My fellow citizens and residents of St Kitts and Nevis, it is a privilege to communicate with you on the many positive developments taking place in our Federation. For these things and more I give God thanks. I thank him too for choosing Team Unity to lead our Country for such a time as this, the most challenging period in the last century. Though the challenges are great, my confidence in our collective abilities as a people to move safely out of the shadow of the global COVID-19 pandemic is strong.
Today I will focus on our efforts to put our economy back on track and restore it to record levels of sustained growth with clear results such as more jobs for our people, more money in the pockets of our workers, and a higher degree of security and protection for all in society. We are investing in our people and getting our economy on a positive track.
I now turn to the results of our second stimulus package which is a critical component of your Government’s efforts to ensure that all our people withstand the adverse economic impact of the pandemic.
This stimulus package has over the last three months brought significant relief to thousands of citizens and residents, and created a welcome lifeline for many who were displaced as a consequence of COVID-19 pandemic.
Our income support package has provided critical assistance to 3,025 persons at a cost of $7.9 million to date. Another batch of applications is having a second review to ensure that every citizen and resident who qualifies for the various forms of support receives this assistance. Many persons have taken the time to call me and other Cabinet Colleagues to express thanks for this relief. The thousand dollars paid over the last 3 months have helped to preserve the dignity of those who lost their jobs and remained unemployed for a long period. It meant food on their table. For others it was their rent being paid, and their utilities paid. Others invested in their children particularly in getting them ready for the reopening of school.
A significant number of families with persons living with disabilities received well needed support. So far 155 families were assisted with a total payout to date of $325,500.
To date, 109 bus operators have received support amounting to $129,800 over the last 3 months. The fuel subsidy has been a welcome relief to bus operators. This subsidy has allowed them to defray the high cost of fuel and stabilize the cost of public transport.
My Government wants our people to earn more from sustainable permanent jobs and from self employment. We will therefore continue our efforts to further open up the economy in the safest way possible to allow more persons to earn a livelihood. In this regard I am pleased to report that the National COVID-19 Task Force has this week advised that protocols have been approved to facilitate the safe operations of the following:
- Hair braiding
- ATV operations
- Beach massages
- Lunch and half day island tours
- Independent tours pre-booked online
- Panoramic beach tours such as those put on by Kenville Richardson
- Panoramic full island tours such as those put on by Annie Fontaine
- Panoramic half island tour
- Beach Break to Carambola
- Roosevelt Special and plantation tours
With an anticipated significant uptick in cruise tourism more persons shall benefit with greater opportunities to earn income.
All operators must be vaccinated and must comply with COVID-19 protocols.
I encourage every adult to get vaccinated and every parent and guardian to ensure that as many persons 12 years and older in their care or part of their household is vaccinated. Vaccination is our most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19 and it allows us to safely reengage notwithstanding COVID-19. Our investments in procuring vaccines are an investment in our people – their health, their protection, and their livelihoods. It was also an investment in getting our economy back on track with a healthy workforce and society.
For the year so far, the outturns of the key sectors of our economy have been quite positive.This is a good indication that we are on the right track for recovery. I will now give a succinct overview of some sectors.
Agriculture and Fisheries sub sectors have showed some of their best performances in a long time. Crop output has increased by 15 percent totaling 1.91 million pounds for the period January to September 2021 compared to same period in 2020. The dollar value of crop output was estimated at $6.8 million as at end of September, 2021. Livestock production recorded 165,800 pounds, up 9 percent over 2020. The estimated dollar value of livestock as at end of September was put at $1.31 million. This has been a relatively better year for our farmers. They benefitted lower costs for their inputs on account of our stimulus package. New initiatives such as the night market have also resulted in increased incomes.
The fisheries sector has recorded a 15 percent increase over the same period, landing 565,650 pounds of fishery products with a market value of $6.3 million. This year has been a remarkable one for lobster fishery with output increasing by 135 percent year over year January to September. $1.2 million worth of lobsters was landed. We have 1,301 registered fishers at this time in 2021 up from 1,235 in 2020. My Government has provided good support to our fishers on their procurement of inputs such as fishing wire, fishing rope, etc. I again call on fisherfolk, farmers and indeed every self employed person to register as self employed persons with the Social Security Board. By doing so, you will help to protect yourself against future adversities and secure a pension;this is without a doubt one step towards securing a stronger safer future for yourself.
The manufacturing sector continues to show signs of resilience. Employment remains relatively stable. Export data reflect $54 million in CIF values for the period January to October 2021. Our enclave manufacturing entities like Kajola Kristada, Jaro Electronics, Carib Brewery, St Kitts Rum Company and CONTEC are principal exporters.
For the year so far we have witnessed a steady improvement in stay over arrivals to St Kitts and Nevis. Indeed compared to last year, the 4th quarter arrivals are significantly higher. Truth be told, after March 2020, there was little or no tourism business as our borders were closed as a necessary measure to contain the pandemic. It was not until October 31, 2020 that we reopened. With quarantine now reduced effectively to 24 hours we expect to see continued improvements in visitor arrivals going into 2022.
Thankfully the cruise sector which was devastated in 2020 as a consequence of the pandemic has in the last few months been showing positive signs of a rebound. I was happy to join our Minister of Tourism on Monday this week, to welcome the luxury cruise line Viking Orion on its inaugural call to St Kitts. We anticipate 27 ship calls for November 2021 with an estimated 71,775 passengers. The preliminary projections for December are even better.
Our future growth will also be positively impacted by a successful build out of our Medicinal Cannabis Industry. Cabinet has agreed to solidify our efforts at building out the Cannabis Industry. These efforts will be pursued by the Cannabis Authority which will have a core team of committed professionals and a consultant to implement government’s plans in this area so that the stronger safer future is delivered as promised.
The Entertainment Industry
During our last election campaign, the Team Unity administration proclaimed that we will build out an entertainment industry and to ensure maximum benefits are delivered to our people a new Ministry would be established to implement Government’s vision for the new sector. Our Manifesto commitments are being fulfilled. It is a sign of our focused attention on our people’s progress and development even at a very challenging time.
Managing a country during this pandemic is by no means an easy task. By the end of 2020 according to the IMF our beloved St Kitts and Nevis had the best record of management of COVID-19. Your government has remained committed to preserving life and livelihoods during this pandemic. It is our superb management that led Mr Phillipe Martinez of MSR Media to come to St Kitts and Nevis to produce his films.
Before MSR Media came to the Federation, St Kitts and Nevis was fortunate to have its first movie being filmed at the Park Hyatt Hotel. The first episode of Below Deck filmed in St Kitts was aired on Monday night giving not just our host island St Kitts but the entire Federation of St Kitts and Nevis amazing positive exposure introducing not just St Kitts but the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis to an audience of millions. The reality is that when St Kitts rises, the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis benefits and the inverse is also true because we are one – one Federation, one destination, but most importantly one people. Let us continue to work together.
Similarly, we anticipate the airing of films produced by MSR Media on the island of Nevis will positively impact not just Nevis but St Kitts and Nevis. We are one people, one Federation and we must cooperate even more for mutual advancement and development.
Interestingly in a very difficult year, God smiled on us, brought a blessing out of the misfortune of the pandemic. The first international movie Below Deck was produced in St Kitts, the second, third, and fourth movies were produced on Nevis and the fifth movie is to be filmed in St Kitts. Our country is moving in the right direction. And benefits will accrue to all our people with more jobs, more incomes, new careers, and a chance to further develop their talents.
Last Saturday’s media announcement by the principal of MSR Media of its intention to do 5 movies on St Kitts starting in November is very good news for our Federation as a whole. Mr. Martinez could have taken these 5 films to any other country – Barbados, Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, or Aruba but he chose our Federation thereby increasing jobs here, bringing visitors to our Federation, and keeping the spotlight on our Federation as a whole.
More movie producers will come to St Kitts and Nevis. We can realize a sustainable movie industry with year round production- creating jobs, higher incomes for our people, new opportunities for our artistes – videographers, photographers, movie crew, event planners like Vaughn Anslyn, caterers, etc. Right here in our Federation our creative young people will get real life experiences working with acclaimed professionals associated with MSR and other producers to come. This situation is expected to yield significant benefits for all our people.
I must congratulate Nigel Lewis aka “Tru Capo” on his licensing deal. His film “A Rose Between Thorns” now has international recognition and he is making his mark as a producer.
I extend my sympathies to the families both on St Kitts and Nevis who have recently lost loved ones due to acts of violence. I promise that our security forces will work diligently and will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice. My Government will continue to provide excellent support to law enforcement agencies.
We appeal to anyone with information on any criminal activity to provide that information to the Police or a responsible adult for onward transmission to the Police.
Support to Nevis
Our Unity Government is committed to a stronger and safer future for all our citizens and residents in the Federation. We have already created several historic feats just in the short period of 6 years. We are the first Federal Government to provide regular periodic transfer of resources to the Nevis Island Administration (NIA).
Over the last 6 plus years, our budgetary transfers to the NIA have exceeded $260 million. We have paid double salaries to the public sector workers in Nevis for example NIA employees, NEVLEC, NASPA in the same manner as we have done in St Kitts.
We have supported home reconstruction in Nevis post-hurricane Irma. We pay all STEP workers in Nevis. We pay PAP beneficiaries on Nevis a monthly stipend. We jointly order pharmaceuticals for both islands. We pay economic costs for our students from Nevis and St Kitts studying abroad. Nevisians participate in special mortgage facilities funded by the Federal Government. These additional benefits total in excess of $50 million.
Additionally, the SIDF under Team Unity provided over $61 million in financial assistance to the NIA for the construction of the Treasury Building, the expansion of Alexandra Hospital, etc. All these developments indicate that our Team Unity Government is working for all our people and the people of Nevis like the people of St Kitts are benefitting. The delicate balance that we have managed so far is to ensure that both islands are further developed and advanced and that our people on both islands enjoy the stronger safer future we promised. Therefore, we have continued to provide the historic and unprecedented levels of support to Nevis. We appreciate and welcome the support given by the NIA to members of our Defence Force who for several years helped to preserve law and order on Nevis. This is a historic change. In the past soldiers were never welcomed in Nevis. This is a change to be protected and defended by all patriots of St Kitts and Nevis.
Successive administrations led by Premier Vance Amory and Premier Mark Brantley have publicly proclaimed that Nevis has had its best support from the Federal government under Team Unity.
It is important that we continue on this path, and that we consolidate the gains.
Our relationship however must not be defined solely in monetary terms. Certain elements cannot be monetized. The strong amicable relationship between our people, the ease of doing business on any of our island by our citizens, the synergies between our twin-island state are to be cherished.
I pledge to continue to work in the best interest of all citizens of St Kitts and Nevis. Working together our Team Unity Government shall deliver the stronger safer future.