Members on both sides of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly are calling on the British government for more funding assistance and to speed-up finalising this year’s aid allocation so that the territory’s budget can be presented.
The Montserrat government’s yearly operating budget is funded over 60 per cent by the British government with the UK also financing capital and infrastructure projects.
Montserrat has been in UK budgetary aid since the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano over 25 years ago devastated its economy.
Responding to questions from the Opposition during a meeting of the Assembly to present an interim or supplementary budget while they await UK’s 2021 funding allocation, Premier Easton Taylor-Farrell said he was unable to adequately respond to “the plight of residents” due to lack of funds from the UK.
“As we go through the next several months we are hoping that our cries will be heard and that help will come our way,” he stated.
Montserrat had previously received a COVID-relief grant from the UK and the local government recently extended the support programme.
But Premier Farrell echoed the frustration expressed by the Opposition and members of his administration about the relationship between the territory and the UK, especially regarding financial aid.
“They say we are partners, we are British, we are part of the family,” he stated, while recounting that during a recent annual budget planning meeting with officials of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) he had to challenge them about the nature of that partnership.
“I said to the team that I would recommend that every member who works in FCDO do a crash course in West Indian history. I said it against the backdrop that these are people who work in the FCDO who should know about us.”
He said, “They neither read about us and they don't understand our contribution to the UK. After World War Two, it’s the Windrush generation who went to the UK to rebuild the UK economy.
“In slavery, it is our ancestors who produced the cotton line and the sugar, but these young people in the FCDO don't understand that. They don't care about that. And so they talk about partnership and you really just want to know what that partnership means,” Premier Taylor-Farrell declared.
He complained that the FCDO was micromanaging Montserrat and wondered if the island would not have been better off outside that partnership.
“I'm not against accountability and transparency, but they would say that we have autonomy but at the same time, you're not free, because the way they micromanage you, you wonder whether in fact, if you would be better off out there.”