By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, BRADES, Montserrat, Fri. Oct. 31, 2014: Just over a month after he was sworn in as Premier Donaldson Romeo of Montserrat and of the People’s Democratic Movement, sat down with NAN for an exclusive interview. Romeo was sworn in on September 12th as the new premier of Montserrat. The Premier has vowed to tap the Montserratian and Caribbean Diaspora to foster economic self-sufficiency in Montserrat while turning his nation from the “volcano island” into the ‘Green Capital Of The World.’ The interview follows:
NAN: “Congratulations on your victory. Share with us your vision for the development of Montserrat in the next four years?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “I want to bring to fuller fruition an energized community in which all, including the Diaspora, local and foreign investors, are enthusiastically working hand-in-hand with the Government of Montserrat (GoM) and in sync with Her Majesty Government (HMG) towards greater self-sufficiency, while maintaining the peace, security and tranquillity that is second to none in the world and unique to Montserrat.”
NAN: “What are the challenges ahead and how do your propose overcoming them, especially as it relates to infrastructure -roads, port, airport, housing, etc?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “Before the volcanic eruption that de-populated our country and slowed down the development progress that previous generations made, Montserrat was quickly heading for independence from the UK. Given where we came from and what we had achieved, I am positive that our fore parents would have liked what other neighbouring islands like St. Kitts, Antigua and St. Lucia etc achieved and that is our goal. Our major challenge now is access. Our biggest asset is the peace and security we enjoy and the potential development that can be achieved out of the disaster of the volcano.
“We have the challenge of addressing the weaknesses in having an inadequate sea and airport while at the same time we must end the inadequacies in housing for hundreds of evacuees on the Island who are still living in temporary housing created by the volcano crisis. While addressing the housing needs of those on Island, we must also prepare the way to receive even greater numbers of Montserratians who, over the past 17 years, evacuated to England, Antigua and elsewhere by the thousands and now wish to return. Not only do we need to open new lands and build roads to do this but we must create a modern and progressive economy which will provide lasting and better paying jobs for all.
“Put differently, we urgently need a viable Port and Airport so that investors and those who wish to trade and do businesses with us could come to Montserrat hassle free. Once we solve our access challenge, then we need to redesign our town and villages to accommodate a digital age, and to prepare our people to be trained in various ways so that they can directly develop themselves and the country. We also need jobs because we do not have a reliable and sustainable social network system, our only hope is to create liveable jobs for our people.
“But we can’t create the jobs we need to build houses and construct roads if we don’t solve our access challenge. And the UK is determined like we are, to make sure that Montserrat becomes self-sufficient. Additionally, we need to expand our energy sector – thermal energy, mixed with solar and wind could do a great good to reduce the cost of doing business on the island. I see a lot of spinoff industries coming out of the massive deposit that the Volcano has so graciously left us. And we have to have a better incentive regime to encourage and entice investors locally, regionally and internationally to invest in the advancement of Montserrat.”
NAN: “You recently addressed the Diaspora of Montserrat in New York at the Montserrat Progressive Society New York. What is your message to the Montserrat Diaspora globally in order to get their support for the development of Montserrat?
PREMIER ROMEO: “Montserratians worldwide love their homeland dearly and are willing to support our vision for Montserrat. They simply need to be united and empowered to play an active part by investing, lobbying, participating in bringing ideas and we at home in government must create the right climate, put the right structures and have the right attitude to embrace the Diaspora at the level of talent, decision making, and investment opportunities.
“The Diaspora is an untapped resource and from my view, the game changer, if Montserrat is going to become prosperous and self-sufficient. Do you know that the intelligence and networking power the Diaspora has? You won’t believe it. I am fully, completely and totally, committed to the Diaspora playing a major role in Montserrat’s future and present development.
“For me, the Diaspora brings to the table international knowledge, thinking and experience combined with local connections, cultural sensitivities and indigenous wisdom. They are best poised to move us forward. The most advanced countries stay on top of their game by harnessing the talent pool in the Diaspora, I don’t see any reason why under my leadership, we can do the same. Truth be told, I don’t define the Diaspora as just Montserratians living abroad but all friends of Montserrat whose love for this island and the Caribbean region, compel them to give back and force us to make room for them to give back on win-win terms.”
NAN: “As the newly elected Premier of Montserrat. Whom do you credit your election to?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “My success was orchestrated by God. He provided the right candidates, caucus and advisors, and moved the hearts of the people to place the PDM in the position of leadership we are in today. We had the distinct privilege of being guided by a team of advisors under the leadership of Dr Isaac Newton and Mr. Chelston Lee, two key strategists of Paramount Communications Inc., coupled with the support of a media team from London and California. Together they ran an innovative, high energy, media savvy using social and traditional media platforms to market our ideas and convinced the people that the PDM was the change Montserrat needed.”
NAN: “How do you describe your style of leadership?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “I lead from the heart, with my head and with my hands. I tend to form healthy relationships to achieve great results.”
NAN: “What are the Investment opportunities currently available in Montserrat?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “There are opportunities in the energy sector. We want to diversify this sector. There are opportunities for ICT, for Medical Tourism, for Real Estate Development, and for spin off industries that the Volcano deposits have left behind. We are about to embark on a private-sector led economy; this means that government will continue to provide an enabling environment where investors can get a reasonable return on their investments. We also have a marvellous opportunity for the redevelopment of Montserrat. I want to see this country become the ‘Green Capital Of The World.’ This has just put us in a realm of possibilities that we simply are getting ready to capitalize on.”
NAN: “What incentives is your government ready to give to investors?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “The PDM government wants to enhance our investment incentives to attract powerful investors who can make a profit and add value to our ecology and people. As we provide an array of incentives that fuse public good with solid social benefits, we aim to strengthen our investment climate through strong policy and effective administration. This is important because it will help us avoid long-terms losses. We also want to iron out the solid economic reasons needed to offer attractive incentives. Our country is determined to tap into the private sector as the engine that drives us to self-sufficiency. We certainly will like to progress away from being a dependent British Territory. This will require a radical transformation of our current economic situation.
“We are searching for investments in technology, energy, infrastructure and a host of environmentally friendly initiatives that create liveable jobs, make important linkages with our local economy, and takes advantage of Montserrat’s unique strengths – our national resources – our compelling serenity, and our peace, security and tranquillity.”
NAN: “How you do propose marketing and positioning Montserrat as a draw for both investors and tourists over the next five years?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “We have to design a new brand for Montserrat. We can’t be seen as a Volcano place but as the Green Capital of the World. We have to draw on our people’s resilience, devotion to excellence, ability to produce innovative ideas to solve local, regional and global problems and ultimately our peace and tranquillity that is second to none in the world. So we are putting together a new marketing team to do a thorough assessment of our true natural and human asset and then use the data from this research to rebrand Montserrat.”
NAN: “For Montserratians living in the Diaspora who wish to contribute/participate in your People First vision, what systems do you have in place to support, encourage and incentivize them?
PREMIER ROMEO: “We are getting ready to appoint a Diaspora Representative whose task will be to design a data base so that we know what talent and experience we can tap into when. We also want to know what members of the Diaspora need from this government. Some have already organized themselves into lobbyist groups and we want to help fine-tune and strategize that resource. We are putting in place policies and programs for home ownership, investment opportunities and we need as, Dr. Isaac Newton suggested, a DO TANK, where our best ideas can be implemented.
“I also envision having summer schools for them to coach and mentor our young people in science, technology and leadership skills. I want to see exchange programs between us and the Diaspora so that our kids could be exposed to the wider world of language acquisition while they expand their vision and raise their ambition for greatness.”
NAN: “At the end of your tenure as Premier, what would you like to be remembered for? What legacy would you like to leave behind for this and the next generation?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “I want to be remembered for putting people first, for giving our people at home and abroad a fresh start. I want to unite us around big national goals rather than simply narrow party loyalty. My passion is to use all the talent available from the expat community, from the Diaspora, from our Caribbean brothers and sisters, and from within Montserrat – I mean even from the opposition party – to turn our country into a prosperous, self-sufficient, private sector driven, green country, where each is given tangible support and an opportunity to contribute to a thriving nation.
“If I can accomplish that while leading from my heart, making room for other gifted leaders and uniting our people around a national vision of prosperity for all, measured in terms of increasing people’s quality of life, I would have accomplished my goal. Let me say that I think if I can unite our people at home, I could do the same regionally. As one Caribbean people, we have a region to build and a people to uplift. I believe we can work together to do big things in these small, beautiful and powerful countries.”
NAN: “Are you willing to support Term limits as a premier and why?”
PREMIER ROMEO: “Our newly formed People’s Democratic Party comprises members who have been stalwarts in previous political parties as well as energetic young leaders. This combination of experience and innovation brought to our awareness the need to not just win the government but to build a stable and solid political organization.
“We formed this PDM with the firm conviction that our party must create a rich environment to constantly and persistently nurture and encourage new leadership. Term limits is not just a concept we paraded during our campaign. It is a way of functioning so that each leader begins his or her tenure with the next generation in mind. I have a wonderful deputy and she is being groomed for greatness. I want to be part of a process and program that ensures that the next crop of leaders are far better prepared and more equipped to take the PDM and Montserrat to higher heights. I would not be in the leadership chair after two terms. That is enough time for me to make my mark and to deliberately make room for other capable leaders that the PDM is intentionally producing.”