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Government condemns “fake news” after earthquakes hit Trinidad and Tobago

Government condemns “fake news” after earthquakes hit Trinidad and Tobago

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 22, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Wednesday criticised people spreading “fake news” about the extent of the damage caused by the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that rocked the oil rich twin island republic on Tuesday.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has since expressed support to Trinidad and Tobago, adding that Havana is ‘ready to attend any emergency”.

Communications and National Security Minister Stuart Young said that while “thankfully we have had no reports of deaths and injuries” there were people, including opposition politicians, who had been using the social media network to disseminate fake news on the incident.

“I want to denounce all of those persons…circulating fake news,” Young told reporters at the weekly post cabinet news conference, adding that “this is very irresponsible, that is something that is unacceptable”.

Young warned that the “mischievous” actions of those irresponsible people “could have a very detrimental effect” on the population and urged ‘all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to act in a responsible manner and not to act in any illegal activity”.

Young said that several government buildings had been closed Wednesday as a result of the quake on Tuesday as engineers and other stakeholders undertake an assessment of the situation. He said the assessment is also being done by private building owners.

“I expect more reports of damages, “he said, adding that he hope the non-loss of lives would remain that way.

On Wednesday, the country was rocked by an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 and Young as well as the seismic Research centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) warned the population to be prepared for additional aftershocks in the coming days.

“I think we can expect aftershocks…the state will continue to monitor,” Young said, urging citizens not to take unnecessary risks” and should not crowd the various health centers and hospitals unless it is necessary..

He said the police were out in full force to maintain law and order and young appealed again to citizens to ‘continue to be each other’s keeper.

“At the end of the day we are all our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Company (T7TEC) said that nearly 100 per cent of its customers are “back on supply, with individual reports and small local outages being attended to”

It said that overnight the majority of those reports were completed as a result of additional crews being called out in all areas.

“Bearing in mind that aftershocks are expected, we want to share some safety tips with customers:

During or immediately after an earthquake we encourage customers to turn off breakers to protect appliances in the event of surges. When outdoor, stay away from poles and wires as that may be shaking, in case they fall. If poles or wires are on the ground treat as if they are live! Stay away and contact T&TEC.
“ Similarly, if trees fall on lines or poles, do not touch them as they can act as a conductor for electricity and electrocute or shock the individual.”

Posted in Earthquake, International, Local, Regional0 Comments

Trinidad hit by strong aftershock

Trinidad hit by strong aftershock

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 22, CMC – An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 rattled Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday, sending an already frightened population out of building into the streets.

The Seismic Research centre (SRC) of the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), said that the quake, which occurred at 9.27 a.m. time, followed Tuesday’s major earthquake that registered 7.3.

Wednesday’s quake was located Latitude: 10.60N, Longitude: 62.87W and at a depth of 80 km.

It was felt 40 km east south east of Carúpano, Venezuela and 100 km north north east of  Maturín, Venezuela

“No tsunami warning or watch has been issued related to this morning’s 5.9 aftershock. Please ignore any “information” to this effect,” the SRC said in a statement.

Several building here have suffered structural damage as a result of Tuesday’s massive quake and the SRC has warned Trinidad and Tobago to be on the alert for many more aftershocks.

Several buildings have been damaged in the north-west including the capital, Port of Spain, causing two government offices to remain closed, one small house collapsed, about half a dozen cars crushed by falling walls.

There have been no reports of deaths or injuries as a result of the tremors

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Venezuela And Trinidad Struck By Massive, 7.3 Magnitude Earthquake

The quake could be felt as far away as Colombia and Grenada. No deaths had been reported.

A massive earthquake rocked Venezuela and the southern Caribbean on Tuesday evening, knocking out power throughout the region and sending people rushing out of buildings.

Preliminary reports from the U.S. Geological Survey indicate a 7.3 magnitude quake struck just 12 miles off Venezuela’s Cariaco Peninsula, its northeasternmost tip. The epicenter is not far from Trinidad’s northwestern coast. The two countries are separated by just seven nautical miles.

It was a little surreal; the country just seemed to shut down for a second. Kevin Farrick, Trinidad and Tobago

There are no reports of fatalities in either country so far. But in Venezuela, The Associated Press indicates there may be injuries from an escalator collapse in Cumana, the closest city to the epicenter. In a public address, Nestor Reverol, the country’s interior minister, asked for patience and insisted that national disaster teams have been dispatched for relief.

In July 1997, a 6.9 quake struck the same Cariaco region, resulting in more than 80 deaths.

In Trinidad, Joan Latchman, a seismologist at the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center, told the AP that Tuesday’s quake was the strongest felt in the country since December 2016.

Stuart Young, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of national security and communications, gave a televised address on the country’s state-owned network to confirm there were no reports of damage to the island’s infrastructure.

But images quickly flooded social media of downed power lines, toppled store shelves and fallen debris.

Kevin Farrick, a marketing consultant from Port-of-Spain, initially mistook his rocky commute home as car trouble. But once he glanced up to see the traffic lights flashing and lamp posts swaying, he realized it was more than just a bumpy ride.

“Then a transformer exploded and I was like ‘wait a minute, there’s nothing wrong with my car. It’s a damn earthquake!’” Farrick said. Soon after, he noticed people running out of area businesses and government buildings into the streets.

“It was a little surreal; the country just seemed to shut down for a second,” he said.

Many Venezuelans and Trinbagonians are now using Facebook’s check-in tool to mark themselves as “safe’ in the aftermath.

The quake could be felt as far away as Bogota, Colombia as well as several Caribbean islands in the region, including Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Although aftershocks are still being reported, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reports no immediate threat of a tsunami to the surrounding region. 

Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, Earthquake, Featured, International, Local, News0 Comments

Massive earthquake rocks Trinidad and Tobago

Massive earthquake rocks Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago has been rocked by a massive earthquake, causing serious damage to property in the twin-island republic on Tuesday.

Social media has been flooded with images of destruction to roadways, popular buildings, supermarkets and cars, with some residents announcing that they are safe.

According to the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, the 6.9 magnitude quake struck a latitude of 10.51 N, a longitude of 62.76 W and a depth of 73 km.

The quake occurred at 5:30pm and lasted for almost a minute. 

Take a look at some of the damage below. 

loopjamaica Massive 6.8 earthquake rocks Trinidad and Tobago


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Posted in CARICOM, Climate/Weather, Earthquake, Featured, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments

Brexit and housing crisis combining to cause exodus from London, think tank finds

Brexit and housing crisis combining to cause exodus from London, think tank finds

Information that should be of vital interest particularly to the Montserrat discourse

Caitlin Morrison

A combination of unaffordable housing and Brexit has led to an “exodus” from London, with an increasing number of young people moving elsewhere to live and work, according to new research.

Analysis by think tank Centre for London showed that job numbers in the capital reached 5.9 million at the end of June this year, up 1.9 per cent compared with the same month in 2017 – and the highest level since records began in 1996.

However, the group warned that this was driven by a “significant growth” in the number of people moving away from London to rest of the UK, and a slowdown in international migration, suggesting that the city is become a less desirable place to live and work.

London recorded the slowest rate of population growth in over a decade, at almost half the rate of the previous year, the research revealed.

A spokesperson for Centre for London said: “The continuing affordability crisis and the prospect of Brexit are dampening the city’s appeal, with the former seen as driving the rise in the number of people in their mid-twenties to thirties leaving the capital.”

In July the average rent for London rose above £1,600 for the first time on record, according to the latest Homelet Rental Index, and while house price growth in London has slowed in recent months, the average price in the second quarter of this year was £468,845 – more than double the national average of £214,578.

Meanwhile, the think tank said there were other factors spurring people on to leave the capital, with quality of life indicators such as crime and pollution worsening over the last year.

Figures showed that a balance of 106,000 people moved away from London in the 12 months to mid-2017, up 14 per cent on the previous year, which “suggests that people are looking for an alternative to London to live and work”, Centre for London said.

Net international migration dropped by 34 per cent year-on-year, to the lowest level since 2013.

The research also showed a 16 per cent decline in the number of foreign nationals registering for national insurance numbers, with a 25 per cent drop among EU citizens.

Vicky Pryce, a board member of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said the news on job creation in the capital was “very welcome” but added: “For London, long believed to be better able to absorb shocks like Brexit due to its diversity, housing affordability and rising living costs in the capital [it is] encouraging an exodus.

“Any loss of EU workers and the likelihood of services not being covered by any Brexit deal would leave the City particularly vulnerable.”

The prospect of a no-deal Brexit has become more likely in the last few weeks, with Bank of England boss Mark Carney last week admitting that the chances of the UK leaving the EU with no agreement in place were “uncomfortably high”, and the pound has fallen to 11 month lows against the dollar and the euro off the back of no-deal concerns.

Meanwhile, Silviya Barrett, research manager at Centre for London, said: “While some might interpret the drop in migration and population growth as easing the pressure on infrastructure and public services, in the longer term it has the potential to threaten their viability and significantly damage our economy.”

She added that although unemployment data was encouraging, falling 0.4 per cent to 255,000 since last year, “declining pay levels and stalling productivity are signs that there could be stumbling blocks on the horizon”.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics last month revealed that UK wage growth had slowed to its weakest pace in six months.

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Climate/Weather, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat.

UK Armed Forces on high alert for hurricane season

News story

The UK’s Overseas Territories will have unwavering military support throughout the 2018 hurricane season, a Defence minister has confirmed.

Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat.
Mark Lancaster poses with the crew of RFA Mounts Bay after watching a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise on the small volcanic island of Montserrat. Crown copyright.

British residents were killed, homes were destroyed and infrastructure was decimated when Irma and Maria, two of the most powerful hurricanes for decades, smashed through the region back-to-back in September 2017.

Mark Lancaster visited Barbados, Antigua and Montserrat this week to reassure locals that the Ministry of Defence is supporting other Government departments to ensure that similar devastation is not repeated.

Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said:

No matter what the elements throw at our Overseas Territories this year, we will be there to help them every step of the way throughout 2018 and beyond. We may not be able to prevent natural disasters from occurring, but our world-class military have been planning meticulously to ensure lives are protected and damage is kept to a minimum.

Our citizens in the Caribbean have already shown incredible resilience over the last year and we are determined that when this difficult period is over their local facilities are in a better state than they were before.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay will act as the hub of the UK’s response, and the minister was able to see a demonstration of her amphibious capabilities while in Montserrat.

Fleet Auxiliary vessel MOUNTS BAY and her crew conducting a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise in Montserrat.
Fleet Auxiliary vessel MOUNTS BAY and her crew conducting a Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise in Montserrat. Crown copyright.

As well as being able to carry vital aid and equipment, RFA Mounts Bay also has the latest Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter on board to provide aerial support. There is also a medical facility on board, with 10 patient beds for anyone who suffers serious injuries or illness.

The visit also provided an opportunity for Mr Lancaster to speak to island governors and residents about their needs as they continue to recover from last year’s hurricanes.

As well as preparing for this year, RFA Mounts Bay has been in the region since Irma struck and will remain there until 2020 to help restore the islands to normal.

A Wildcat helicopter takes off from RFA Mounts Bay during the Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief Exercise
A Wildcat helicopter takes off from RFA Mounts Bay during the Humanitarian Relief and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise. Crown copyright.

The Government has already committed £142million to support the recovery effort in the affected territories, as well as £300million of UK loan guarantees.

Foreign & Commonwealth Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon is currently visiting the British Virgin Islands, which suffered extensive damage, as the Government continues its preparations for 2018.

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UK Foreign Office Minister for Overseas Territories to visit BVI

UK Foreign Office Minister for Overseas Territories to visit BVI

TORTOLA, British Virgin Islands, Jul. 29,   CMC – The United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories, Lord Tariq Ahmad, of Wimbledon will visit the territory between July 31 and August 1 to discuss hurricane preparedness and view progress on recovery.

Lord Tariq Ahmad

As part of his two-day visit, the government  says that Lord Ahmad and Premier Dr.   Orlando Smith will visit a number of public sites affected by last year’s hurricanes.

During his visit, Lord Ahmad will be updated on the how the UK’s support is helping recovery efforts and will officially hand over the new purpose-built temporary Court House to the Government.

This court house will allow the Supreme Court and Magistrates’ Court to “function fully while a permanent building is constructed,” the statement said.

  Lord Ahmad will also visit the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Mounts Bay, which will remain in the region throughout the hurricane season to provide rapid assistance to islands, if needed.

RFA is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the UK’s Ministry of Defense, whose purpose is to support the Royal Navy to maintain operations around the world.

The BVI Government said Lord Ahmad will meet with the Board of the Recovery and Development Agency “to be updated on their progress and efforts to deliver the six-month accelerated plan ahead of endorsement of the longer term Recovery and Development Plan by the House of Assembly.”

“The UK has played a critical role in assisting the region to recover from last year’s unprecedented and devastating hurricanes, providing aid and support to help British Overseas Territories,” said Lord (Tariq) Ahmad, ahead of the BVI visit. “However, I know there is still more to be done before the islands are fully recovered, and the UK stands ready to help.

“We are already working with partners across the Caribbean to make sure plans are being put in place to prepare for future hurricanes, so we do not see a repeat of last year’s destruction,” he added.

The BVI Government said Lord Ahmad will also “seek to address concerns about the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act when he meets with Premier Smith and the Cabinet.”

In addition, Lord Ahmad will meet with members of the financial services industry, and business and tourism representatives.

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RFA Mounts Bay visits to provide support in the event of hurricanes

During the media visit aboard the British naval ship RFA Mounts Bay which last year was very involved in rescues and support to Anguilla and British Virgin Islands during the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the commanding officer of the has assured Montserrat that it is capable of giving assistance in hurricane and disaster relief.

On Wednesday, hearing from the reporters that Montserrat is normally the first in line of hurricanes coming out of the east, Captain Peter Selby told reporters that the ship can be in Montserrat within twelve hours after a hurricane strikes. He emphasized that part of their response is to restore critical services.

Portrait of Captain Peter Selby RFA
Portrait of Captain Selby RFA, Taken aboard the bridge on RFA Mounts Bay

“My vessel has a number of capabilities which can assist the U.K.’s overseas territories in hurricane and disaster relief. I have a team of Royal engineers with prompt earth moving equipment. I have a shelter kits, lorries, motorbikes,” adding, I have skilled engineers on board who are all capable of providing a blue light emergency response to any natural disaster.”

The captain explains that by blue light, “I mean we aim to be here within twelve hours of a hurricane passing through and would remain in the area for around 48 hours in order to provide you with a first line of Disaster Response, to enable you to restore all of critical services such as electricity, treat any casualties that you may have.

He said the ship has, “a fully equipped hospital on board with a medical team on standby in the U.K., to come and assist my core medical team of some four personnel.”

The ship which arrived the same day, Wednesday and the captain had said they will engage in a number of activities to include an emergency response exercise at Little Bay, training, and an Agricultural survey.

On Thursday, the ship hosted a reception on board in the evening during which the UK Right Honourable Mark Lancaster MP, who began a one-day visit on Thursday morning presented awards to several of the ship’s men.

Click to see pictures 

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European Union steps up support for Caribbean countries

European Union steps up support for Caribbean countries

BRUSSELS, Jul. 17, CMC – The European Union on Tuesday signed three new agreements with St. Lucia, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda,to support post-hurricane recovery and reconstructions efforts.

The agreements were signed on the margins of the second EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Foreign Ministers meeting. 

They were signed by Stefano Manservisi, Director-General for International Cooperation and Development, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs of Dominica, Francine Baron, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of St Lucia representing CARIFORUM, Sarah Flood-Beaubrun and Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, Karen-Mae Hill .

The financing agreements amount to €30 million.

Some countries in the Caribbean  were everely impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria last year .

In the case of Dominica, damages and losses were calculated at 226 per cent of GDP, while the destruction on the island of Barbuda resulted in the evacuation of the entire population to Antigua.

The €11 million programme for Dominica will support the implementation of the national recovery plan through budget support.

The €5 million programme for Antigua and Barbuda aims to support housing reconstruction for low-income families and the €14 million programme with CARIFORUM will support the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) in further enhancing the region’s disaster preparedness and response capacity.

The three programmes are part of a larger package of €74 million adopted this week.

The package that will support the  region to “build-back-better” and promote resilience vis-à-vis future natural hazards, follows from the pledge made by the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, at the CARICOM-UN high level conference in New York in November 2017.

Manservisi also signed the Addendum to the National Indicative Programme for Jamaica following the mid-term review, with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson Smith.

The additional €20 million will target initiatives in the area of citizen security.

Meanwhile,  a €15 million disbursement on the sugar programme for Jamaica was agreed.

This payment was made in recognition of the progress made by the Jamaican Government in the transformation of the sugar industry over the past ten years.

Jamaica’s sugar sector has transformed to become more competitive, increasing productivity and environmental sustainability, whilst supporting young people and social challenges in sugar-dependant areas.

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On the way to being buried completely, Sept. 1999

23 years on after volcanic eruption began in Montserrat, Premier speaks about immediate future

Very early days after eruption began – location – Soufriere hills vicinity of Chances Mountain

by Bennette Roach

July 18 is a date that Montserratians all over the world and especially those old enough to remember, the day when volcanic activity was announced. It was a Tuesday night, and the next day people reported they heard the rumbling sounds in the mountains, “like a jet plane passing.”

It was 23 years ago, in 1995, when Soufriere Hills volcano began erupting.

Parliament St. Early days after ashing – buried today

July 18, 2018 marks the 23rd anniversary of the Soufriere Hills volcano eruption. The eruption and ensuing explosions, pyroclastic flows and fatal events, have rendered more than one third of the island uninhabitable destroying the capital city Plymouth and causing widespread evacuations.

When the Soufriere Hills volcano began its activity in 1995 no one, not even after months when the scientists might have convinced all that this was a volcano that had been quiet for hundreds of years had come to life, believed or thought that this would be spoken of 23 years later, as being still considered not yet back to sleep.

As the hurricane season comes active, there is usually the question, especially remembering the previous tragedy of hurricane Hugo, “will Montserrat ever face a disaster, like this again?”

Everyone will remember something of significance from this eruption that they will remember individually. But it is likely that the one event that would never be forgotten, when on June 25, 1997, we remembered few weeks ago, pyroclastic flows, swept northwards from a dome collapse, resulting in the tragic deaths of 19 Montserratians.  Another five persons received serious burn injuries, from the flows and the associated surge clouds.

Montserrat has certainly not recovered from near extinction, and today it is still not known that there are those among the authorities (powers that be) who do not believe that this is still not a possibility. That thought or belief has been the hindrance of any honest and serious effort to develop the north of Montserrat into normal lives for the residents.

On the way to being buried completely, Sept. 1999

It certainly has been the cause of much ‘confusion’ since that belief had never been admitted until 2008, when it was revealed that the time had come to move forward.

A report of an investigation of the major British aid department, shows that efforts have been misguided. It decided, while, “DFID has worked closely and successfully with the Government of Montserrat to help the island make the transition from the immediate post-disaster emergency to a stable normality, albeit with significant financial support.

While there were a range of strategic documents emanating from the Strategic Growth Plan, there is still to come a coherent, meaningful strategic view of self-sufficiency.

23 years on, the MVO still reminds residents (it is their job) and visitors alike that even though the volcano has been quiet for more than eight years now major activity can still occur at any time without warning.

The records show that the last activity of any significance according to the MVO occurred in February 2010, where there was a dome collapse to the North East of the volcano. Montserrat Volcano Observatory.

Today Honourable Premier Donaldson Romeo having said two years ago, that in spite of the present challenges the people of Montserrat are blessed. He called on people that, while residents reflect on the past losses this time should be used to look ahead on the many positives that have emerged as a result of volcanic activies. Now he says: “…I shall be focusing on a number of priority projects that my government has been working on to help transform our social and economic conditions.”

Premier Donaldson Romeo

Following is the full statement he made today, first delivered on radio:

Fellow Citizens, Residents and Friends of Montserrat, wherever you may be, today, 18th July 2018, marks 23 years since the Soufriere Hill volcano erupted and changed the lives of Montserratians forever.

Montserrat has been changed, yes, but thank God, not destroyed; has been down but not out.

Solomon tells us that there is a time for everything under the sun, and I firmly believe that today is a time, not to forget the past, but to let it rest for the moment, a time for me to encourage you with some positive news about the present and the future. Therefore, I shall be focusing on a number of priority projects that my government has been working on to help transform our social and economic conditions.

First of all, is the Little Bay Breakwater and Port Development Project. I am pleased to report that we have now started the procurement process for certain consultancy and supervision contracts. You have already heard the advertisement on Radio Montserrat for a Project Coordinator.  This means that we are well on the way to having our first breakwater and safe harbour, the first ever safe harbour in the history of the island.

What does this mean?

It means having the capability to dock cruise vessels, luxury yachts, cargo vessels and the ferry at the same time. It means no more waiting for cement,  flour or sugar because boats can’t dock. It means no more being stranded on the ferry 100 yards off Montserrat’s shore because of rough seas.

It means jobs for taxi drivers, artists, craftsmen and everyone involved in tourism. It means larger vessels and therefore cheaper freight, which should in turn have a positive impact on prices for everyone.

Then there is the Montserrat Subsea Fibre Project, which is now fully supported by DfID. We are at the stage of finalizing the tender documents with the aim of issuing an Invitation to tender within the next month, completing the evaluation of bids by the end of September and hopefully issuing a contract by the end of October.

And if everything goes according to plan, the system should Go Live by August 2019. The days of phone calls being cut because of the internet being too slow, the frustrations of trying, in vain, to watch a video online – all this will be history.

A high-speed connection will also allow us to make history as we set up the first Digi Beach to encourage tech startups in the Caribbean.  My administration has already started to embrace the future of blockchain and cash being digital as we welcomed BITT to our shores.

Regarding the Geothermal Project, which has the potential to provide Montserrat with abundant, clean, renewable energy at a reasonable cost, two wells have already been dug.  The completion of the third well is under negotiation between DFID and IDC drilling company.  The early market engagement for the surface plant was completed and evaluated and the report is being reviewed.  

We are still in active negotiations with the British Government for the completion of this project, as well as that of the new hospital.

On a smaller scale, just under two million dollars was awarded by the end of June 2018, the first quarter of this financial year, for contracts on small capital projects such as:

  • the canopy cover works to the ferry terminal expansion & warehouse roof repair project,
  • Margetson Home – design & build contract,
  • supply of base material & aggregate
  • the New Windward Sewage Facility design & build contract,
  • Supply of textbooks for the public schools in Montserrat and
  • the breaking down and removal of the temporary wood & steel buildings on the Government Headquarters compound.

Further, other small capital projects are being prepared for procurement. This will include Major Roof works and railing for Block C at the Brades Primary School, and other maintenance works to include resurfacing of Basketball courts, fencing and painting of school plants, etc.

And let us not overlook the countless small projects that have been completed or are underway, particularly in education, health and the environment. To name just a few…

  • construction of a new toilet block, retaining wall and fencing at the Brades Primary School
  • major sewage system repairs and greenhouse infrastructure at MSS
  • white boards, plumbing and Toilet replacements and other critical repairs at the Look Out Primary School
  • completion of the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Institute of Tourism at the Montserrat Community College
  • major roof recovering at the Salem Nursery School.
  • various rehabilitation and retrofit medical storage works at the hospital, including installation of ventilation systems, construction of the X-ray plant room and a central sterilizer to be completed during this quarter.   

I also express appreciation to the FCO and the people and government of the UK for the Heliconia Star.  It has already begun to make a difference for our security, safety and resilience. 

These are all little drops of water that together are contributing to an ocean of positive change for Montserrat. 

On the private sector side, many are taking advantage of the concessions under the Homes Built for Sale or Rental Programme. Those who build a house for rental or sale costing $180,000 US or more will not have to pay duty or consumption tax on building materials imported.  And we are already seeing an increase in construction spending and jobs.

I also recently visited the Montserrat Football Association’s construction site where a 32-bedroom Dormitory is underway; important infrastructure for sports tourism valued at 8 million dollars, and which should be completed by next year. 

In addition, it is anticipated that the Montserrat Football Association will be host to several international matches later this year along with the Leeward Islands Cricket Tournaments.  This to my mind will be a great boost to our enterprising citizens with businesses, just as we saw with the recent conferences for fisheries and for Ministers of the Environment, the Leeward Islands Under 17 and Under 19 Cricket tournaments and as we also will see for the Calabash Festival. 

Not too far from the Montserrat Football Association’s football dormitory development, is the 10-unit Art Housing project which is well on the way.

Plans are also in place for the construction of super villas adjoining the Isles Bay Plantation units.  Other similarly promising project proposals are being discussed and negotiated as I speak. I will personally be following them up closely so as to ensure that this demonstration of Investor confidence in the economy is properly supported and facilitated right through to implementation.

As far as relations with Britain are concerned, a key reason for Lord Ahmad’s recent visit to Montserrat in May/June was for him to see firsthand the work that was being done to prepare for this year’s hurricane season as well as to explore ideas for the development of a stronger and more sustainable private sector economy.

As many of you would have recently heard in the media, we are soon to receive additional and much needed equipment provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so that, should a hurricane hit, our Government can respond in the most efficient and coordinated way.

While attending JMC (Joint Ministerial Council) meetings in London in June, I met with FCO Minister, Lord Ahmad and DfID Minister, Lord Bates, to continue discussions on the Construction of hurricane-resistant housing. Meanwhile, hurricane Beryl turned out to be only a tropical storm bringing us much-needed rain – and thank God for that.

In my meetings with Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates, we also discussed the completion of a critical section of the, and the Provision of Essential Equipment and Plant to properly install telephone posts and repair or construct asphalt-based roads. 

Following this meeting I can now report that I have in my hands a joint letter from FCO and DfID Ministers Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates.  In this letter they committed the UK to providing physical support for Disaster Resilience. They also mentioned that they have been persuaded of the need for the UK Government to provide additional capital investment in Montserrat.  Discussions to develop proposals for these Capital projects are expected to start within the next few weeks with a view to being finalized before the end of the year.

Projects to be prioritized, discussed and agreed on for the next five years, include:

  • construction of hurricane-resistant housing and a new hospital
  • Improved recreational facilities
  • completion of the geothermal project to result in the production of affordable electricity
  • completion of the A1 road project;
  • night flights at John A Osborne Airport
  • Public Service Reform
  • Private Sector Development (with an emphasis on promoting youth and locally driven entrepreneurial businesses, tourism related infrastructure, etc).
  • Government Accommodation
  • New Secondary School Campus, etc

In June, I attended a Meeting of the United Nations Committee for Decolonization, where I called on the UN to support a Development Partnership Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding between the governments of Montserrat and the UK. 

This MoU would have a list of priority projects with committed funds and a set timeline for their design and implementation.   I also asked the UN Special Committee to appoint a neutral, technical team to monitor closely progress in the negotiations and implementation of said projects.

Lastly I requested that the UN send a visiting team to Montserrat as well as to Antigua and the UK to meet evacuees so as to grasp the context of where Montserrat is now and where we want to go to get out of economic dependence. 

These requests as you can see, are in keeping with what I have argued for over the past 4 years and what the FCO and DfID Ministers are now offering to do with a five-year capital programme in the recent joint letter to me mentioned before.

As I said in my statement to the UN last monthIt is becoming increasingly obvious to many, that, rather than continuing to keep the island for another 23 years or more on an expensive life-support machine, it would cost the UK tax payer much less in the long run, to invest wisely and intensively in Montserrat now.”    

Nationals, non-nationals, residents and friends of Montserrat, there are many ups and downs behind us, and there will be more ahead. That’s life as we know it in an imperfect world. But it seems to me that we can ad0pt to our situation today, and the hope that we have for tomorrow, the words of Joseph to his brothers about the crisis that had erupted in his own life: “God has turned it into good”. (Genesis 50.20) Can it be that the volcano which many expected to wipe Montserrat off the map, is turning out to be a blessing in disguise?

For us to benefit fully from this blessing however, I believe that we need to adopt Joseph’s positive attitude, trusting God whatever happens; to set politicking aside, unite and pull together and seize the many opportunities opening to us all, wherever we may be, God being our helper.

Thank you for listening and may God bless Montserrat.

Click to download Premier’s Statement:

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