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Warning on Montserrat aid programme

An independent report has warned that the UK's £24 million-a-year aid programme for Montserrat does not have a "firm view" of the island's needs and decisions on funding were made on a "piecemeal" basis.

The British overseas territory in the Caribbean has been devastated by volcanic eruptions since 1995, and the report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) said the Department for International Development (DfID) and the island's citizens had "achieved much" to avert the need for a complete evacuation.

But the report said the DfID needed a better long-term strategy for the territory and had to develop a more detailed understanding of how to end the island's dependence on aid.

The ICAI gave the capital support programme an amber-red status on its traffic light system, meaning it "performs relatively poorly overall" against criteria for effectiveness and value for money, and "significant improvements should be made".

Graham Ward, ICAI chief commissioner, said: "Although we saw evidence of good and necessary assistance to fund basic investment on Montserrat, we found that DfID needs to support the government of Montserrat to develop a longer-term plan for the island to move towards economic, financially justifiable self-sufficiency."

The report said: "DfID and the citizens of Montserrat have achieved much in averting a complete evacuation from the island and establishing lives away from the volcano. While continuing to meet basic needs, DfID's approach in Montserrat has changed to include a greater focus on economic development.

"Positive impact on beneficiaries has been achieved. DfID does not yet, however, have a firm view on what Montserrat's reasonable needs are nor what self-sufficiency means for the island; how best to improve it strategically over the long-term and what is affordable to the taxpayers of the UK and Montserrat.

"As a result, DfID has not managed the expectations of beneficiaries regarding what is realistic and achievable. We found also that DfID reacts in a piecemeal fashion to the government of Montserrat's bids for DfID's funding."

The ICAI was critical of the £8.8 million Gerald's Park airport project, which opened in 2005.

The report said: "DfID decided to invest in a new airport and to end ferry and helicopter subsidies. Instead of improving access, this led to a further decline in tourism: the ferry subsidies had to be reinstated and the airline services are also now subsidised. In addition, the airport makes a loss each year."


From Belfast Telegraph