Memorandum submitted by the Department
for International Development
ANNUAL REPORT ON SELECT COMMITTEE REPORTS
MONTSERRAT (First and Sixth Reports 1997-98)
ODI Evaluation of HMG's Response to the Montserrat
DFID welcomed this report, which it commissioned
in response to a recommendation by the Committee, and which focussed
on a particular period of the emergency (from July 1995 to November
1998). The evaluators concluded that the response to the crisis
had been a qualified success.
Several of the evaluators' key lessons had already
been taken on board by DFID, including a "Task Force"-style
approach to dealing with emergency situations which was adopted
for more recent crises in Mozambique and Kosovo. HMG departments
are discussing draft terms of reference for an Overseas Territories
"Task Force" comprising officials from relevant Departments
to be assembled whenever a disaster warrants this.
Other lessons addressed included the need for continued
close monitoring of the volcanic activity; steps to familiarise
key Government of Montserrat officials with DFID procedures; and
a wider assessment of the hazards faced by the Caribbean Overseas
Territories and their preparedness levels.
DFID has reservations about some of the other suggested
lessons including the proposed "fast-tracking" of emergency
investments. Experience on Montserrat has shown that difficulties
arose on a number of investments as a direct result of implementing
such a practice. The suggestion of agreed common standards in
the Overseas Territories for the provision of, for example, health
care and education is also considered unrealistic. Appropriate
standards are discussed on a case-by-case basis.
COT Disaster Preparedness
A copy of the study of disaster management capability
in the five COTs is enclosed as requested. FCO hosted a meeting
in the British Virgin Islands in May 2000 of Overseas Territories
National Disaster Co-ordinators. The meeting agreed to create
the Network of Emergency Managers in the Overseas Territories
(NEMOT) which will facilitate disaster management and preparedness
activities and provide mutual support. DFID has agreed to fund
a Disaster Management Adviser to support NEMOT for an initial
period of three years.
Current Volcanic Situation
The scientific and hazards assessment was updated
in April 2000. It concluded that the volcano is now in a second
major phase of dome growth (which started in November 1999) which
could result in an eruption comparable to that of 1995-1998. The
dome continues to grow at a moderate rate and a major collapse
is overdue. However, scientists are optimistic there will be no
threat to the north of the island and that the risk to human life
DFID continue to fund scientific advice to the Montserrrat
Volcano Observatory and have agreed to extend funding until July
2002. Separate funding is to be provided for the building of a
permanent purpose built observatory with indirect sight of the
Numbers of Montserratians who remain off island
The current population of Montserrat is about 4,800.
Thus, some 6,000 Montserratians have relocated since the crisis
began. There has been an increase in the population over the last
12 to 18 months. Some 110 people have returned to date under DFID's
Return Air Fare Scheme since its inception in May and June 1999.
Montserratian evacuees have been granted indefinite
leave to remain in the UK and have full access to benefits including
employment, income support, housing, state education and health
DFID has supported a number of initiatives to assist
Montserratians who relocated to other Caribbean islands. Currently,
it is funding a programme, managed by the Caribbean Conference
of Churches, which provides financial assistance to vulnerable
elderly and disabled evacuees and supports initiatives which aim
to help the wider evacuee community become financially independent
and integrated into local society. DFID is also assisting a Montserratian
NGO in Antigua to provide advice to the community on employment
opportunities and support for training.
DFID's current and planned activities in Montserrat.
DFID continues to work closely with the Government
of Montserrat (GoM) implementing an agreed programme of activities
aimed at promoting sustained economic and social recovery of the
island following the volcanic crisis. The programme concentrates
on health, education, private sector development and housing.
To 1 September 2000, DFID has spent over £115m since July
1995. Provision in the 2000/2001 financial year is £24.1m.
DFID continues to provide budgetary support for GoM's
recurrent expenditure. As part of this budget, £6.2m
was pledged in 2000. This support is expected to continue to reduce
over time as the Montserrat economy recovers. Support for the
provision of housing on the island is also a key activity. Over
£19 million has been provided so far for about 1,000 houses
under various schemes, including accommodation for 100 elderly
people. Agreements for a Mortgage and Housing Assistance project
(also known as the "Soft Mortgage Scheme") have recently
been concluded with the GoM and Bank of Montserrat. GoM are currently
devising a 5 year strategy which will address future housing requirements.
DFID's efforts in the housing sector will be concentrated on the
most vulnerable social groups.
There are more than 80 ongoing projects in DFID's
current portfolio. Health and education activities have a high
priority. Upgrading of the St John's hospital buildings, costing
£1.5m, has been completed. We await GoM's proposals for a
new operating theatre. Arrangements with neighbouring islands
for acute emergencies remain in place. We are also assisting GoM
with reform of its social welfare systems.
In education DFID is funding the rehabilitation of
Salem Campus to allow reoccupation this year by secondary school
pupils. An early childhood centre will be ready early next year.
DFID has agreed to support completion of the University of the
West Indies teleconferencing distance-learning facility to enhance
post-secondary and vocational education provision. GoM is currently
developing a five year National Education Development Plan.
Support for the private sector through the provision
of loans, training and retail space for small businesses is an
important thrust of the development strategy. A recent review
has recommended several new initiatives, including the provision
of expert advice to GoM in devising an overall private sector
development strategy; a new lending programme for micro-enterprises;
and additional funds for the existing loans programme for more
established businesses. We have also signalled our willingness
to finance the construction of further factory space.
Further improvements are being made to the essential
infrastructure of the island, including continued upgrading of
power, fuel and road improvements. DFID funds regular helicopter
and ferry services to Antigua. Work to upgrade the heliport and
improve the Little Bay jetty is also underway.
New facilities for the Police and Fire Services are
being provided. We have also recruited new expatriate officers
for the Commissioner of Police and Force Development and Training
posts to assist with the introduction of community policing and
higher standards of service overall.
Other areas of support include an initiative to protect
and sustainably manage Montserrat's remaining forests and reef
resources. Future plans include building agricultural extension
capacity within the Agriculture Department and the construction
of an abattoir. GoM are developing a longer-term Natural Resources
strategy for discussion.
A joint DFID/FCO team will visit Montserrat in late
October to review with GoM officials progress under the Programme
and to agree future priorities.
Current availability of insurance cover on Montserrat.
United Barbados and NEM West Indies Ltd have resumed
business in Montserrat, together with a company new to the market,
Nagico. Sun Alliance (East Caribbean) Ltd. may also offer some
cover soon. None of the companies provide insurance against volcano
and earthquake damage but they do cover hurricanes. Cover is available
for new and existing properties outside the Exclusion Zone.