PM Douglas says training and underpinning infrastructure vital to engines of growth in moving the local economy

A section of the persons attending the Caribbean Growth Forum in St. Kitts

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 27TH 2013 (CUOPM) – There is increased levels of training and infrastructural underpinning that would be vital to the competitive functioning of the several growth sectors in the St. Kitts and Nevis economy.

Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has identified tourism, agriculture. Information technology, financial services and light manufacturing as well as tertiary offshore education as the engines of growth that are vital to the economy.

“Our traditional educational system, for example, has long been a plus for the Federation in light of the fact that for almost a half a century now, secondary education in our country has been both compulsory and free (free in a way but free nevertheless for now,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

Dr. Douglas, who is also the Minister of Finance, was at the time addressing the opening ceremony to launch the Caribbean Growth Forum – St. Kitts and Nevis Chapter.

He said over the years his government has dramatically expanded course offerings at the secondary and college levels as well, specifically in order to enhance students’ opportunities for training and for exposure.

“Over and beyond that, however, we have ensured that information technology constitute an ever-increasing component of our students’ skills set , in light of the rapidly changing work environment beyond our shores – an environment of which, in some ways, almost every nation is a part, and within which almost every worker, everywhere, now has to compete,” said the Prime Minister.

According to Dr. Douglas beyond traditional school-based curricula, however, and beyond the enhancement of the population’s IT capabilities, soft-skills are of increasing importance in light of the international character of many of the investors, employers, business partners and others with whom local people are, increasingly, transacting business – whether as joint venture partners, employees, consultants, or in some other capacity.

“Throughout it all, however, we have repeatedly demonstrated our commitment to spur greater private sector involvement in the St. Kitts and Nevis economy,” said the Prime Minister.

He said his St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Government has gone to great lengths to eradicate many of the bureaucratic hurdles that some had suggested might be impediments to fuller participation in the economy.

“With reference to the tourism or the agricultural sectors, for example, and with reference to the availability of land, in particular, we can now point to the Special Purpose Vehicle as a perfect mechanism for addressing these specific concerns. In light of this, therefore, we anticipate, wait, and we will welcome heightened private sector involvement in these – and other – designated growth arenas,” said the Prime Minister.

Dr. Douglas pointed out that light manufacturing is a priority area for his Government, stressing that in order to boost the country’s competitiveness in this area, government has diligently pursued and successfully negotiated a Partial Scope Agreement Brazil in 2011, to the back of what was already allowed in V+CARICOM between Brazil and Guyana.

“In the area of financial services, we have ensured that we meet the internationally agreed upon standards pertaining to information sharing and transparency. To reiterate, then – the banks in St. Kitts and Nevis are highly liquid; technical assistance, if needed to bring an innovative idea to fruition, is often available via multilateral or bilateral partners; and a range of Government programs and policies have been carefully designed – and implemented – to facilitate the expansion of the private sector. It is therefore now the shared responsibility of the business and policy communities – together – to ensure that the confluence of all these variables will result in the increased level of economic activity, and the upward growth trajectory, that would be in the best interests of the Government, the business community, and, most importantly, the public at large,” he told private and public sector stakeholders.

In commending the organisers of the event, Prime Minister Douglas noted that the agenda was structured in such a manner as to facilitate maximum exchange and cross-pollination of ideas.

“The persons assembled here are well-equipped to provide valuable insights, observations and recommendations, as St. Kitts and Nevis continues to insist on professionalism, efficiency, and competence being watchwords in our quest to ensure continued social stability, undergirded by positive economic growth,” said Dr. Douglas.

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