Antigua and Barbuda - Speech of HoD at the opening of the Emergency Ferry Docking Facility (31/10/2011)
Remarks delivered by the Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Valeriano Diaz, at the opening ceremony of the Antigua and Barbuda Emergency Ferry Docking Facility on 31 October 2011
Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda Her Excellency Lady Louise Lake-Tack,
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Honourable Baldwin Spencer,
Premier of Montserrat Honourable Reuben Meade,
Minister of Works and Transport Honourable Trevor Walker,
Director General of CARIFORUM Mr. Ivan Ogando,
National Authorising Officer, Dr. Clarence Henry
Ambassador of France, Michel Prom,
Ambassador of Germany, Stefan Schlüter
Ambassador of Spain, Celsa Nuño
Ambassador of Finland, Mikko Pyhälä
Ambassador of Belgium, Frederic Meurice
Staff of Line Ministries and the NAO's Office
Members of the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen
First let me congratulate the Honorable Rueben Meade on becoming the first Premier of Montserrat following the adoption of a new constitution. I recall when we both were last here in February this year for the ground breaking ceremony he was Chief Minister. Congratulations once again.
Today, I wish to address three main points:
1. The revival and happy end of the Docking Facility project;
2. The transportation links within the region and
3. The EU cooperation with Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat
The revival and happy end of the Docking Facility project
The opening of this ferry docking facility is an occasion for great celebration especially when it seemed, for a time, as though the project would not have materialized. Indeed after some mishaps on both sides - the EU and CARIFORUM since this is a regional project – many persons, at different stages, felt that the funding which was originally allocated had been lost.
However, with significant efforts of the NAO, CARIFORUM, the EU delegation and some clever procedural engineering at headquarters, we somehow managed to salvage things and as a result an agreement was reached on a scaled down project. We obviously hope that the Soufriere Volcano in Montserrat would not erupt again as it did in 1995 but in the event that it does; the worse would be prevented as a result of the new docking facility.
Transportation links within the region
On top of its evacuation purpose, we hope that both Antigua and Barbuda and
Montserrat will be able to maximize the use of this facility. I understand that the
Antigua-Montserrat ferry service has already been re-introduced and is up and
running. This is good, as the ferry service provides an additional means of
transport for the movement of people and goods. Another avenue that could be
further exploited in the case of Montserrat is that of eco-tourism, as the
Soufriere Volcano has created a level of curiosity that, if well marketed, could
lead to a niche market.
Whilst on the topic of an inter-island ferry service, it was pleasing to learn that towards the end of last month, the cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago had approved the stablishment of an inter-island ferry service between that country and the Eastern Caribbean. This is an initiative which is long overdue, especially given high travel costs throughout the region. And in these tough economic times any effort to provide alternative travel which is affordable even to remote places will be more than welcomed by the Caribbean.
Also we have recognized that on the first of August there was the commencement of full movement of OECS citizens on presentation of either a driver's license or an identification card. Such a marriage of free movement of people and inter-island ferrying leads one to consider also increased shipping between the islands. Let me remind you that the EU has provided EC $764,000 towards an OECS shipping study which contains recommendations relating to the structure, characteristics, routes and appropriate costing of an OECS
shipping line. We understand that the OECS secretariat has been exploring the possibility of approaching the EU-ACP's Centre for the Development of Enterprise for funding for a transport plan so as to present a proposal to leaders.
EU cooperation with A&B and Montserrat
Let me briefly take the opportunity of the presence of so many European ambassadors to reinforce that the EU continues to deliver in Antigua and Barbuda as well as in Montserrat in other domains. At present in Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund, the EU has provided EC$11.46 million towards the strengthening of the country's public finance management and revenue administration. Given the impact of the world financial crisis on the country, this programme is important in improving the overall governance of the public sector through the strengthening of the country's public finance management systems.
In addition, the European Commission is now considering a top up of its 10th European Development Fund allocation, some of which will go towards the previously mentioned public finance management programme and will also focus on the implementation of good governance in the tax area. Some of this additional funding will likely be made available for the installation of the Automated Systems for Custom data, a computerized customs management system which covers most foreign trade procedures.
The EU has also provided technical assistance to the Financial Services Regulatory Commission to strengthen the supervisory and regulatory framework of the insurance sector.
Last year the European Union disbursed to the Government EC$31.5 million under its special vulnerability assistance scheme which was set up to help eligible African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries deal with the affects of the global financial crisis. This contribution allowed the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to fill a financing gap and maintain critical social expenditure in such areas as public health services and teacher training programmes.
With regards to Montserrat, under the present European Development Fund the country will receive (EC$53.83 million) as budget support. Both the government of Montserrat and the Delegation are presently discussing aspects of this assistance as a prelude to implementation. In addition, earlier this year approximately EC$6.4 million were disbursed to the Government of Montserrat to assist with the implementation of the country's Trade in Services Support Programme.
In conclusion, I'm happy to know that we were able to revive a project which at one stage was on its death bed and I sincerely hope that, beyond its purpose of existence, it will contribute to the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda as well as of Montserrat.