 and 2.8 percentage difference in performance.

A key indicator for education is the percentage of students in the year five cohort who obtain 5 or more CSEC passes including English and Math.  This year 38% of the year five cohort obtained 5+ CSEC passes including Math and English.  This performance exceeds the 35% internal target which was set for the school.

The school extends congratulations to the students who were successful, to their parents for their support and to the teachers for their hard work and dedication.  The school also extends sincerest gratitude to the members of the community who assisted by tutoring our students in the absence of their substantive teachers.

See Related articles:

CXC records slight decline in candidates taking 2016-17 exams – discusses e-marking success



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Natalee Holloway

Human remains discovered after 12-year search for American student in Aruba

ORANJESTAD, Aug. 17,  CMC –  There is another twist to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of American high school graduate Natalee Holloway  following the discovery of human remains in this Dutch Caribbean territory.

Natalee Holloway
Natalee Holloway

Holloway, 18, was with friends on a post-high school trip to Aruba in 2005 when she vanished, leaving her loved ones wondering for years what happened to her.

For years, speculation has swirled around Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch national last seen with the Alabama teen at a tourist bar on the island.

With the discovery of the remains, Holloway’s father, Dave Holloway, and private investigator T.J. Ward announced on NBC Television Wednesday that the remains are now being DNA-tested to confirm if they are Natalee’s remains.

“We’ve chased a lot of leads, and this one is by far the most credible lead I’ve seen in the last 12 years,” Holloway told NBC, showing hope that the lack of answers that has tormented him for more than a decade may be coming to a close.

Holloway said that the discovery was the result of an 18-month investigation with Ward, a search that was documented for a television show that debuts Saturday.

Previous theories stated that Holloway was hidden in a construction site or dumped in the sea, although an informant, a man identified by the television programme – only as Gabriel, said she was buried at an Aruban park.

Gabriel said that he lived with a friend of van der Sloot’s named John, who relayed that Holloway began foaming at the mouth and died after being given a date rape drug.

Van der Sloot is currently serving nearly three decades in prison for the murder of another young woman in Peru.

The now 30-year-old admitted to police in 2010 that he strangled Stephany Flores, 21, in his Lima hotel room after she learned of his connection to Holloway’s disappearance.

A transcript of Van der Sloot’s confession shows that he said he could give information about the Aruba case to police in exchange for a deal on the Peru killing.

US Federal prosecutors also filed charges against him in 2010 for allegedly trying to extort money from Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, by giving her false information about the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains.

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Government will to give second chance to young people if they move away from crime

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Aug 4, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says his administration is willing to provide a second opportunity to young people to move away from a life of crime and was guaranteeing them a job should they do so.

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris

“If there is any young person out there involved now in illegal activity, particularly in relation to guns, and they want to make a turn, I would guarantee them, I repeat, I am guaranteeing them a job if they are seriously committed to turn away from the life of crime,” Harris told reporters.

He said “that is the solemn guarantee I make” adding “I would guarantee you a job that you could at least earn a weekly wage if you are serious about making the turn for the better.

“The country deserves fewer criminals than we have on the streets and the cost of maintenance of the peace and security requires us to be open-minded and to even think outside the box if we are to nip this situation in the bud.”

Harris, who is also National Security Minister, said there are career opportunities available in St. Kitts and Nevis for young people, particularly school leavers, in the area of law enforcement.

 “Being in the Police Force is not just about carrying a baton, it’s not just about standing at some beat; it is also about learning a diversified array of life skills that could put you in good stead for life.

“The career paths in terms of policing now are so diverse. So for example, as we are building out our [Closed-Circuit Television] CCTV programme we need young men with knowledge in ICT to be part of that particular programme.

“As we are developing our forensic department, we need young people with expertise and experience in forensics, so there is a wide range. As we are talking about building and reorganizing our Traffic Department, there is room even in administration,” Prime Minister Harris said.

The twin-island Federation has been rocked by brazen criminal activities including murder in recent months and Harris said that as his administration moves to implement policies aimed at curbing these activities, job opportunities were also being made available to the unemployed.

“The Customs Department has a regular training programme for recruits and we want to build on that cadre of persons and so we are welcoming and encouraging people to get involved. We want our parents not to have their children at home being idle doing nothing when work is going a-begging in the country,” he told reporters.

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Gwennett Reece

Red Cross Youth Arm attend regional youth camp in Suriname

MRC – Aug. 3 2017 – The Youth Arm of the Montserrat branch of the British Red Cross will be represented at the Caribbean regional youth summer camp to be held in Suriname.

 The camp which starts today (Thursday) is an annual one and attracts youth from across the region.

Jonelle Reece


Uquuan Hopkinson

Representing Montserrat at the camp are Jonelle Reece and Uquaan Hopkinson and they will be accompanied by the Red Cross Youth

co-ordinator, Gwennett Reece. The camp concludes on August 12.

 The youth arm of the Montserrat Red Cross was re-established earlier this year and is mainly made up of present and past Community College and MSS students.

Gwennett Reece

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De Ole Dawg

Time for truth about Montserrat’s economy

 Contribution – Part 18/2017

 What is the true state of our economy, and what should we do about it?

BRADES, Montserrat, June 28, 2017 – One of the common sayings on our streets is “the economy is dead,” and many shop-owners say that sales are “slow.” At the same time there is a wave of “new” Internet cars on our roads – which will eat up “free- to- spend money” for many families. Some local businesses are actually building additional capacity, while many others have “dead” or slow-moving stock. Some homes are being built, but there are few factories. For decades, local agriculture has been a tiny sector of our economy, now about 2 – 3%. There has been an obvious increase in cruise ship visits over the past few years, but tourism is nowhere near what it was pre-volcano. A very mixed pattern.

How, then, can we make sense of the economic big picture? For one, the ECCB is the official source for economic data about Montserrat. So, here are their January 2017 growth rate figures since 2007- 8 (when the global economic down-turn began):

As a comparison, the IMF recently estimated that the USA is expected to grow at 2.3% this year, the UK at 1.5%, Germany at 1.5% and France at 1.3% – major sources for tourism. In the years since 2007 – 8, US growth has never exceeded 3%. Such persistent low growth is a clear sign of long-term weakness of the global economy.  Also, a few years ago, the ECCB noted that growth in the EC$ zone has slowed from 6% in the ‘80’s to 3% in the ‘90’s then to about 1% recently, and has called for measures to restore long-term growth to 5 – 7%. (Note: Montserrat’s economic numbers critically depend on and fluctuate with annual budget grants and capital aid projects from the UK. Figures for 2016 – 18 (in blue) are estimates or projections, showing a gradual increase in growth. Where, too, EC$ 100 – 200 thousand – less than the cost of a “typical” house – is about a tenth of one percent of our local economy’s annual output, its GDP. That is, building just one house can make a difference.  And, post Brexit, UK capital project support is uncertain, in part due to the fall in the Pound and given the UK’s ongoing negotiations to leave the EU. We also have to address major challenges on financial management, governance and transparency.)

In 2012, as part of a business case to inject over EC$ 5 million to deal with MDC’s “failure,” DfID argued[1]:

“The economy of Montserrat has never recovered from the volcanic eruptions of 1995 and subsequent years . . . . The population has now declined to 4922 and the base of local business comprises 150-200 firms, mostly micro-enterprises servicing the small local market . . . The tourism sector has also declined by over 50% since the mid-90s. Housing and other social amenities existing before the eruptions have not been fully replaced. The island is heavily dependent on imports of all types of goods and services . . . .

Little Bay and Carr’s Bay are the only developable sites left on the island capable of offering access by sea, providing a base for new [investment] in tourism and other sectors, providing new commercial space and civic amenities and housing the critical mass of population and business necessary to stimulate local private sector development.”

Unfortunately, this picture is still largely so five years later – something both our local governments and DfID need to clearly, publicly explain. Notwithstanding, they have agreed to jointly expedite several key projects:

  1. sea port development, phase 1
  2. geothermal energy development,
  • hospital developments,
  1. access and connectivity; and,
  2. human resources/public sector reform phase 3

These and other similar projects (e.g. Fibre Optic Cable based digital access) should help to open up room for self-sustaining economic growth and transformation. However, it will likely take 2 – 3 years to get these projects moving, and economic transformation will probably require 10 – 20 years; that’s what it took between the 1960’s and 80’s. In the meanwhile, and alongside those projects, we need a steady flow of modest development-oriented projects.  Such projects will help to rebuild our infrastructure, promote economic development, meet key education, health and welfare needs, while providing employment. Again, just one house makes a difference – much less, seven.

However, an artificially pumped up “boom” is neither the normal state of an economy nor is it a wise one. As, excessive “stimulation” will “overheat” and distort an economy and will create unrealistic expectations that will make the following “bust” all the harder to bear. And, if an economy’s productive capacity has been reduced due to shocks or the economy is out-dated, “overheating” may happen before all who want jobs can find work. Likewise, if businesses are not well suited to the changing local or global economy, they can fail even while others are seeing “good” times. Also, what feels like good growth can be unsustainable, due to a mismatch to key trends and hazards. For example, it could be argued that by the mid 1980’s local and UK officials knew or should have known about our volcanic hazards, and they had in hand specific recommendations. Putting all the eggs in the Plymouth basket (especially post-Hugo) may well have unfortunately contributed to what proved to be unsustainable development.

We cannot change the painful past, but we can learn from it. So, going forward, let us focus development policy on sound, self-sustaining economic growth and development.


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The Montserrat Reporter - August 18, 2017