St. Kitts and Nevis PM Douglas is confident that the challenges faced represent opportunities for future growth and development

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas in a three-hour delivery of the 2011 Federal Budget in the National Assembly on Tuesday (photo by Erasmus Williams)

ST. KITTS, DECEMBER 15, 2010 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said the 2011 Budget presented in the National Assembly on Tuesday is most appropriate for the journey on which the twin-island Federation has embarked.

“As the economic turnaround takes root and gathers momentum, the benefits of the measures introduced will become even more apparent. We believe that macroeconomic stability is a major precondition for growth, and we are confident that this year’s budget will promote fiscal and economic stability; will enable us over time to devote less of our limited resources to debt servicing and more of our resources to growth and development; and will lay a solid foundation for accelerated growth and economic transformation in the years ahead,” said Dr. Douglas.

The Minister of Finance said the Federal Government has been making a concerted effort over the past years to ensure fiscal consolidation and it has paid off as evidenced by the reduction in the debt to GDP ratio in 2008 and the commendable Primary Balances which were utilized in the repayment of debt obligations.

“The global recession threatened to derail our efforts and throw our economy off course, but we acted preemptively earlier this year to blunt the impact of the crisis, and we will continue to proceed with the introduction of the fiscal measures and initiatives to ensure that our economy remains on a sound foundation,” he told the lawmaking body in a three-hour presentation.

Dr. Douglas said that the Government has a duty to always act in the best interest of the people it serves and the raison d’etre of any Government in a democratic country, requires a continually weighing of the options available to it, with a view to choosing courses of action, which may involve some sacrifice, but which would minimize or avert economic dislocations with the attendant hardships and suffering.

“My Government faces a similar challenge at this time. We agonize over the sacrifices that our people must make but we also know that the cost of doing nothing or of not doing enough, would be even more severe and would bring much pain and suffering on our people, especially the poor and vulnerable. In other words, the economic mayhem that would result from a failure to act would be far more severe in its impact on our people than the sacrifices that they are called upon to make in this budget,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.

Dr. Douglas expressed confidence that the challenges faced represent opportunities for future growth and development.

“They force us to evaluate our economy even more closely and to build new structures for the attainment of sustained growth and long-term economic transformation. Indeed, notwithstanding the focus of this budget on debt reduction and fiscal stability, we have remained true to our mandate to protect the poor and vulnerable by designing tax systems that are sensitive to the needs and peculiarities of low income groups, and by strengthening our Social Safety Net Programmes,” he said.

“We have moved forward with critical Public Sector projects and committed resources to the key sectors of the economy including tourism, agriculture, and construction with a view to stimulating economic activity and boosting the rate of economic growth. We have provided the resources, facilities and systems required for our Security Forces to mount a more vigorous assault against crime and to provide greater safety and security to our people and our many visitors,” said the Prime Minister.

He lauded the innovative programme for strengthening the Education System and making it more relevant to the needs of the young people and businesses that require skills and expertise to function effectively and to compete domestically and internationally.

“We will increase our efforts to make our education system more holistic including emphasis on moral and ethical values. We continue to strengthen our Health System, to step up the fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases and to promote healthy life styles through our impressive Health Education Programme. We continue to protect our environment with a view to ensuring that growth and development are sustainable over the long-term and that our environment resources yield benefits that will continue to flow to our people over many generations,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

“We believe that through our comprehensive budget initiatives, including the Debt Reduction Strategy, we will build a solid foundation for future growth and development. We have demonstrated our commitment to deal with the issues of national security through the strategic plan that has been laid out and the commitment of resources that will help us to achieve our stated objective of zero tolerance to crime and, in particular, our stance against the possession of illegal firearms,” said the Prime Minister.

He said that the programme of change in response to the global economic crisis have not allowed St. Kitts and Nevis to be lured into a state of denial.

“We have openly and transparently recognized the impact of the global crisis, and we are exerting every effort to understand it and to blunt its devastating effects,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who expressed confidence that St. Kitts and Nevis is on the right path and that the economic turnaround is at hand.

“We have reached the stage where we can now see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed the IMF has reported that they see even more than a glimmer of light. They already see the signs of incipient recovery, fragile as it may be at this time. I urge our people to be confident and courageous, and to take courage from our success in confronting past challenges. We overcame a barrage of hurricanes, we overcame the challenges associated with the collapse of the Sugar Industry, and we will, with the help of Almighty God, overcome the global economic crisis that is confronting us. Let us therefore demonstrate faith and confidence in our ability to successfully navigate the turbulent global waters and arrive safely on the other side,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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