Opening Statement by the Honourable Prime Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris at the Monthly Press Conference

My fellow citizens and residents, I am pleased to update you on important matters of state.  These Press Conferences play an important role in our democracy.  They are an opportunity for your Government to take you into its confidence and provide you with accurate and factual information on the issues that matter to you.

Even as my Government continues to keep people safe and secure, we are very mindful to delicately balance the tension between lives and livelihoods as a consequence of the dangerous COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and more particularly its management, consequences and recovery from its debilitating tentacles are foremost on the minds of everyone in every corner of the globe.  

Global Vaccine Roll out

To date 1.93 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.  At a glance this appears to be significant progress being made in the fight against the deadly virus as the vaccine has proven to be the best defense against this formidable enemy (COVID-19).On closer examination we see that there remains a great inequity in vaccine distribution globally as some countries are yet to administer a single dose.

85 percent of all doses administered globally have been to persons from high- and upper-middle-income countries. Doses administered in low-income countries have been less than one percent.

Vaccine Roll out locally

Despite the global shortage of vaccines my government was able to secure more than 40 thousands doses in the first instance to protect the people of this my beloved Federation.

Our vaccine roll-out started on February 22, 2021 and during the last three months we have seen great success.

As at Wednesday, June 0, 2021, 28,566 doses have been administered in our Federation.  62.5 percent of adults over the age of 18 have received at least one shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine.  In addition 24 percent or 7,920 adults are now fully vaccinated having received their two doses.

With the vaccine providing significant protection against COVID-19 and significant risk reduction from severe disease, hospitalization and death, we are well positioned in this leg of the fight.  Across the globe almost every single country went into community spread with mounting COVID-19 cases and deaths.    Our health professionals repeatedly warned that despite our best efforts it was only a matter of time before the virus got into our community and we needed to prepare individually and collectively for this eventuality.  Here in the Federation we were prepared for the inevitable which was community spread.

It is your responsibility to use the non pharmaceutical measures such as social distancing, hand sanitizing and wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

Your Government procured vaccines to protect you and those who are unable to protect themselves.  It is the best defense we have in our arsenal in the ongoing war against COVID-19.  I am happy so many of our citizens and residents have heeded the call and came out in their numbers to be vaccinated.  Kittitians and Nevisians continue to exercise good judgment in protecting themselves, their love ones and their communities.

So far, more than 60 percent of the nation’s adults sent a strong message that they listened to the facts, believed in the science and went forward to be vaccinated.

They understood that in a pandemic time wasted could result in lives lost.

Fighting Misinformation

In addition to the fight against the novel coronavirus we have been fighting another pandemic best described as misinformation.  False information wilfully and maliciously peddled by some locally to retard the progress we have made for their own personal agenda and selfish short term political gains must be condemned.

I am happy that so far more than 62 percent of our adult population simply said no to the misinformation and propaganda.  They did the altruistic act of getting vaccinated not just to protect themselves but to protect others.

Continued Vaccination Program

We will continue to educate and to vaccinate our people as this is the best defense against the deadly coronavirus.  Our public education on COVID-19 has been the most elaborate and convenient, engaging persons in their communities, churches, work places, by regular briefings, through hotline etc.  We have adopted an all of society approach and everyone’s constructive effort is welcomed.  The Task Force has engaged every interested entity including sport associations, hoteliers, political parties, etc.  Ours is a life first strategy.

We have seen that millions around the World have lost their lives to this virus.  I thank the almighty God that not a single life has been lost to COVID-19 thus far in this blessed Federation.  To God I give thanks and praise.

We believe that life is precious and we will do all within our power to protect every life.

We encourage you to continue to go forward in your numbers to be vaccinated.

We currently have one of the highest vaccination rates globally and this is a great achievement of which we should all be proud.

My Government will continue its quest to secure more vaccines so that we can reach the goal of herd immunity in the not too distant future, thus restoring normalcy to our beautiful Federation.

Recognizing Those Who Fought 

When the history of this pandemic is written there are some names that will be forever etched for their yeoman’s service in this fight.

I however at this juncture thank all involved in this fight as every contribution is significant.

To those in leadership in the COVID-19 Task Force, the Health Emergency Operating Committee, frontline health care workers especially our community nurses , frontline workers along the corridor of containment including those in law enforcement, immigration, customs, transportation, and workers in the hospitality and Tourism Industry, I say thank  you very much.

Thanks also to those in the media helping to educate and inform the public. Most importantly you the general public for your adherence to the prescription of non pharmaceutical measures and who are now stepping forward to be vaccinated, I say thank you too.

Towards Economic Recovery

Turning now to our economy and wider society.

My Government has successfully opened up all major sectors of economy.  I will now examine the situation of our main economic drivers.

  1. Manufacturing Sector: Most of the workers in our manufacturing plants have returned to their jobs. A recent review of employment data reveals that over 1166 persons are back on the job. The main export manufacturing entities are all operating. Jaro(230 employees), API Harowe Servo (112 employees), Carib Brewery (155 employees), Electrofab (65 employees), Sun Island Clothes (70 employees), KajolaKristada (168 employees), Demerara Distillers (7 employees), Caribbean Magnetics (20 employees), Brush Ltd (35 employees), to name a few. 

Beyond employment, the manufacturing sector has been contributing to foreign exchange with exports for the period January to April 2021, totaling $33 million, compared to $27.9 million for the comparative period of 2020. This represents an increase of 18 percent. This is good news.

  1. Fisheries and Agriculture: Overall Fish Landings over the period January to April 2021 totalled 275,000lbs valued at $3,087,880. This represents an 87 percent increase from the prior year 2020 when fish landings were 146,960lbs valued at $1,163,920. We are recording a near 3 fold increase in dollar value of fish landings.

Year on year January to April (2020 to 2021)reef and demersal fishery increased by 97 percent. Coastal pelagic fishery increased by 70 percent, ocean pelagic fishery decreased by 7 percent, conch fishery increased by 26 percent. Lobsters increased in 2021 by 334 percent over the same period January to April in 2020. Number of registered fishers stood at an all time high of 1,277 at end of April 2021 up 102 fishers over April 2020.  These are positive signs of a fisheries sector on the rise aided by my Government’s stimulus packages which assisted fishers with fishing gears including fish pot wires, fish aggregate devices and many other supports. 

During the period under review, overall livestock production increased by approximately 66 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.  The combined value of reported livestock commodities increased from $458,998 in 2020 to $760,322 in 2021.  The increase was attributed to the provision of resources made available through the COVID-19 stimulus package for the agriculture sector.

During the period under review, overall crop production fell by approximately 10 percent.  Despite this decline significant gains were realized in cabbage, cantaloupe, onion, sweet potato, tomato, watermelon and yam production.  Cucumber production remained steady.  I remind us all to support our farmers and fishers by buying locally.  I remind our farmers to do the best they can on prices and quality.  Long live our farmers and fishers.

  • Tourism:

Cruise Tourism will get started shortly.  We expect a better summer season than last year.

Education Tourism is still strong with over 1,000 students who have already returned to our shores.

Movie making will be consolidated in St Kitts and Nevis.

Several new hotels are slated to open in the latter quarter of 2021.

  • Construction:

The construction sector is a large contributor to our economy.  We are encouraged by the increasing confidence of our private sector in the economy.  TDC’s Dewars Housing Project is moving apace.  The luxury villa project at Royal St Kitts Hotel is progressing well and ground has been broken for the start of Plaza II at the Royal St Kitts Hotel in Frigate Bay.  The St Kitts Cooperative Credit Union is soon to start a housing project at Douglas Estate.  That project will receive my Government’s support.

Our Cabinet on Monday considered an exciting seaport development project for eastern Port Zante involving a car park development, marina and hotels.

There is still much more to be done on this project before it becomes ready for formal action by Cabinet but the concept is a good one.  It shows the continuing attractiveness of St Kitts and Nevis to investors.  Our public sector capital projects will continue.

I have more good news to share.

Wellington Road Apartments are now set for allocation during the summer period.  24 apartments have been built with strong support of PDV St Kitts-Nevis Ltd which provided grant and loan financing.

In a similar vein we anticipate that Petro Casas Housing Project in Mansion which is also being constructed by grant funding should be ready for allocation in the not too distant future.

Labour Issues

My Government has been a model employer.  I am pleased to report that the despite the financial and economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has been able to fulfil its payroll obligations to all of its employees including both monthly and weekly paid and also its pensioners.  Indeed, the Government has not laid off a single employee. 

My Government payroll supports:

Payroll Category No. of Employees / Pensioners
Salaried / Monthly Paid Employees 3,908
Wages / Government Auxiliary Employees (GAE) 1,124
Pensioners 1,346
Total 6,378

 

The Total Payroll Disbursement by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis for the period January to May 2021 was $115,399,183.25. The STEP operations have recorded disbursements totaling $21 million so far.

Across the globe COVID-19 accounted for the equivalent of 255 million job losses.  Thankfully in St Kitts and Nevis, eligible citizens and residents have access to a range of 20 social safetynet supports such as food vouchers, school meal programme, Poverty Alleviation Programme, support services for foster children, medical assistance programme, assistance with school uniforms, books and examination fees.  For 2021 we have budgeted about $35 million for the social safety net relief and public assistance.  The most popular being the Poverty Alleviation Programme introduced in 2018 to provide income support to those households who are in dire need.

For the year so far (January to May) our Poverty Alleviation Programme has paid out $13.4 million.  Since the programme started in December of 2018 up to May 31, 2021 total amount processed by the Accountant General is $70.3 million in PAP support. 

No other Government before us has been as generous in its support to the working poor and as astute in its fiscal management.

Severance Fund Payout

To date 2,892 Severance Claims have been received by the Federal Labour Department on behalf of employees on Nevis and St Kitts. To date the total number of Severance claims processed is 2,107 of which 2,042 have already been paid and 65 are pending as at May 31, 2020.

The total amount paid out for Severance payments by the Federal Government is a whopping $33.4 million as at May 31, 2021.  $22 million paid to employees who worked at entities in St Kitts and $11 million paid to employees resident on Nevis.  Had it not been for the competent fiscal management of our public finances we would never have been able to disburse $33.4 million at a time when Government’s revenues have been significantly reduced as a consequence of COVID-19.

I must commend the Labour Department for its work so far.  Never before have so many claims been processed by the Department.  I thank the severed employees for their patience.  There is light at the end of the tunnel with only 59 claims submitted in 2020 yet to be finalized. The Labour Commissioner has assured me that her staff is working very hard to complete all outstanding matters. 

Our Unity Government will celebrate its Anniversary by joining the congregation at the Wesley Methodist Church, Seaton Street, Basseterre for their 9:00 a.m. worship on Sunday, June 06, 2021.

Centenarian’s Day was recently celebrated Worldwide.  Let me extend Cabinet’s best wishes for the continuing wellbeing of all our centenarians in the Federation.  

I thank you.

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