HMG handouts and humble acquiescence won’t erase Foreclosures or Rebuild Lives

Those of us who are more conscious of and share the responsibility for existence in Montserrat often get the question, “If your economy is so nearly dead and with all the related problems, why are you people still staying there?” It is a question when put in those terms that is not that easy to answer.

The foregoing is taken from 2001. Today, yesterday and many months, years before now the question arises with the very familiar words, words that when put in context may not tell the real story, “things hard, the economy dead.” But those words really belong to those who do not consider and understand that there are those who have never suffered as badly as others, who have been suffering throughout. (the crisis).

So let’s continue from 2001. We have used the heading just as then. The following is as was printed then in the Editorial, except for the obvious comments.

So aside from the belief — more a hope now — that things will get better and that life here is as safe if not safer than in many other countries, there is no clear plan that one can articulate as to the way forward.

The hard reality is that the only businesses that beneficially exist, although they both depend on the rest of us being here, are the civil service and the construction industry. Every other business and industry, except for a few, is being ground more and more into the ashes and cannot identify with those who promote rising out of the ashes.

When Secretary of State Clare Short said that no one in Montserrat must benefit (get rich) from the crisis aid that she would approve for Montserrat, we could only have been looking at it from the perspectives of her ministry’s undertaking, “which seeks to work with business, civil society and the research community to encourage progress which will help reduce poverty.”

It is why we continue to say that DFID is the wrong agency to have been working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when coming to our aid in this on-going crisis. Montserrat’s case is not just one of “progress and alleviating poverty.”

One huge, killing problem faced by many is that of having to repay a mortgage for a house or property, private or business, in the exclusion zone. The banks are reportedly taking people to court for non-payment of loans made for properties they hold as securities in the exclusion zone. Only if you are living in Montserrat is it a problem; if you now live overseas, don’t come back; or don’t let your bank or Inland Revenue know that you are on island, and you won’t risk being hauled before the court or prevented from leaving.

And who should be taking the lead? How can a civil servant exist, if he had a loan on a house in Plymouth or elsewhere, now submerged in volcanic material, irrecoverable, which he cannot pay off from insurance settlement? Having had to either build again or rent, how can he still pay that outstanding portion for a property he or his children will never see again?

It is the same for anyone else. Why and with what conscience HMG and local government continue to allow civil servants to have their funds deducted from their salaries. So they do not run the risk of going to jail, but they starve just the same or deny themselves some other basic necessities for healthy existence. There’s one reason why the same civil servants have difficulty when they see funds being paid to others, businesses or otherwise without really understanding that it is more often than not for services duly rendered or properly due.

So the banks say if the government is doing it, why shouldn’t we? And then we remember that government has majority shares in Bank of Montserrat Ltd. and to the best of our knowledge has no policy directives or suggestions for the banks or financial institutions, some who struggle to find enough funds help fellow Montserratians survive.

But getting back to the only guaranteed businesses on the island. Most of the construction being done in Montserrat involves capital projects and will include the building of much needed homes. But as Labour Speaks suggests, there are no real development projects. Dr. Lowell Lewis reduced himself to responding to issues outside of his own ministerial portfolio, seemingly the spokesman for his government on all issues, including his own, the controversial airport issue.

To remind the people that there will $20 million in circulation and that that will bring considerable revenue to the island is more than misleading, taking all circumstances on board. A few of those will reveal that in construction the view is taken that there is a 60-40 percent split between labour and materials on a given project.

Simple mathematics shows that $8 million will be spent outside Montserrat, since nearly all material except sand, stones and blocks is imported, and even some of that is imported. That leaves $12 million dollars to be paid to labourers, architects, contractors, etc.

Then we are told that almost 60 percent of the labour force are non-Montserratians who send about 60 percent or $7.2 million out of Montserrat to support their families overseas. That leaves $4.8 million dollars to be circulated in Montserrat between now and June, some of which will be spent shopping regularly in Antigua. Based on estimates, that suggests a further $270,000 over that period. That now leaves $4.53 million dollars, which translates to 22.65 percent of the $20 million, which is further reduced when Montserratians living here must also send sums overseas to support their own families abroad.

Now, of course, some if only a few of the situations described are no longer the same, while some have been exacerbated. But more than a few are representative of the latter.

Continue: Do we really know where we are and what has taken place over the last 15 years. Look out for more on this. Meantime, may we have some comments, your thoughts and ideas.

Meanwhile our leaders boast the desire to bring Montserrat out of grant-in-aid while refusing to seek the necessary support for revenue-bearing developmental projects, non-existent at worst and quite marginal at best, to encourage or support investment in the island.

There is also the complete lack of understanding about money coming into the country in currency or kind, as against money being spent outside of the island. There is a deplorable attitude of those responsible to understand the “spend local and buy local,” so very critical and necessary to support any island economy.

The lame promise to Montserratians in Antigua, “I am not here to tell you to come home, but to tell you that whenever you want to come home, Montserrat is yours and every door will remain open to you,” is hypocritical. What, when the John Osborne government has agreed to exclude relocated and evacuated Montserratians from benefiting from the new housing program of $10 million? People are interested in positive statements of directions and signs of progress.

To date government has managed to bring on the ground projects that were approved during the time of the previous administration. It is sad that they had to spend so much energy doing that while not in the meantime putting some real development strategies in place. Well, why don’t we know about them and why is it so easy to find every excuse? Why shouldn’t we, for example, have more offshore banks being registered in Montserrat? Are we waiting to figure out a way that a few individuals can cream the market before we get moving? That is only one of the several initiatives we can work on that do not require too much infrastructure. 

As long as we sit back and wait on the HMG for their handouts, while we cuddle with them in the blocks to our development, it will not be just the economy, but the population that will become extinct. 

 

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Those of us who are more conscious of and share the responsibility for existence in Montserrat often get the question, “If your economy is so nearly dead and with all the related problems, why are you people still staying there?” It is a question when put in those terms that is not that easy to answer.

The foregoing is taken from 2001. Today, yesterday and many months, years before now the question arises with the very familiar words, words that when put in context may not tell the real story, “things hard, the economy dead.” But those words really belong to those who do not consider and understand that there are those who have never suffered as badly as others, who have been suffering throughout. (the crisis).

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So let’s continue from 2001. We have used the heading just as then. The following is as was printed then in the Editorial, except for the obvious comments.

So aside from the belief — more a hope now — that things will get better and that life here is as safe if not safer than in many other countries, there is no clear plan that one can articulate as to the way forward.

The hard reality is that the only businesses that beneficially exist, although they both depend on the rest of us being here, are the civil service and the construction industry. Every other business and industry, except for a few, is being ground more and more into the ashes and cannot identify with those who promote rising out of the ashes.

When Secretary of State Clare Short said that no one in Montserrat must benefit (get rich) from the crisis aid that she would approve for Montserrat, we could only have been looking at it from the perspectives of her ministry’s undertaking, “which seeks to work with business, civil society and the research community to encourage progress which will help reduce poverty.”

It is why we continue to say that DFID is the wrong agency to have been working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) when coming to our aid in this on-going crisis. Montserrat’s case is not just one of “progress and alleviating poverty.”

One huge, killing problem faced by many is that of having to repay a mortgage for a house or property, private or business, in the exclusion zone. The banks are reportedly taking people to court for non-payment of loans made for properties they hold as securities in the exclusion zone. Only if you are living in Montserrat is it a problem; if you now live overseas, don’t come back; or don’t let your bank or Inland Revenue know that you are on island, and you won’t risk being hauled before the court or prevented from leaving.

And who should be taking the lead? How can a civil servant exist, if he had a loan on a house in Plymouth or elsewhere, now submerged in volcanic material, irrecoverable, which he cannot pay off from insurance settlement? Having had to either build again or rent, how can he still pay that outstanding portion for a property he or his children will never see again?

It is the same for anyone else. Why and with what conscience HMG and local government continue to allow civil servants to have their funds deducted from their salaries. So they do not run the risk of going to jail, but they starve just the same or deny themselves some other basic necessities for healthy existence. There’s one reason why the same civil servants have difficulty when they see funds being paid to others, businesses or otherwise without really understanding that it is more often than not for services duly rendered or properly due.

So the banks say if the government is doing it, why shouldn’t we? And then we remember that government has majority shares in Bank of Montserrat Ltd. and to the best of our knowledge has no policy directives or suggestions for the banks or financial institutions, some who struggle to find enough funds help fellow Montserratians survive.

But getting back to the only guaranteed businesses on the island. Most of the construction being done in Montserrat involves capital projects and will include the building of much needed homes. But as Labour Speaks suggests, there are no real development projects. Dr. Lowell Lewis reduced himself to responding to issues outside of his own ministerial portfolio, seemingly the spokesman for his government on all issues, including his own, the controversial airport issue.

To remind the people that there will $20 million in circulation and that that will bring considerable revenue to the island is more than misleading, taking all circumstances on board. A few of those will reveal that in construction the view is taken that there is a 60-40 percent split between labour and materials on a given project.

Simple mathematics shows that $8 million will be spent outside Montserrat, since nearly all material except sand, stones and blocks is imported, and even some of that is imported. That leaves $12 million dollars to be paid to labourers, architects, contractors, etc.

Then we are told that almost 60 percent of the labour force are non-Montserratians who send about 60 percent or $7.2 million out of Montserrat to support their families overseas. That leaves $4.8 million dollars to be circulated in Montserrat between now and June, some of which will be spent shopping regularly in Antigua. Based on estimates, that suggests a further $270,000 over that period. That now leaves $4.53 million dollars, which translates to 22.65 percent of the $20 million, which is further reduced when Montserratians living here must also send sums overseas to support their own families abroad.

Now, of course, some if only a few of the situations described are no longer the same, while some have been exacerbated. But more than a few are representative of the latter.

Continue: Do we really know where we are and what has taken place over the last 15 years. Look out for more on this. Meantime, may we have some comments, your thoughts and ideas.

Meanwhile our leaders boast the desire to bring Montserrat out of grant-in-aid while refusing to seek the necessary support for revenue-bearing developmental projects, non-existent at worst and quite marginal at best, to encourage or support investment in the island.

There is also the complete lack of understanding about money coming into the country in currency or kind, as against money being spent outside of the island. There is a deplorable attitude of those responsible to understand the “spend local and buy local,” so very critical and necessary to support any island economy.

The lame promise to Montserratians in Antigua, “I am not here to tell you to come home, but to tell you that whenever you want to come home, Montserrat is yours and every door will remain open to you,” is hypocritical. What, when the John Osborne government has agreed to exclude relocated and evacuated Montserratians from benefiting from the new housing program of $10 million? People are interested in positive statements of directions and signs of progress.

To date government has managed to bring on the ground projects that were approved during the time of the previous administration. It is sad that they had to spend so much energy doing that while not in the meantime putting some real development strategies in place. Well, why don’t we know about them and why is it so easy to find every excuse? Why shouldn’t we, for example, have more offshore banks being registered in Montserrat? Are we waiting to figure out a way that a few individuals can cream the market before we get moving? That is only one of the several initiatives we can work on that do not require too much infrastructure. 

As long as we sit back and wait on the HMG for their handouts, while we cuddle with them in the blocks to our development, it will not be just the economy, but the population that will become extinct.