Government Information Service

Press Summary, Radio Address To The Nation 8PM
Thursday, December 14, 1995

Government Information Service Tel: (809) 491-/4851/7164
Chief Minister's Office Fax: (809) 491-7227
P.O.Box 292
Plymouth, Montserrat
West Indies December 14, 1995

Our Ref:
Your Ref: Montserrat's Chief Minister,
Minister Of Finance & Economic Development
The Honourable Reuben T Meade
Press Summary
Radio Address To The Nation 8PM
Thursday, December 14, 1995

Good evening my Brothers and Sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, well wishers and sympathizers with Montserrat.

Christmas Away From Home

It is important for us to recognize that we will still be able to have quite a bit of the activities and festivities during Christmas, in spite of the relocation. Most of us are in a different part of the island, a part which is now home for most Montserratians. Let's try to make our temporary homes feel like home. The Plymouth lights which we had last year, sponsored in part by MONLEC and the business community, are going to be re-established in the relocated parts of Montserrat, or what we might say is the current city of Montserrat stretching from Cork Hill all the way north to St. John's. Those lights will be installed in Cork Hill, Salem, Cudjoe Head and St. John's to ensure that people all the way across Montserrat will be in a position to benefit from those lights and benefit from the down-scaled, but previously planned activities.


Of course we must remember the children. Although things are pretty tight, it's the time for giving and we expect to have Santa Claus touring around and offering just a few trinkets. It may not be anything substantial, but at least any little thing is better than nothing under the circumstances. And this would be done for all the children of Montserrat. One of the things I'm asking all of the people in Montserrat who are not currently relocated and indeed some of the church communities, is that we must remember the people in the shelters. We must remember those people who have been relocated. They are still looking forward for Christmas and I guess some could enjoy this at the home of a friend, a fellow Montserratian, or other resident.

Emergency Response

I wish to compliment members of the business community, private individuals, as well those who have offered assistance, especially to the Margetson Memorial, but also to the other facilities in which there are geriatrics. In these special shelters our senior citizens could continue to be provided with some goodies so that they can enjoy Christmas in their new homes.

Shelter Management

There are quite a number of shelters that are managed in a manner which I have to say is excellent. Individuals from the relocated communities have truly taken charge of their shelters. They have done community cooking, dealing with the children, staged impromptu concerts in the shelters, among other things. All of these are things which will make life good for all those individuals in the shelters. I wish to commend all of those individuals who have been so helpful and so useful in those particular shelters. What I am hoping is that all other individuals will co-operate. It's a time for co-operation. It's a time of unity. It's a time of oneness here we would expect that all of the people in all of the shelters also co-operate with their shelter managers.

Additional Shelters

We have already sourced some buildings from the United States. We're hoping that those buildings will be on island, or will be shipped by mid-January. They are steel-frame buildings with aluminum sidings. They will provide accommodation which will serve to reduce the level of congestion in the shelters. In the event we need to use those facilities after January, we will have more acceptable facilities in the north of Montserrat. We are still awaiting final word from the British government for their funding of those buildings. But I wish to say one thing and I think Montserratians will recognize that it is full time that we stop the back and forth on those buildings and if indeed the British government is not willing to accept paying for the buildings, we as Montserratians, we re proud people and we will indeed go ahead and buy those buildings with or without the help of the British government. I know that there would be some reaction coming from that but as Chief Minister of this country I think it is necessary that we accept things which will not give us sub-standard accommodation because of the crisis.


Yesterday we had a meeting with the commercial bankers on Montserrat. We are looking at providing some assistance to relocated individuals who have mortgages and are still paying rent or have additional expenses because of the relocation. All of the bank managers have agreed, and indeed, Royal Bank had a director from headquarters who was here, and they have all agreed that they are willing to put in place, some mechanism to assist individuals who cannot meet their mortgage payments because of the relocation exercise. However, it is very important that each individual who has a difficulty with meeting mortgage payments as a result of the relocation, simply make an appointment with their respective bank managers, discuss the issue and work out with them, an arrangement which you can live with during the relocation period. I hope members of the public can take advantage of this offer from the commercial banks as brokered by the Government of Montserrat.


As government endeavours to assist the situation, especially where people have become unemployed because of the relocation, our food and other relief supply systems remain in place. The food sharing policy itself is intended to be all inclusive. This means is that all of the individuals who have been relocated and have a need would be given assistance with food by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). One needs to recognize, of course, that there will be some needs assessment because clearly, everybody will not wish to join the queues although they are relocated. But our policy is that once individuals, civil servants and otherwise, have been relocated, they are all included in that policy so that all relocated individuals will be provided with that assistance. We're also sourcing some additional relief assistance. We have been speaking with the Methodist Church and they have contacted their colleagues overseas and we're expecting to have some additional assistance coming in from that source as well.

The Environment

Some concern has been expressed about the erection of a temporary dump site at a portion of the Little Bay estate. One needs to recognize that now with dengue fever also as a top priority item, we need to ensure that our garbage disposal continues to be at an acceptable level. The policy for establishing the dump at Little Bay, both for sewage and for solid waste, is one where Major Joseph Lynch, the Principal Environment Officer, we think, will do an excellent job. Major Lynch and his crew are tasked with ensuring proper management of that dump site. Remember that the White's land fill is out of bounds because of the high level of alert on that side of the island. We cannot afford for the truckers to be going over there. We are, therefore, asking that all individuals who are using the dump site at the section of Little Bay, follow the management requirements for that dump site. One of the things which you must recognize, is that a properly managed dump site will not pose any significant environmental problems. We do not expect for mis-management to take place where some of that dump will end up in the sea. Major Lynch has given the assurance and we trust his expertise so that we have followed his advice and we are fully assured and satisfied that if the public cooperates, we will be able to have a properly managed dump site just for the emergency situation.

Business Response

The business community has gone to great lengths and great pains to re-establish their businesses in the new city of Montserrat, that is, from Cork Hill going all the way to St. John's. I wish to compliment the business community for their reaction this time around. Because of that commitment we have to maintain service as near normal as possible. People are still in a position to buy their Christmas goodies and groceries. Additionally, because you have most of the major distributors on this side of the border, the price control mechanism is better placed and better monitored. So again, compliments to the business community for coming together and ensuring that life in Montserrat continues.

Industrial Estate

A special word of praise must go out to those ladies and gentlemen who work on the industrial site in Plymouth. The W&W workers, and there are quite a number of them who are still in there and the workers in the rice mill have been doing a good job. But over and above that, all of my brothers and friends at the Port, the stevedores, the longshoremen, the Port Authority workers, Customs and Immigration are doing a tremendous job to ensure that all of us on this side of the island can indeed benefit from their service which is taking place within Plymouth. Some other the other key agencies are Public Works, the nurses, the EOC, the Media Centre and Water Authority. The Defence Force, and the Police are especially outstanding because they are monitoring and ensuring that things do continue at a secure level within the evacuated zones. The teachers have also been remarkable because they have all come out and offered their assistance. The other civil servants as well have come out and have relocated themselves from one office to another office and are offering general assistance where necessary. Of course, we still need to tighten up. We still need to be a little more business-like in some of our dealings just to create that additional bit of efficiency.


Our taxi drivers and bus operators are getting themselves organized . I think that by now a bus service operating from Richmond Hill going all the way to St. John's and back, which stops at all of the points in between, has been organized. The rates that were in place prior to the relocation are the rates which will be used and we should be in a position to ensure that people can get around much more readily. There are quite a number of friends who come and visit us from time to time and one would recognize that even now, we're having quite a number of those friends who are back here in Montserrat: our own Montserratians who have come in spite of the situation, in spite of what they ve heard. And our other friends who were not born in Montserrat but have sought to use Montserrat either as a place for visit and relaxation or for spending part of their time here where they have adopted. I wish to welcome you all back to Montserrat, the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. We will all together keep trucking and keep moving this country forward.

Industrial Relations

Yesterday, we had an unfortunate incident where we lost power across the island. We still have to commend the MONLEC workers for the efficient service which they have been providing. There was a misunderstanding yesterday and that lead to a break-down in the operations. We, however, have full assurance from the workers and from the union representatives that there will be no recurrence of yesterday's situation throughout the entire crisis period. We are satisfied that we will indeed continue to have power so long as MONLEC can provide that power.

Water Supply

The Government of Montserrat has just completed negotiations for the development of additional water sources within the safe zone and this will provide sufficient water even under drought conditions. With prior planning, we had installed sufficiently large water tanks within this area. Within Salem, just in the Hope area, there is 500,000 gallons of storage. Even at this time, we are in a position to keep those tanks full so that the people in Montserrat can indeed continue to have water on a regular basis. To the Water Authority people, do keep up the good work.

Water Bottling

The water development project will also provide us with sufficient of a surplus that we will still be in a position to develop a water bottling project here in Montserrat and even under drought conditions, still have ample water to supply the needs of Montserrat even with the hotel expansion taking place in Montserrat.


We're looking also at the long-term geriatric facilities and here I want to say thanks very much to Cable & Wireless who have already agreed to assist in alleviating the housing shortage. Cable and Wireless have given the commitment and the assurance that they will sponsor one or two units in the zone north of Plymouth or what I'm now facetiously calling, the new capital. Cable & Wireless workers will also be providing labour to ensure that the building is erected.

Port Facilities

The Government of Montserrat is looking at alternative Port facilities. We have declared Old Road Bay as an alternate Port of entry during the current crisis. That initial quick-fix solution at Little Bay gives an indication of what happens to quick-fix solutions. We need locally to decide on a longer-term facility which is more stable and more forward looking beyond this immediate and current situation. Such a facility, of course, would then become available to our fishermen and yachts so that we can also have that facility not only being used for commercial purposes. We'd also be in a position to better facilitate the cruise ships coming in at an alternative location to Port Plymouth. This would represent part of our long-term plan.

Plans For The MVO

In terms of the volcanic situation, we're already committed to establishing a Montserrat Volcanic Observatory (MVO) which will be staffed in part by Montserratians and quite a number of those Montserratians are currently under training at the temporary Montserrat Volcano Observatory. Again, I pause to say a very big thank you to all of the local volunteers who are working at the MVO, under the leadership of Dr. William Ambeh and this includes the rest of the team of scientists who have come in and have been with us for some time and all of the ones who have come over the period. They have done an excellent job. They are working very very long hours and they are putting themselves at risk to ensure that the monitoring facilities are in place. Our local fellows make me extremely proud because wherever the scientists are willing to risk their lives going, our locals are also willing to go along with them and provide their assistance. Our local guys have picked up the expertise very quickly. To the Killer-One team, thank you very much. Keep up the good work. You're not doing it for money. You're doing it for the love of this country.


Decentralization of quite a number of the critical activities in Montserrat have already been addressed through the Physical Planning Unit. We've already agreed with the European Investment Bank, MONLEC and the Caribbean Development Bank on a new location for the power plant in a more protected area on island. We're expecting that the EIB will be taking this project to their Board in February and I m hoping that we will be in a position to negotiate the terms of that loan either late January or early February. The stand-by facility at MONLEC that will also be in place within the next 4 to 6 weeks will provide us with a more reliable power supply under emergency situations as well.

Economic Revitalization/Tourism

We continue to hold discussions with our partners on the longer-term economic revitalization issues and plans. We will be having discussions with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank economic team, the Caribbean Development Bank's team, local economists, and members of the local community, in terms of strategies and approaches for dealing with a longer-term planning issue under the current volcanic situation. Clearly we need to modify our approach to planning. In spite of all of this, we re still encouraging visitors to come to the island. There are quite a number of them assured by the fact that we are still here and as long as we are here, they are willing to come and be with us. That's the kind of visitor which we are having to Montserrat, including of course, our cruise ship passengers. But what is very important and I think we are seeing it coming through the community, is to be positive in everything that we do. If we say that we can do it, we put it our minds and focus on the fact that we can do it, we will do it. Things which we can't change, of course, clearly we leave those but we'll seek to get around any obstacle to ensure that we can develop this country, create employment for our people and indeed, in spite of the volcanic situation, we will not give up hope, we will continue pushing, probing, negotiating with various agencies, negotiating with private-sector investors as well. The amazing thing is that there are discussions which we are having on a hotel project and even during the relocation those individuals were still willing to come in and have discussions with us with a view to having that project established in Montserrat. If we are positive, and indeed, your government is positive, we will have positive results. So let us remember our long-term is assured with God being our helper.

Finance And Budget

1996 will be a challenging year for all of us in Montserrat. We were doing fairly well in 1995 prior to the commencement of volcanic activity or escalation in volcanic activity. I am confident that we will be in a position to get through 1996. The whole aspect of GRANT-IN-AID is one which, as Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, I believe for this country is a retrogressive step and I will not agree for us to go back into grant-in-aid. However, there are a range of options which I think that we should be in a position to negotiate and discuss with the British government.


Although I know that quite a number of people tend to look at the IMF as a bad institution, there is a stand-by arrangement facility, where the IMF provides financing under certain conditions and under certain guidelines. This is one option to getting involved in budgetary aid. We have already written to the British government indicating that this is something we would wish to discuss with them and in those discussions, we would expect to have our Caribbean financial partners, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Eastern Caribbean Central bank as our principal advisors, and the OECS/Economic Affairs Secretariat, working along with us and the British government to look at those options. Some of the old tried and tested approaches, we've got to do away with. We have to be innovative. We have to look at new approaches and new mechanisms for development financing and development aid and as long as the British government is willing to work along with us, we will assist them in getting involved in a process that is developmental and they in turn, will be assisting us. As long as we are willing to compromise, as long as we are willing to be innovative, we will be able to get out of the constraints of budgetary or grant-in-aid and I'm very confident and very positive that we will be in a position to work things out on that.


Quite a lot has been said about the proposed new W.H. Bramble Airport. We've had wide-ranging discussions with all of the financing agencies. The Caribbean Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the British government, the European Union were all involved in discussions here in Montserrat at the conclusion of the European Union meeting, which was indeed a very successful meeting in Montserrat. We have been put in a situation where we would have preferred what we call Option B, which is an option for the airport with extension capabilities. That would have cost approximately seventy-eight million dollars (M$78), but all of the funding agencies have indicated that they are unwilling to finance that project. However, they are willing to finance the alternative, Option A, which has been recommended by the consultants and over which we have had long arguments and discussions. With a differential of thirteen million dollars, none of the agencies are willing, even if we can find it out of our own resources, to commit their funds if we are not accepting Option A. What this simply means is that if were to accept Option A, that project in terms of the airport realignment will be able to accept direct flights from Puerto Rico using the American Eagle. They would also be able to use the 727 Amerijet planes even without a full payload but at least that plane would be able to land here as well. Carib Express, with their planes, those would be able to land here. Even if we are not able to take a full payload, we will be able to operate larger crafts coming in to Montserrat at night and we can operate for those coming as far as San Juan, Puerto Rico so at least we can reduce the number of stops that our people will need to make on the way to Montserrat. It also increases the safety factor of coming into Montserrat. Very importantly as well, with the 65 million dollars (M$65) for Option A, virtually all of the funds, almost 100% of those funds would be grant funds and we would not need to pay back a loan. I think it is very difficult for us to say, no we're not accepting that and then ask the tax payers to find the money to spend 78 million dollars on an airport project. So that is something that will be put before the house, the Legislative Council and indeed it is one which I m confident will be supported so that we can advise the various agencies, that in spite of what we would have preferred, that we are willing to accept their grant funds for the Option A.


I wish our National under-15 cricket team all the best for the upcoming Leeward Island's tournament starting in St. Kitts this weekend (December 15th). Over and above winning, the exposure for our young cricketers, in whom we have invested a lot, will do them a tremendous amount of good, so to them, all the best. To Mr. Lindo and his female cricket softball team, as well, thank you very much. To the Sports Department personnel who have been using the time to create activities within the centres and for the youngsters, that is also very important.


I have clearly not touched upon issues such as Education, Health, Agriculture and some other areas. It is important that the Ministers with responsibilities for those areas who would have more details, report to the nation on those specific areas of their responsibility.

Thank You

Again, to all of the volunteers, all of the civil servants, the Media Centre, the folks at Radio Montserrat- I can't even call all of them. So I'll just gather everybody under one. To all of those people who have continued working here in Montserrat, thank you very much.

Government Information Service