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Premier Meade’s 2014 ‘Budget’ speech

 by Bennette Roach

The Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Reuben T Meade, on Monday evening of March 24, 2014 of his second term as leader of Government and Minister

New Dir of Info an Coms

New Dir of Info an Comsof Finance, delivered his fifth budget, which according to his new  able Director of Information and Communireuben-meadecation, referred to as, “possibly his most significant to date.” under a headline commitment of “Restoring Growth, Expanding Opportunities.”

Jarvis in a report, highlights the Premier’s budget speech and began by pointing out, that “This year is an election year in Montserrat with polls constitutionally due (to be called) by September.”

The report continues:

“This budget statement must therefore be a report of our stewardship over the past four and a half years and also an indication of our policies and programs to support our vision for the next five years,” Mr. Meade told an audience listening mainly by radio and online as he spoke from temporary parliamentary facilities at the Montserrat Cultural Centre at Little Bay, the area being designated as the island’s new town centre.”

We sought to find in the Budget Speech an explanation for another unusual ‘budget’ presentation, as has now become the norm because of the deviation from a firm forecast of monies that were to be spent in specific categories over the next year. This year is the third in succession that the Premier/Minister of Finance delivered what can be termed at best an abstract budget presentation, one which allows for any number of Supplementary Appropriation Bills throughout the year.

In 2012 the Premier began said the budget was about securing a sustainable future for Montserrat. The focus was then on securing binding financial agreements and commitments for engaging in projects and activities that will deliver economic growth.

In 2013 the theme was “Counting our blessings amidst the challenges”. He actually began, “This budget seeks to take us back to the foundations of our faith – that calls us to have hope amidst challenges knowing that God is always with us and his steady hand has never failed. We therefore take this opportunity to reflect on some of the many blessings we probably take for granted.” The budget speech continued pretty much in that vein.

Jarvis did search well to promote some of what he considered the high points of the speech. So he continues: “Montserrat is in a phase of extensive rebuilding after several years of eruptions by the Soufriere Hills volcano which has obliterated the former capital Plymouth.

“The planned new town centre at Little Bay, and a new harbor complex earmarked for the adjacent Carr’s Bay, were key features of Premier Meade’s budget presentation, as those, along with many other key aspects of the budget rely on funding from the British government.

In assessing the challenges facing the island whose population has dropped by about two-thirds, from around 14,000 to just under 5,000, Premier Meade drew on the theme of Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner’s  Economic Review of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union  which said : ‘Every adversity, every failure, and every heart break carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.’

“Montserrat”, Mr. Meade said, “has faced many adversities and much heartbreak during recent decades.

In presenting this budget I am hopeful now more than ever that Montserrat and its people will be the beneficiaries of that ‘seed’.”

Taking into consideration that a few days before we learnt from the DFID local Dr. Kato Kimbugwe, that they had not settled a budget with government, confusion set in as the Directors report reads: “The 2014-2015 budget presented by the Montserrat premier and leader of the ruling Movement for Change and Prosperity (MVCAP) party, totals $EC 160 million.” This he reports, “He (Meade) called it a ‘prudent’ budget.

“The total budget allocation for this fiscal year 2014-15 is $160.8 million. We are being prudent here.”

But then comes the explanation: “We have not included funds for which negotiations are still ongoing.  Once the process is concluded we will then, as in the prior year, return to the Legislative Assembly to have these approved as a supplementary appropriation bill.”

The rest of Jarvis’ report : Mr. Meade was referring to ongoing talks with the British government’s Department for International Development (Dfid) which is largely responsible for the funding of the budget and a number of major infrastructural projects, ongoing and planned, as the island faces the enormous talk of rebuilding.

Outlining his MCAP government’s policy agenda for the next three years, Premier Meade stated that, “the primary goal over the next three years is a continuation of the economic growth and job creation agenda. We recognize that economic growth and jobs underpin a good quality of life for all.”

He also noted that, “between the years 2004 and 2008, the recurrent and capital budgets received were $136.9M and $438.4M respectively. During the MCAP Administration, 2009 to present, both recurrent and capital budgets have increased to $281.2 and $527.4M respectively. This has helped to stabilize economic growth and provide jobs for our people.

“We will continue to negotiate a package of funding to maintain the island and foster economic growth while our key infrastructure is replaced and the private sector can once again become the major contributor to economic activity on Montserrat.”

As a result of this, Mr. Meade explained that the economic development agenda will continue to be led, “for the time being”, by public sector investments in key sectors of the economy supported by private sector investments made by local and foreign capital.

And he stressed that his government “will aggressively implement several key physical and economic infrastructure projects in order to increase economic activity with a view to becoming less reliant on the UK taxpayer by 2020.”

Among major projects in the pipeline are a project to develop geothermal energy and a new power plant, port development, a new town centre, and improving the island’s road network.

A universal healthcare plan and national insurance scheme, housing, the environment, education, a plan to promote fibre optics and agriculture are among other priority areas listed in the budget.

The Montserrat economy is projected to grow at a pace of 1.34% in 2014. Growth in 2013 was slow when compared to 2012 with preliminary data indicating a growth rate of 0.87 per cent. This, however still compares favourably to other member states of the East Caribbean Currency Union whose economies grew an average 0.7 per cent

According to Premier Meade, “the main drivers of this growth (in Montserrat for 2014-2015) will be the implementation of a number of development projects such as the power generation plant, continuation of the work on the development of our geothermal resources, construction of additional government offices, continuation of the A01 road rehabilitation, hospital construction, upgrading of the Montserrat Secondary School campus, continuation of housing construction and rehabilitation, abattoir construction, and further work on the Little Bay and port development.”

He said these and other projects will continue to build a stable platform which will further encourage long term development of the island.

“These economic indicators reveal that our focus is broad based across both social and economic sectors,” Premier Meade declared.

ZJB in a struggle to get comments on the budget before the debate heard from four persons including myself and reported as follows:

Annie-Dyer-Howe-Former Government Minister and prominent business woman Margaret Dyer-Howe believes the budget gave the private sector a sense of hope for the future. Here is what she said.

“Well I think it was hopeful and I particularly liked his statement regarding the private sector. I can only hope that he would call us in at some time so that we would sit with him and look at what he has promised for the private sector and see if there is any opportunities that are presenting themselves for the private sector. But first of all I want the private sector members to come together so that we could develop a strategy and a plan so we could go to him with purposeful ideas and suggestions and be effective as well.”

Gregory Willock

Gregory Willock

Gregory Willock, who is the manager of Office Tech Limited, says although a lot of thought went into the preparation of the budget, it fails to address the immediate benefits to the private sector and the ordinary man on the street. He shared his views thus:

“The budget was well presented by the presenter, well thought out about the strategic way in which it was going to be presented as well and especially in a political year it seems as if it was geared to impress the listeners about the work that has been done and the work that is being planned. But for me I still think that there are some question marks. Immediate injection into the private sector and by that I mean where it is going to be filtered down through the channels to get to the man on the street to improve the standard of living on Montserrat or reduce the cost of living even.

“I see there are some major projects such as the port development and as you know one do not want to listen rumors in regards to whether or not the port development will go in the Carr’s Bay area or will be forced back to the Little Bay area, so when a line of 3.4 million dollars would be quoted for continued work, one would want to find out more in terms of what exactly is the plan to carry on whether it is going to be British funding or even from another source of funding in terms of the overall project in itself.

“Geothermal Energy how soon are we going to have that on stream, how soon are we going to be able to see the benefits or be able to capitalize on that aspect of it. So there are some questions as well; how is it going to affect the private sector immediately and how it gets to the man on the street to reduce the cost of living. I’m hoping that in the debate itself that we get some of these things coming out because I know the average persons on the street would not be paying attention to the overall budget presentation. Some components speak to half salary for the civil servants but is there someone asking or urging the private sector business to do the same so that the overall impact can be held by the entire country.”

Medical Practitioner and owner Good Health Medical Centre Dr. Ingrid Buffonge says overall the budget delivered promise, with a hope of a brighter future in areas such as  the development of Little Bay town centre, geothermal energy and improvements in road works and Government’s  online services.

However, she believes more focus should be placed on Health as relates to staffing, continued education, access to equipment, access to emergency care on island and more progress on the formation of a National Insurance scheme.

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge

Dr. Buffonge spoke on areas of concern in her field.

Like Willock, she believed the budget speech was very well presented by the Hon. Premier as usual he presented himself as a very confident and convincing person, he speaks well and he always with conviction.

“I thought that over all the speech delivered promise, with the hope of a brighter future particularly in certain areas he mentioned such as modernizing the government to the use of certain services to improvements in Little Bay town to improvements in Geothermal energy in terms of the progress they are making there and the recently competed road works which will give us confidence as a nation.

Homing in on health though I thought that there was more that could be hoped for in the area of providing in structure and equipment, in particular for equipment I think presently the process by which we acquire equipments is slow and its unnecessarily complicated, if you need equipment you need it in a hurry you don’t wait two years especially when the money has been there for a whole year.

He mentioned developing high quality and appropriate skilled human resource capacity in health and I think this is important but I think this areas is presently not addressed in the health service, there are presently ongoing shortages in terms of the nursing staff that we have presently, so there needs to be a change in the way in which Dr. can manage in health I think we need at least one or maybe another couple doctor in order to have enough doctors for they to be on a rotor if you going to think about a future where our emergency department of casualty as we presentably call it is manned on a continuous basis by doctors as it would be in a real world.

Still on a human resource issue ongoing training is essential if we’re going to have this high quality staff which would include training inside the country and outside the country on a yearly basis with electives for staff being made available to even establish links with other countries, I think presently some education does go on but it’s usually those free things  that are donated by PAHO and other organization, I think health needs to think of continued education as being something that should be part of the budget.

He mentioned the visiting specialist program and there has been allot of good things happening I think one other area that needs to be improved is our access to emergency care on island in particular to making things like CT scanning and ITU care more readily available that would be a significant improvement.

Premier Meade

Premier Meade

He talked also about the national insurance scheme but he didn’t really give detail as on that, properly because there is no major progress here, he admitted that access to healthcare on Montserrat is unequal because of differences in income and there really is a large group of patients presently who don’t have health insurance and so there vulnerable in emergency situations, I think if we develop a national insurance scheme that would make a big difference and also if we could improve certain services that are available such as the CTC scanning, the access to ITU which cost allot of money when they are need out of the country.”

ZJB News also said they sought the perspectives of newspaper editor of the Montserrat Reporter and analyst Bennette Roach. They conclude, “He says the budget speech does not offer much hope for the people of Montserrat.” Here is what I said, after hearing that people were hesitant to comment.

“The Premier started off by saying this is really about an account of their stewardship, so you can call it a political budget, but one that really doesn’t even spell hope because he didn’t refer to any spending because in the first place, it’s a kind of a mock budget. It’s like a sham budget, it’s like a temporary budget and we’ve been having this now for the last two years. This is not really very good for us because we will see allot of what they call Appropriation Bills coming in the future talking about our spending; he could not give us any real line item.

“I know that the DFID Rep had told us at our last press conference that they have already given an indication of the kind of support they would give to the government, but the government can’t plan on indication. They can only plan on commitment. How much you’re committed for this, and for that, it makes it very difficult. So in a way I don’t know how much of that really that the premier did layout in the budget since I didn’t hear all of it.

“Budget day was a time when people lined the streets listening and waiting to see what was there for them to latch on to so that they can make plans, we are in such dire situations and we cannot look to the budget to decide how we can go forward, what we can expect! That’s what was short. It is going to be very difficult I think to find people who are willing to say anything that they can think about the budget. Perhaps the (they adopt the) style where if I don’t have anything positive to say I just won’t say anything and that I think is the problem.”

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

 by Bennette Roach

The Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Reuben T Meade, on Monday evening of March 24, 2014 of his second term as leader of Government and Minister

New Dir of Info an Coms

New Dir of Info an Comsof Finance, delivered his fifth budget, which according to his new  able Director of Information and Communireuben-meadecation, referred to as, “possibly his most significant to date.” under a headline commitment of “Restoring Growth, Expanding Opportunities.”

Insert Ads Here

Jarvis in a report, highlights the Premier’s budget speech and began by pointing out, that “This year is an election year in Montserrat with polls constitutionally due (to be called) by September.”

The report continues:

“This budget statement must therefore be a report of our stewardship over the past four and a half years and also an indication of our policies and programs to support our vision for the next five years,” Mr. Meade told an audience listening mainly by radio and online as he spoke from temporary parliamentary facilities at the Montserrat Cultural Centre at Little Bay, the area being designated as the island’s new town centre.”

We sought to find in the Budget Speech an explanation for another unusual ‘budget’ presentation, as has now become the norm because of the deviation from a firm forecast of monies that were to be spent in specific categories over the next year. This year is the third in succession that the Premier/Minister of Finance delivered what can be termed at best an abstract budget presentation, one which allows for any number of Supplementary Appropriation Bills throughout the year.

In 2012 the Premier began said the budget was about securing a sustainable future for Montserrat. The focus was then on securing binding financial agreements and commitments for engaging in projects and activities that will deliver economic growth.

In 2013 the theme was “Counting our blessings amidst the challenges”. He actually began, “This budget seeks to take us back to the foundations of our faith – that calls us to have hope amidst challenges knowing that God is always with us and his steady hand has never failed. We therefore take this opportunity to reflect on some of the many blessings we probably take for granted.” The budget speech continued pretty much in that vein.

Jarvis did search well to promote some of what he considered the high points of the speech. So he continues: “Montserrat is in a phase of extensive rebuilding after several years of eruptions by the Soufriere Hills volcano which has obliterated the former capital Plymouth.

“The planned new town centre at Little Bay, and a new harbor complex earmarked for the adjacent Carr’s Bay, were key features of Premier Meade’s budget presentation, as those, along with many other key aspects of the budget rely on funding from the British government.

In assessing the challenges facing the island whose population has dropped by about two-thirds, from around 14,000 to just under 5,000, Premier Meade drew on the theme of Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Sir Dwight Venner’s  Economic Review of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union  which said : ‘Every adversity, every failure, and every heart break carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.’

“Montserrat”, Mr. Meade said, “has faced many adversities and much heartbreak during recent decades.

In presenting this budget I am hopeful now more than ever that Montserrat and its people will be the beneficiaries of that ‘seed’.”

Taking into consideration that a few days before we learnt from the DFID local Dr. Kato Kimbugwe, that they had not settled a budget with government, confusion set in as the Directors report reads: “The 2014-2015 budget presented by the Montserrat premier and leader of the ruling Movement for Change and Prosperity (MVCAP) party, totals $EC 160 million.” This he reports, “He (Meade) called it a ‘prudent’ budget.

“The total budget allocation for this fiscal year 2014-15 is $160.8 million. We are being prudent here.”

But then comes the explanation: “We have not included funds for which negotiations are still ongoing.  Once the process is concluded we will then, as in the prior year, return to the Legislative Assembly to have these approved as a supplementary appropriation bill.”

The rest of Jarvis’ report : Mr. Meade was referring to ongoing talks with the British government’s Department for International Development (Dfid) which is largely responsible for the funding of the budget and a number of major infrastructural projects, ongoing and planned, as the island faces the enormous talk of rebuilding.

Outlining his MCAP government’s policy agenda for the next three years, Premier Meade stated that, “the primary goal over the next three years is a continuation of the economic growth and job creation agenda. We recognize that economic growth and jobs underpin a good quality of life for all.”

He also noted that, “between the years 2004 and 2008, the recurrent and capital budgets received were $136.9M and $438.4M respectively. During the MCAP Administration, 2009 to present, both recurrent and capital budgets have increased to $281.2 and $527.4M respectively. This has helped to stabilize economic growth and provide jobs for our people.

“We will continue to negotiate a package of funding to maintain the island and foster economic growth while our key infrastructure is replaced and the private sector can once again become the major contributor to economic activity on Montserrat.”

As a result of this, Mr. Meade explained that the economic development agenda will continue to be led, “for the time being”, by public sector investments in key sectors of the economy supported by private sector investments made by local and foreign capital.

And he stressed that his government “will aggressively implement several key physical and economic infrastructure projects in order to increase economic activity with a view to becoming less reliant on the UK taxpayer by 2020.”

Among major projects in the pipeline are a project to develop geothermal energy and a new power plant, port development, a new town centre, and improving the island’s road network.

A universal healthcare plan and national insurance scheme, housing, the environment, education, a plan to promote fibre optics and agriculture are among other priority areas listed in the budget.

The Montserrat economy is projected to grow at a pace of 1.34% in 2014. Growth in 2013 was slow when compared to 2012 with preliminary data indicating a growth rate of 0.87 per cent. This, however still compares favourably to other member states of the East Caribbean Currency Union whose economies grew an average 0.7 per cent

According to Premier Meade, “the main drivers of this growth (in Montserrat for 2014-2015) will be the implementation of a number of development projects such as the power generation plant, continuation of the work on the development of our geothermal resources, construction of additional government offices, continuation of the A01 road rehabilitation, hospital construction, upgrading of the Montserrat Secondary School campus, continuation of housing construction and rehabilitation, abattoir construction, and further work on the Little Bay and port development.”

He said these and other projects will continue to build a stable platform which will further encourage long term development of the island.

“These economic indicators reveal that our focus is broad based across both social and economic sectors,” Premier Meade declared.

ZJB in a struggle to get comments on the budget before the debate heard from four persons including myself and reported as follows:

Annie-Dyer-Howe-Former Government Minister and prominent business woman Margaret Dyer-Howe believes the budget gave the private sector a sense of hope for the future. Here is what she said.

“Well I think it was hopeful and I particularly liked his statement regarding the private sector. I can only hope that he would call us in at some time so that we would sit with him and look at what he has promised for the private sector and see if there is any opportunities that are presenting themselves for the private sector. But first of all I want the private sector members to come together so that we could develop a strategy and a plan so we could go to him with purposeful ideas and suggestions and be effective as well.”

Gregory Willock

Gregory Willock

Gregory Willock, who is the manager of Office Tech Limited, says although a lot of thought went into the preparation of the budget, it fails to address the immediate benefits to the private sector and the ordinary man on the street. He shared his views thus:

“The budget was well presented by the presenter, well thought out about the strategic way in which it was going to be presented as well and especially in a political year it seems as if it was geared to impress the listeners about the work that has been done and the work that is being planned. But for me I still think that there are some question marks. Immediate injection into the private sector and by that I mean where it is going to be filtered down through the channels to get to the man on the street to improve the standard of living on Montserrat or reduce the cost of living even.

“I see there are some major projects such as the port development and as you know one do not want to listen rumors in regards to whether or not the port development will go in the Carr’s Bay area or will be forced back to the Little Bay area, so when a line of 3.4 million dollars would be quoted for continued work, one would want to find out more in terms of what exactly is the plan to carry on whether it is going to be British funding or even from another source of funding in terms of the overall project in itself.

“Geothermal Energy how soon are we going to have that on stream, how soon are we going to be able to see the benefits or be able to capitalize on that aspect of it. So there are some questions as well; how is it going to affect the private sector immediately and how it gets to the man on the street to reduce the cost of living. I’m hoping that in the debate itself that we get some of these things coming out because I know the average persons on the street would not be paying attention to the overall budget presentation. Some components speak to half salary for the civil servants but is there someone asking or urging the private sector business to do the same so that the overall impact can be held by the entire country.”

Medical Practitioner and owner Good Health Medical Centre Dr. Ingrid Buffonge says overall the budget delivered promise, with a hope of a brighter future in areas such as  the development of Little Bay town centre, geothermal energy and improvements in road works and Government’s  online services.

However, she believes more focus should be placed on Health as relates to staffing, continued education, access to equipment, access to emergency care on island and more progress on the formation of a National Insurance scheme.

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge

Dr. Ingrid Buffonge

Dr. Buffonge spoke on areas of concern in her field.

Like Willock, she believed the budget speech was very well presented by the Hon. Premier as usual he presented himself as a very confident and convincing person, he speaks well and he always with conviction.

“I thought that over all the speech delivered promise, with the hope of a brighter future particularly in certain areas he mentioned such as modernizing the government to the use of certain services to improvements in Little Bay town to improvements in Geothermal energy in terms of the progress they are making there and the recently competed road works which will give us confidence as a nation.

Homing in on health though I thought that there was more that could be hoped for in the area of providing in structure and equipment, in particular for equipment I think presently the process by which we acquire equipments is slow and its unnecessarily complicated, if you need equipment you need it in a hurry you don’t wait two years especially when the money has been there for a whole year.

He mentioned developing high quality and appropriate skilled human resource capacity in health and I think this is important but I think this areas is presently not addressed in the health service, there are presently ongoing shortages in terms of the nursing staff that we have presently, so there needs to be a change in the way in which Dr. can manage in health I think we need at least one or maybe another couple doctor in order to have enough doctors for they to be on a rotor if you going to think about a future where our emergency department of casualty as we presentably call it is manned on a continuous basis by doctors as it would be in a real world.

Still on a human resource issue ongoing training is essential if we’re going to have this high quality staff which would include training inside the country and outside the country on a yearly basis with electives for staff being made available to even establish links with other countries, I think presently some education does go on but it’s usually those free things  that are donated by PAHO and other organization, I think health needs to think of continued education as being something that should be part of the budget.

He mentioned the visiting specialist program and there has been allot of good things happening I think one other area that needs to be improved is our access to emergency care on island in particular to making things like CT scanning and ITU care more readily available that would be a significant improvement.

Premier Meade

Premier Meade

He talked also about the national insurance scheme but he didn’t really give detail as on that, properly because there is no major progress here, he admitted that access to healthcare on Montserrat is unequal because of differences in income and there really is a large group of patients presently who don’t have health insurance and so there vulnerable in emergency situations, I think if we develop a national insurance scheme that would make a big difference and also if we could improve certain services that are available such as the CTC scanning, the access to ITU which cost allot of money when they are need out of the country.”

ZJB News also said they sought the perspectives of newspaper editor of the Montserrat Reporter and analyst Bennette Roach. They conclude, “He says the budget speech does not offer much hope for the people of Montserrat.” Here is what I said, after hearing that people were hesitant to comment.

“The Premier started off by saying this is really about an account of their stewardship, so you can call it a political budget, but one that really doesn’t even spell hope because he didn’t refer to any spending because in the first place, it’s a kind of a mock budget. It’s like a sham budget, it’s like a temporary budget and we’ve been having this now for the last two years. This is not really very good for us because we will see allot of what they call Appropriation Bills coming in the future talking about our spending; he could not give us any real line item.

“I know that the DFID Rep had told us at our last press conference that they have already given an indication of the kind of support they would give to the government, but the government can’t plan on indication. They can only plan on commitment. How much you’re committed for this, and for that, it makes it very difficult. So in a way I don’t know how much of that really that the premier did layout in the budget since I didn’t hear all of it.

“Budget day was a time when people lined the streets listening and waiting to see what was there for them to latch on to so that they can make plans, we are in such dire situations and we cannot look to the budget to decide how we can go forward, what we can expect! That’s what was short. It is going to be very difficult I think to find people who are willing to say anything that they can think about the budget. Perhaps the (they adopt the) style where if I don’t have anything positive to say I just won’t say anything and that I think is the problem.”