Montserrat accuses UK of reneging on development policy

Friday, October 20, 2017

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BRADES, Montserrat (CMC) — The Montserrat Government says Britain has changed its policy on development aid to the British overseas territory after a senior British official indicated that London would not now be funding a multimillion-dollar fibre optic project for the island.

Premier Donaldson Romeo, speaking to reporters following the visit here of the United Kingdom's Department For International Development (DFID) Deputy Head of Overseas Territories Department Indranil Chakrabarti, said “that is exactly the question and, in my view, that is what has to be resolved.

“I have been reading through the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) policies and other policies for the past 20 years, since 1997, and they have all consistently spoken to helping overseas territories, especially those like Montserrat, getting out of dependency,” Romeo said, adding that if the policies are followed, “we would not be having this conversation right now”.

Romeo told reporters that the fibre optic project has been on the drawing board for at least seven years and the DFID had been working with the Government here on developing the project.

“The business case shows that the fibre optic cable is a crucial step to help grow our economy, to create business opportunities, to better deal with health and other government services and more. It is also a key resiliency move to protect our communications if there is a hurricane.”

He said the business case argued that DFID should fund at least 97 per cent of the cost, estimated at nearly 5 million (1 = US$1.31 cents), adding that Montserrat has already spent an estimated 100,000 to bring this “project to this stage”.

Romeo said the business case was approved in July 2016 and went through the pre-qualification stage for procurement led by the DFID procurement team in August 2016. He said the pre-qualification responses were evaluated in September last year “and unfortunately there has been no further action since September 2016”.

“Recently they are asking us to find co-financing for the project. However, co-financing was ruled out in the business case which argued there were market barriers.

“Given the market barriers and the modest size and cost of the project, we will be in discussions with DFID …on the best solution,” he said.




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