By Nerissa Golden
BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) — The United Kingdom is making good on its commitment to support Montserrat’s redevelopment and move towards financial independence.
In a letter to Premier Reuben Meade, signed by Department for International Development (DfID) Minister of State, Alan Duncan, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Mark Simmonds, the UK government has reaffirmed its commitment to finance future capital projects for the island as long as they were clearly justified and sustainable.
“…We agree to move ahead in implementing other components of the Strategic Growth Plan (SGP) to help Montserrat reduce its financial dependence on the UK,” the letter stated.
The ministers reiterated that all investment decisions must be based on the following: that they “(i) are financially and economically viable, both individually and taken as a whole; (ii) contribute to reducing budget dependency; (iii) account fully for the contingent and reputational risks, and (iv) clarify any institutional changes and other arrangements required to make the SGP a success.”
The UK government said it will proceed with the implementation of other SGP components as follows;
“i. Geothermal – Depending on the results of the exploration phase, we will move ahead with a planning, design and appraisal phase for the installation of the generation capacity, involving the private sector where appropriate.
“ii. Access – We have agreed that an improved ferry service should be provided and have adjusted the budgetary aid settlement proposed for final approval to reflect the increased access subsidy required. We will consider the case for long-term improvements once the economic and financial case has been made.
“iii. Fibre optic cable – GoM should work on the planning, design and appraisal phase. If a viable economic and financial business case that fully explores private sector participation is made it will be considered for funding.
The public works department recently announced that they have reached the desired depth on the first geothermal well and moving to drill the second one. In four weeks, after temperatures have stabilized they will test to estimate the capacity of the well to generate geothermal energy.
Discussions between the access coordinator and ferry operators are continuing to look at plans for a faster ferry for Montserrat. At the same time, efforts are being made to map out a marketing strategy to attract day trippers and other visitors from neighbouring islands.