THE LONG TERM DEVELOPMENT OF MONTSERRAT
93. The United Kingdom Government has stated
that it is "committed to maintain a viable community in the
north of the island as long as it is safe for people to live there".
To this end, and to allow for the rational planning of development
aid, the Government of Montserrat and HMG are at present engaged
in the consideration of a Sustainable Development Plan. Mr Ireton
said that "The Plan will be drawn up and owned by the Government
of Montserrat, but done in consultation with ourselves because...we
will be the major financier of this and we are providing additional
help to the Government through the aid budget office to do it".
We are not in a position to comment on the viability of the
island nor the possibilities for sustainable development. Any
Plan must, however, take account of the continuing dangers posed
by the activity of the volcano. The north of Montserrat is not
perfectly safe, merely significantly safer than elsewhere on the
island. At present all planning and commitment of funds must
take account of the possibility that the north itself might have
to be evacuated.
94. We are not sure what the Government means
when it says that it is committed to maintain a viable community
in the north. Does this mean HMG is committed to establshing
a community in Montserrat which can function independently without
significant and continuing subsidy from the United Kingdom? Or
does it mean that the United Kingdom will subsidise and support
such a community without any limits on either amount or duration?
Baroness Symons insisted that there "are no blank cheques.
There is not limitless funding available".
That is self-evident. The Sustainable Development Plan will
need to take a realistic look at the prospects for the economy
of the north. The Plan should propose development which can maintain
a community on the island appropriate to current circumstances,
in other words development which is genuinely sustainable. We
have particular concerns at the prospects for employment and food
production in the north.
95. We are not arguing that any Plan should minimise
the financial contribution of HMG. But some judgements will have
to be made as to a sustainable population in the north of Montserrat.
HMG says that it will pay the fares of any Montserratian who
wishes to return. There must, however, be practical constraints
which limit the number who can now live there. The Plan should
thus be designed for such a sustainable level of population.
It will also have to take account of the fact that we look forward
in the longer term to a return to those parts of Montserrat at
96. We also see merit in an attempt to consult
Montserratians on the content of the Sustainable Development Plan,
not only Montserratians on the island but also those elsewhere.
Our visit to the Caribbean revealed significant differences of
opinion amongst Montseratians on the best way forward for the
island, not surprisingly there being in general a difference of
view between those in Montserrat and those in Antigua.
97. In any event it is probable that HMG will
be providing considerable sums to Montserrat for a number of years.
This is as it should be. But should these funds come from the
DFID budget? The traditional argument for DFID funding of a Dependent
Territory is the principle, reiterated in the recent White Paper,
that the "reasonable assistance needs of the Dependent Territories
are a first call on the development programme".
This does not sit very easily with the White Paper's general
objective of eliminating extreme poverty. We have the sense that
it is DFID's responsibility simply because no one has thought
of anywhere better to place it. When the ODA was part of the
Foreign Office it was perhaps to be expected that it would pick
up the rare spending obligations that fell to the FCO. The point
of creating DFID, a separate department of state, was precisely
to give international development its own clear policy direction.
98. Not only does this funding responsibility
sit uneasily within DFID, Baroness Symons sympathised with the
view that one of the guiding principles in the administration
of the Dependent Territories "ought to be that those who
have to take the decisions also have the money with which to implement
She described the problem as a "separation of responsibility",
giving an example of the FCO being responsible for Montserrat
civil servants but DFID deciding on their pay increases.
99. We should also note that a continuing commitment
of significant sums from the DFID bilateral budget to Montserrat
will seriously affect the Department's ability to meet its other
bilateral commitments. We have already pointed out that this
year Montserrat will be the second largest recipient of United
100. For all these reasons we recommend that
funds for the development of Montserrat should come from a United
Kingdom government department other than DFID. This particular
recommendation is in no sense a reflection on the quality of DFID's
work. It is simply a recognition that responsibility and resources
should go together, and that the bilateral budget should be safeguarded
for its primary purpose.
101. We recommend that the source of future
funding be considered within the current review of the administration
of the Dependent Territories. Funds might come from the Foreign
Office or from another specified department with dependent territory
responsibilities. The important point is that responsibility
and resources for the Dependent Territories should be in the same
department. We do not believe that the reasonable assistance
needs of the Dependent Territories should be a first call on the
development programme. Our responsibilities to Dependent Territory
citizens are of a greater and different order to our more general
humanitarian responsibilities to the developing world and involve
different priorities. That should be recognised in the structure
of administration and funding.
Evidence p. 10.. Back
'Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century':
White Paper on International Development p. 40. Back