Montserrat’s Utilities Crisis: Minister Urges Urgent UK Aid as Monthly Loan Repayments Soar to XCD$100,000

In a broadcast of ‘From the Minister’s Chair‘ on May 13, 2021, Dr. the Hon. Samuel Joseph, the Minister of Communication, Works, Labour, and Energy of Montserrat, addressed the pressing issues surrounding the island’s utilities, specifically power, water, and sewage. Amid heartfelt acknowledgments to mothers on Mother’s Day and a promise to address concerns of Montserrat’s youth in future broadcasts, the minister delved into the critical challenges facing the island’s infrastructure.

The Minister commenced by highlighting the historical context, recalling the devastation caused by the volcanic eruptions, which crippled the island’s infrastructure, including its electrical, water, and sewage systems. Despite efforts to restore functionality, the Minister revealed the underlying financial strains, with Montserrat Utilities Ltd operating at a loss and reliant on government subsidies.

A significant decision made by a previous administration to borrow funds from the Caribbean Development Bank for generator equipment, has also contributed to MUL’s financial burdens. The monthly payments of XCD$100,000 far exceed what the utility company can afford. Consequently, the government has now assumed that responsibility.

On the electricity front, efforts to install a new generator are underway, albeit hindered by technical complexities requiring overseas expertise. However, the Minister emphasised that the primary challenge lies in the decaying transmission infrastructure, exacerbated by environmental factors such as salt corrosion, necessitating urgent replacements and repairs.

Turning to the water supply, the Minister highlighted that the island’s ageing pipes are leaking, resulting in a loss of 70% of generated water before it reaches consumers. Furthermore, critical components of the water collection system, including springs and infrastructure, are in dire need of repair, with allocated government funds aimed at addressing these deficiencies.

Regarding sewage, the minister raised concerns about an ageing treatment plant nearing the end of its operational lifespan, necessitating substantial investment for its replacement. The government is seeking funding, estimated around $10,000,000, to address the ageing sewage infrastructure.

In a plea to the UK government, the minister underscored the urgency of the situation, stressing the vital importance of grant funds to address Montserrat’s fundamental infrastructure needs. Public transparency regarding the severity of these challenges was also emphasised to garner support and understanding from both local residents and international stakeholders.

In conclusion, the Minister reiterated a commitment to keeping the public informed on progress and urged solidarity in addressing these pressing issues. Despite the obstacles ahead, the Minister expressed optimism for Montserrat’s future, provided that the island’s essential infrastructure receives the necessary support and investment.

Watch the show below:

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