A 2010 estimate for life expectancy was at 72.91 for the total population of Montserrat. Additionally, Montserrat has the highest number of Tuberculosis cases in the Eastern Caribbean. Poverty remains a significant problem for the island, and although some 25 people had the opportunity to be rehoused in 2009, there are still households with inadequate housing.
Montserrat's rate of unemployment has seen much volatility with the current economic downturn. The island's offshore medical school being its second largest employer. Montserrat issues work permits to immigrant workers from other CARICOM countries to alleviate its shortage of labour. In 2007 the government was on track to put a Labour Market Information System in place to track the movement of migrant workers and assist the economic and social planning processes.
Economic Situation Analysis
As an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, Montserrat's fiscal policy is determined by the UK. UK Government assistance represented 66.6% of the Central Government's recurrent and capital expenditures in 2007. Because the UK is currently phasing out its aid to Montserrat, Montserrat will have to grapple with its high dependence on external financing in the near to medium term. In 2010, Montserrat's population registered at 5118 people.
Despite the adverse economic climate, economic activity in Montserrat was estimated to have expanded during the first 9 months of 2009. Real GDO increased by 1.2 % compared to growth of 3.8 % in the first 9 months of 2008. This subtle growth came after 3 consecutive years of falling real output (2005-2007).
The agriculture sector continued to be affected by the lack of suitable land for farming and the destruction of crops. Prospects for the economy depend largely on developments in relation to the volcano and on public sector construction activity. In July 2003, ash falling from the Soufriere Hills Volcano damaged 95% of the crops that were on the ground. In 2010 the agricultural sector saw a positive expansion of 32.5 %.
The Government of Montserrat’s total debt obligation stands at just over EC$8.1 million, most of which is guaranteed debt on behalf of the Montserrat Port Authority. Montserrat recently (February 2010) appeared on France’s blacklist for tax havens, despite efforts to get Tax-Information Agreements signed. To date, agreements are signed with the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK, with requests made or negotiations commenced with Nordic countries, Ireland, Australia and France.
Challenges and Policy Issues
Other funding sources include the EU, the Republic of Ireland, the Pan American health Organization, and the UNDP. The funding aims to improve infrastructure and human resource development in order to facilitate private sector development. Economic activity in Montserrat is currently dominated by the public sector. The private sector is largely a provider of services to the public sector. Montserrat will need to promote growth of the private sector as well as growth in output and employment. However, the fact that half of the island is expected to remain uninhabitable for another decade remains a stumbling block for private sector growth.
The major policy issues for the Governement of Montserrat at this juncture are:
- Restructuring public debt
- Poverty reduction
- Population retention
- Resources development
- Development projects (tourism and others)
The size, composition and retention of population are key challenge that will affect opportunities for economic growth. The economy is also highly dependent on external financing. The island is also unable to accommodate its housing needs.