Categorized | Local

UK Minister tells Montserrat, “Stand on your own two feet”

‘pull up your boot straps’ – no additional budgetary aid – Insults, “do not be like the little bird in the nest”

by Bennette Roach

Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell, UK DFID Secretary of State

Many Montserratians, when they hear the edited full play-back of the more than brief press conference with the Department for International Development (DFID) Secretary of State, Rt. Hon Andrew Mitchell, believe the following words to be insulting to Montserrat. “It would be the wrong approach to be like a new born bird waiting in the nest for the mother bird to bring nourishment.”

Following questions in the press conference the UK Minister repeated the statement which towards the end, appeared to be directed at the writer of this article. He said eventually: “…I think that you are behaving like one of the little birds which I described.”

He did finally respond to the question which I had asked with this answer. “What I’m really saying in answer to your question is look at what you can do, look at what Montserrat can do as part of this partnership, working closely with us and the capital that Britain is able to deploy in support of our joint strategy…”

That was in fact the message he brought to Montserrat as he said in his opening statement, directed to Montserrat after he briefly outlined the principles which HMG is applying to their Overseas territories. “…And so trying to make sure that the Overseas Tterritories are able to stand on their own two feet, are self-sustaining, is an extremely important part of the British government strategy, and we are prepared to spend our hard-earned taxpayers’ money on trying to give that opportunity, that chance, to the Overseas Territories…the speeches that have been delivered by the Foreign Secretary, both in opposition and in government, as well as what I have said, you can see this very different approach which the coalition government is taking…”

On what could hardly be described as a one-day visit, he arrived at 10 p.m. on Wednesday on the ferry, and departed at 1.00 p.m. by air on Thursday, beginning a press conference well after 12.30 p.m. He was accompanied by Susan Wardell, DFID Director for SHMECOT (Security, Humanitarian, Middle East, Caribbean and Overseas Territories), Mr, Mitchell’s Assistant Private Secretary Amanda McLoughlin. Karen McGeough, DFID’s Programme Manager for Montserrat and Dr. Kato Kimbugwe, Private Sector Development Specialist for DFID, the latter sitting in at the press conference, with the Chief Minister and the Governor.

According to Nerissa Golden, Communications Director in the Chief Minister’s office, during the short visit, Mitchell held meetings at Olveston House with Chief Minister of Montserrat, Hon. Reuben Meade, HE Governor Peter Waterworth, Financial Secretary Hon. John Skerritt, Minister of Communications & Works Hon. Charles Kirnon, Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Jermaine Wade, and Permanent Secretary Angela Greenaway. He also visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and took a helicopter tour of the Exclusion Zone to view the devastation caused by the Soufriere Hills Volcano. The tour ended in Little Bay where there was an onsite presentation from members of the project team working on the new town development at Little Bay.

In his twenty-seven minute briefing, he used the words British taxpayer ten times. He said his government was already providing 60% of Montserrat’s recurrent budget and were unwilling to increase the subsidy. He later said that he was quite “moved” by his first hand look at the Exclusion Zone. He added that the scale of the devastation is something that you have to see to really believe.

Seated: Chief Minister Meade, Minister Mitchell and Governor Waterworth

I had challenged the Minister’s ‘same principle’ treatment to Montserrat, and asked whether he would encourage a rethink, considering the special circumstances where Montserrat had no economy on which it can begin to build, compared with the other territories. “…You recall the very vigorous times and difficult times that Montserrat has been through.  And, you talk about an economy, about building an economy, build up the economy. Is it fair for Montserrat to be treated the same way, with the same principles as you are treating the rest of the overseas territories and other British territories?”

His direct response: “Yes, he responded.”  “My answer to that is, it is absolutely fair and absolutely right, because the principle that we are bringing to bear is, how do we assist the overseas territories to stand on their own two feet, how do we make them self-sustaining.  And that principle covers St. Helena and it certainly covers Montserrat.  And the focus on the future is about how you achieve that, notwithstanding the very difficult inheritance.  It’s right to look at how you take forward that principle.  The road map, which we are all…upon which we are all focused should be the right document to take us forward to achieving that.”

There were other questions which sought further assistance in respect of some aspects of Montserrat’s budgetary assistance and development. These related especially to port/s development in light of the lagging tourism industry, and shortfall in the budget estimates especially regarding payment of the public sector.

The Secretary of State had earlier in answer to my questions said: “Well I was reading an editorial in The Montserrat Reporter…  And your question very much reflects the points as made in that editorial.” (That Editorial is presented again this week)

“Clearly, you know, you’ve got to live within your means.  We are already supporting your budget extremely heavily and we are going to go on doing that, but this is a partnership.  There’s your part of the bargain and our part of the bargain.  And that will mean, that just as we in Britain and the British government have had to take some extremely tough decisions, not least in order to be able to maintain our commitment to international development.  So it’s quite right that the Chief Minister and his administration should take tough decisions here…” he said.

I asked about the further development of Geothermal energy which has been suspended and the withdrawal of funds. In a very deliberate and revealing response, he said: “If the Chief Minister and his Ministers are able to drive forward this opportunity in a transparent way, ensuring that it is dealt with according to the best practice, principles of openness and as I say, transparency, then I think that will be a very significant gain for Montserrat and also a very significant example to others of the practices and principles that Montserrat is seeking to live by,” saying prior to that, “I actually met on the way here an investor or a potential investor who said that geothermal was a huge opportunity here.”

The Minister stressed, and referenced to his bird analogy: “The vision that I have set out is one where—which is not available to many other poor countries in the world—is one where Britain because of our obligations and history and support for the overseas territories will be able to assist very greatly in Montserrat.  And, that is why I use the analogy of the little birds, the mother bird.  You know, I think it’s extremely important that the people of Montserrat grasp this opportunity and drive it forward in the…through the principle of partnership and not, you know, in a rather different or unequal relationship.  And that is the way to get towards the self-sustainability which is our goal.  And it’s also why the private sector is so important,” he said.

There were the usual rhetoric of how good the cooperation between Government and DFID; as well as thanks to the Governor, “…for what you have done,” adding that the new governor, “…has some big shoes to fill.”

His last words of the press conference: “…look at what Montserrat can do as part of this partnership, working closely with us and the capital that Britain is able to deploy in support of our joint strategy.  That should be the thrust of your activity rather than trying to see whether any more money can be squeezed from the British taxpayer.”

General reaction to the HMG position expounded by the Minister can be summed up in this well put statement by a very influential and distinguished Montserratian: “…“I feel we are being insulted by the mother country although we are not without fault.”

See www.themontserratreporter.com for a transcript of the full press conference.

He commended Chief Minister Reuben Meade’s willingness to do just that and said his government embraced the vision of the Road Map and its request for the UK to assist in helping the island access development funds from other international donor agencies. “We will do every possible to support this request,” the Rt. Hon. Mitchell told the media.

The official said history has shown that the surest way to economic sustainability was not from receiving continued aid but for a vibrant private sector, which encourages trade and job creation.

The Government of Montserrat’s recurrent budget for 2010/2011 is EC $98,015,100, with UK grant subsidy of EC $52,920,000. An estimated $45,095,100 was to be raised from local tax revenue but the Ministry of Finance has said it still needs to raise about $9,000,000 to close out the financial year by March 31, 2011.

In a release by the GIU following the press conference, it said, “Chief Minister Meade has called for government departments to curb spending and prioritize programmes to utilise the available resources.”

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

‘pull up your boot straps’ – no additional budgetary aid – Insults, “do not be like the little bird in the nest”

by Bennette Roach

Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell, UK DFID Secretary of State

Many Montserratians, when they hear the edited full play-back of the more than brief press conference with the Department for International Development (DFID) Secretary of State, Rt. Hon Andrew Mitchell, believe the following words to be insulting to Montserrat. “It would be the wrong approach to be like a new born bird waiting in the nest for the mother bird to bring nourishment.”

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Following questions in the press conference the UK Minister repeated the statement which towards the end, appeared to be directed at the writer of this article. He said eventually: “…I think that you are behaving like one of the little birds which I described.”

He did finally respond to the question which I had asked with this answer. “What I’m really saying in answer to your question is look at what you can do, look at what Montserrat can do as part of this partnership, working closely with us and the capital that Britain is able to deploy in support of our joint strategy…”

That was in fact the message he brought to Montserrat as he said in his opening statement, directed to Montserrat after he briefly outlined the principles which HMG is applying to their Overseas territories. “…And so trying to make sure that the Overseas Tterritories are able to stand on their own two feet, are self-sustaining, is an extremely important part of the British government strategy, and we are prepared to spend our hard-earned taxpayers’ money on trying to give that opportunity, that chance, to the Overseas Territories…the speeches that have been delivered by the Foreign Secretary, both in opposition and in government, as well as what I have said, you can see this very different approach which the coalition government is taking…”

On what could hardly be described as a one-day visit, he arrived at 10 p.m. on Wednesday on the ferry, and departed at 1.00 p.m. by air on Thursday, beginning a press conference well after 12.30 p.m. He was accompanied by Susan Wardell, DFID Director for SHMECOT (Security, Humanitarian, Middle East, Caribbean and Overseas Territories), Mr, Mitchell’s Assistant Private Secretary Amanda McLoughlin. Karen McGeough, DFID’s Programme Manager for Montserrat and Dr. Kato Kimbugwe, Private Sector Development Specialist for DFID, the latter sitting in at the press conference, with the Chief Minister and the Governor.

According to Nerissa Golden, Communications Director in the Chief Minister’s office, during the short visit, Mitchell held meetings at Olveston House with Chief Minister of Montserrat, Hon. Reuben Meade, HE Governor Peter Waterworth, Financial Secretary Hon. John Skerritt, Minister of Communications & Works Hon. Charles Kirnon, Parliamentary Secretary Hon. Jermaine Wade, and Permanent Secretary Angela Greenaway. He also visited the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and took a helicopter tour of the Exclusion Zone to view the devastation caused by the Soufriere Hills Volcano. The tour ended in Little Bay where there was an onsite presentation from members of the project team working on the new town development at Little Bay.

In his twenty-seven minute briefing, he used the words British taxpayer ten times. He said his government was already providing 60% of Montserrat’s recurrent budget and were unwilling to increase the subsidy. He later said that he was quite “moved” by his first hand look at the Exclusion Zone. He added that the scale of the devastation is something that you have to see to really believe.

Seated: Chief Minister Meade, Minister Mitchell and Governor Waterworth

I had challenged the Minister’s ‘same principle’ treatment to Montserrat, and asked whether he would encourage a rethink, considering the special circumstances where Montserrat had no economy on which it can begin to build, compared with the other territories. “…You recall the very vigorous times and difficult times that Montserrat has been through.  And, you talk about an economy, about building an economy, build up the economy. Is it fair for Montserrat to be treated the same way, with the same principles as you are treating the rest of the overseas territories and other British territories?”

His direct response: “Yes, he responded.”  “My answer to that is, it is absolutely fair and absolutely right, because the principle that we are bringing to bear is, how do we assist the overseas territories to stand on their own two feet, how do we make them self-sustaining.  And that principle covers St. Helena and it certainly covers Montserrat.  And the focus on the future is about how you achieve that, notwithstanding the very difficult inheritance.  It’s right to look at how you take forward that principle.  The road map, which we are all…upon which we are all focused should be the right document to take us forward to achieving that.”

There were other questions which sought further assistance in respect of some aspects of Montserrat’s budgetary assistance and development. These related especially to port/s development in light of the lagging tourism industry, and shortfall in the budget estimates especially regarding payment of the public sector.

The Secretary of State had earlier in answer to my questions said: “Well I was reading an editorial in The Montserrat Reporter…  And your question very much reflects the points as made in that editorial.” (That Editorial is presented again this week)

“Clearly, you know, you’ve got to live within your means.  We are already supporting your budget extremely heavily and we are going to go on doing that, but this is a partnership.  There’s your part of the bargain and our part of the bargain.  And that will mean, that just as we in Britain and the British government have had to take some extremely tough decisions, not least in order to be able to maintain our commitment to international development.  So it’s quite right that the Chief Minister and his administration should take tough decisions here…” he said.

I asked about the further development of Geothermal energy which has been suspended and the withdrawal of funds. In a very deliberate and revealing response, he said: “If the Chief Minister and his Ministers are able to drive forward this opportunity in a transparent way, ensuring that it is dealt with according to the best practice, principles of openness and as I say, transparency, then I think that will be a very significant gain for Montserrat and also a very significant example to others of the practices and principles that Montserrat is seeking to live by,” saying prior to that, “I actually met on the way here an investor or a potential investor who said that geothermal was a huge opportunity here.”

The Minister stressed, and referenced to his bird analogy: “The vision that I have set out is one where—which is not available to many other poor countries in the world—is one where Britain because of our obligations and history and support for the overseas territories will be able to assist very greatly in Montserrat.  And, that is why I use the analogy of the little birds, the mother bird.  You know, I think it’s extremely important that the people of Montserrat grasp this opportunity and drive it forward in the…through the principle of partnership and not, you know, in a rather different or unequal relationship.  And that is the way to get towards the self-sustainability which is our goal.  And it’s also why the private sector is so important,” he said.

There were the usual rhetoric of how good the cooperation between Government and DFID; as well as thanks to the Governor, “…for what you have done,” adding that the new governor, “…has some big shoes to fill.”

His last words of the press conference: “…look at what Montserrat can do as part of this partnership, working closely with us and the capital that Britain is able to deploy in support of our joint strategy.  That should be the thrust of your activity rather than trying to see whether any more money can be squeezed from the British taxpayer.”

General reaction to the HMG position expounded by the Minister can be summed up in this well put statement by a very influential and distinguished Montserratian: “…“I feel we are being insulted by the mother country although we are not without fault.”

See www.themontserratreporter.com for a transcript of the full press conference.

He commended Chief Minister Reuben Meade’s willingness to do just that and said his government embraced the vision of the Road Map and its request for the UK to assist in helping the island access development funds from other international donor agencies. “We will do every possible to support this request,” the Rt. Hon. Mitchell told the media.

The official said history has shown that the surest way to economic sustainability was not from receiving continued aid but for a vibrant private sector, which encourages trade and job creation.

The Government of Montserrat’s recurrent budget for 2010/2011 is EC $98,015,100, with UK grant subsidy of EC $52,920,000. An estimated $45,095,100 was to be raised from local tax revenue but the Ministry of Finance has said it still needs to raise about $9,000,000 to close out the financial year by March 31, 2011.

In a release by the GIU following the press conference, it said, “Chief Minister Meade has called for government departments to curb spending and prioritize programmes to utilise the available resources.”