Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) — St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says closure of the 350-year-old sugar industry in St. Kitts in 2005, has resulted in the Federation becoming a leader in the regional and international community in development strategy formulation and implementation.
Dr. Douglas said the time is right for reflection now because the experience today is very much like that experience back then when those without vision maliciously attempted to paint a picture of doom and gloom just because they are sadly lacking the leadership skills, vision and ideas to steer the ship of state.
“Looking back to 2005 when we were faced with the closure of the sugar industry, my Administration did not lament the misfortunes. Our strategic planning gave rise to the production of the National Adaptation Strategy which has been used as the blueprint for the development of this country since then to today,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He pointed out that the document was spot on with the identification of four (4) pillars for economic transformation namely; Non-sugar Agriculture, Tourism, International Financial Services and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
“In spite of the slow inflow of official development assistance and other challenges, we forged ahead and today we have achieved success in most of our endeavours to reform and build. The onset and deepening of the financial and economic crisis added to the challenge as it seriously impacted the various sectors we were trying to develop. Notwithstanding these challenges, proactive steps were taken to formulate and implement innovative initiatives which would accelerate and sustain economic growth and development,” Dr. Douglas said.
Emphasis was placed on five strategic areas; (i) macroeconomic policies to reduce vulnerability and encourage and facilitate investment; (ii) improving competitiveness in the production and export of goods and services (iii) interventionist social policies to support economic development and protect the most vulnerable (iv) ensuring an environmentally sustainable development agenda and (v) organizing to achieve success in economic restructuring and transformation.
“The efforts to advance progress in these areas have been undertaken in tandem with activities to strengthen our vital institutions through initiatives to address public sector reform, private sector development, regional integration and infrastructural upgrades to facilitate increased investment. On an annual basis the progress made in the implementation of the National Adaptation Strategy is assessed,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who confirmed that that his Government has successfully initiated action on approximately 95% of the 340 actions identified for implementation with over 200 activities (approximately 70 percent) fully completed and requiring no further actions based on the plans originally outlined.
He said that the substantial gains that were achieved through these various actions have resulted in St. Kitts and Nevis becoming a leader in the regional and international community in development strategy formulation and implementation.
“My Government recognized that macroeconomic stability and sustained growth would be vital to ensuring that we secure the economic and social standing of our people and the country in its entirety. In an effort to provide oversight for the implementation of the reform agenda, my Government instituted the Public Financial Management (PFM) Committee which monitors and initiates steps to facilitate the efficacy of the public financial system, a Cash Management Committee to closely assess the revenue collection and expenditure requirements of the public sector and the Government Entities Oversight Board (GEOB) which monitors the operations of the statutory corporations,” he said during his 2015 Budget Address.
He said that in 2009 the Government partnered with the European Union (EU) in the development of a Private Sector Development Strategy which was undertaken in consultation with key stakeholders from the private sector. The objective of the strategy was to identify priority areas and actions required to enhance competitiveness, socio-economic wellbeing and the quality of life of our citizens and residents.
“ In keeping with the multifaceted approach to private sector development my Government facilitated various financing instruments through our partnership with the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) to assist in business development such as the Small Entrepreneurial Assistance Fund (SEAF), the commitment to and negotiation of trade agreements such as the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Partial Scope Agreement (PSA) and, employment and training opportunities such as the Youth Empowerment through Skills (YES) Programme and more recently the Peoples Employment Programme (PEP),” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said that the recent approval and launch of the National Manufacturing Strategy (2014-2020) is the latest achievement in his Administration’s efforts to advance the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as efforts continue to expand opportunities for business development and export potential.
A vital component of the National Adaptation Strategy concentrates on land administration and land management which has been a primary focus for this Government over the past nine (9) years.
“Land is a very important factor of production and an essential driver of social and economic development. Therefore, with the guidance of the National Physical Development Plan (NPDP), my Government set about deepening our diversification and empowerment programmes through the identification and distribution of lands for residential, agricultural, commercial and industrial purposes,” he said.
In 2007 Government took the monumental step to launch the Special Land Distribution Initiative (SLDI) which has facilitated the empowerment of our people and the reduction of poverty through land and home ownership.
Focusing on the expansion and development of the agricultural sector required clear and decisive action in ensuring that existing and potential farmers could have access to land.
“To this end, in 2009 my Government earmarked and transferred 1,500 acres to the Ministry of Agriculture thereby giving the requisite Department direct responsibility for the management of lands for agricultural purposes. In order to protect our biodiversity and our water supply my Government passed legislation designating two terrestrial protected areas namely; the Central Forest Reserve and National Park (CFRNP) and the Royal Basseterre Valley National Park in 2007 and 2011 respectively. A Water Resource Management Plan and Park Management Plan have been formulated for the medium to long-term development of the Royal Basseterre Valley National Park while the comprehensive formulation of a sustainable protected areas management system will be pursued,” Prime Minister Douglas said Government’s social intervention programmes that were developed in line with the clearly articulated strategy will also require continued commitment to ensure that poverty reduction is achievable.
“Therefore, despite the downturn in the economy during 2009-2012, this Government continued to ensure that recurrent annual budgetary allocations to the social sector, specifically education, health and, social and community development were maintained and expanded,” said Dr. Douglas, who noted that in 2011, the impact of the global financial and economic crisis intensified and threatened to erode the gains by undermining the transformation agenda that was being pursued in context of the National Adaptation Strategy.
“In an effort to stabilise the fiscal situation and set the economy on a solid foundation, we developed a comprehensive stabilisation strategy and invited the IMF to assist with the implementation of that home-grown programme,” Dr. Douglas said.
“It is only fitting that we use the lessons learnt from this experience as a guide for future planning and implementation of prudent fiscal policies,” he added.