Deputy Premier Announces XCD$24 Million Funding To Address Montserrat’s Utility Sector Challenges

The Deputy Premier of Montserrat, Dr. the Hon. Samuel Joseph

In a recent broadcast of his show “From The Minister’s Chair” on May 27, 2024, Dr. the Hon. Samuel Joseph, Deputy Premier and Minister of Communications, Works, Labour, and Energy of Montserrat, provided an update on the pressing issues facing the island’s utility sector.

Progress in Road Repairs

Dr. Joseph began by acknowledging the efforts of workers involved in road repairs. He noted the commencement of patching and repairing the roads across the island, expressing gratitude for the workers’ dedication despite challenging conditions. The Minister emphasized that while the work has begun, it will require time and patience from the public due to the limited workforce. Efforts are ongoing to recruit additional members to expedite these repairs.

Advancements in the Power Sector

A significant milestone was achieved with the completion and handover of a new medium-speed generator by Anglo Belgian Corporation N.V. (ABC), enhancing Montserrat Utilities Ltd’s (MUL) power generation capacity. However, ongoing issues in the power sector persist, particularly in transmission and distribution. Despite the new equipment, the infrastructure remains critically vulnerable, highlighting the need for further improvements.

In a previous address on May 13, 2024, the Minister highlighted a major financial challenge for MUL. A previous government borrowed funds to purchase generator equipment, and MUL now struggles to repay the monthly loan instalment of XCD $100,000 to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). This means that the government has to provide subsidies to MUL, adding further strain on public funds.

Challenges in Water Supply

The Minister addressed the critical state of Montserrat’s water infrastructure, noting significant leakage issues with an estimated 70% of water lost due to ageing pipes. Plans are in place to renovate springs and replace storage tanks to enhance the reliability of the water supply. These measures aim to address the chronic neglect of essential maintenance and infrastructure investment in the water sector in the past.

Urgent Needs in Sewage Systems

The state of Montserrat’s sewage infrastructure requires urgent attention. The Minister emphasized the need to replace the ageing treatment plant and address sewage system deficiencies, with an estimated $10 million required for necessary upgrades.

Securing Financial Support

A significant development is the announcement of £7 million (over XCD$24 million) in grant funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). This funding marks a crucial step towards addressing the utility sector’s challenges. The Minister stressed the importance of prioritizing and effectively utilizing these funds to ensure tangible improvements in Montserrat’s infrastructure.

Future Prospects: Geothermal Energy

Dr. Joseph also discussed the potential of geothermal energy, highlighting the need to upgrade local transmission and distribution systems to effectively utilize this renewable resource. He emphasized that securing external funding is essential to avoid financial burdens on the local population, ensuring the sustainability and feasibility of these ambitious energy projects.

While Dr. Joseph’s address sheds light on the government’s initiatives to tackle Montserrat’s utility sector challenges, residents remain cautiously hopeful. The announcement of £7 million in funding offers a glimmer of hope for improvements in water, sewage, and electricity infrastructure. However, residents have endured months of regular power cuts, and the impact on daily life, work, and the risk of damage to electrical appliances cannot be understated. The pressing need for urgent action in addressing the island’s water and sewage systems is also another concern for residents, who have long endured the consequences of the ageing infrastructure and significant water loss due to leakage. The announcement of funding for these critical upgrades is welcomed but met with a sense of urgency, as residents yearn for reliable and sustainable utility services.

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