BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS – Former Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Right Hon Dr. Denzil L. Douglas is expected to reinforce an earlier call for the Timothy Harris Government to apologize for denouncing the Land for Debt Initiative, which it has failed to reverse in keeping with its election promise.
This in light of a WINNFM report Monday, that the Washington-based International Monetary Fund has again urged Dr Harris to preserve the hard earned gains in debt sustainability and financial sector stability that he inherited when he took office in February 2015.
In its latest report on the federation’s economic situation, the IMF said making such a move is crucial to preserve the credibility of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Government’s debt restructuring mechanism, which the International Monetary Fund described as the hard earned gains in debt sustainability and financial sector stability.
The debt-reduction arrangement continues to be criticized by Dr Harris who recently described the measure as a sham. It is now 16 months since Dr Harris has taken office and the Labour Party Government land for debt policy, which has the full support of local, regional and international agencies, is still firmly in place.
In fact despite its negative pronouncements, Prime Minister Harris has named new directors to the Special Land Sales Company Board.
Former Prime Minister Denzil Douglas sees the policy as an effective tool that helped reduce significantly, a national debt that nearly 180 percent of GDP.
Dr Douglas has explained that about 700 million dollars worth of debt, more than half of which was as a result of the sugar industry debt, had to be settled by 1,200 acres of sugar lands.
“We believe what we’ve done was right and proper,” he said at the time.
An IMF team, following a visit to the Federation in May, indicate that the new government implement the land for debt swap.
It welcomed the appointment of a Special Land Sales Company Board of directors, recommending that it be operationalized as a marketing agent for the plots of land passed on to the national bank in exchange for part of the debt the government owed the bank.
The IMF Fund said the company should develop a plan to sell the land locally and abroad, including to the large Kittitian and Nevisian disapora.
“Meanwhile it is important that a clear strategy is developed to enable reasonable progress with land sales,” the IMF advised.
On the country’s debt situation generally, the IMF says thanks to the Labour Government’s Debt Restructuring Programme St Kitts and Nevis’ debt-to-GDP ratio continued its impressive downward movement.
It is projected to reach the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s target of 60 per cent in 2017.
“I want you to recall that it was the Land for Debt Swap initiative that Dr Timothy Harris and Sam Condor used as their excuse, their excuse of deception, for leaving the Labour government and going other places. This was their reason they said for supporting a vote of no confidence in our parliament against our government.”
Speaking at his St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party’s annual conference recently the former Prime Minister said that it was clear that the government was proceeding with the much-maligned land for debt swap.
“The entity that was established by the Labour government to play the lead role in implementing the Land for Debt Initiative is called the Special Land Sales Company and it is important for us to note the IMF therefore applauded the Special Land Sales Company, this entity that must play a very leading role in the Land for Debt Swap. You should also remember that after Timothy Harris and PAM had actually assumed office the Land for Debt Initiative was described as a theft by none other than the Governor General in the throne speech. After all this Timothy Harris and PAM have now moved forward and have appointed a board for Special Land Sales Company to proceed with the implementation of the Land for Debt Initiative. What hypocrisy, I say, what dishonesty and what deception. This government needs to admit to the public that they were wrong in the stance that they took on the Land for Debt Initiative, they need to admit that the Labour government was indeed being far sighted and visionary in coming up with this particular initiative. They need to publicly apologize for deceiving the country and for making such irresponsible and outrageously false statements in relation to this matter that was of such crucial importance to the development of our progressive federation.”
In 2012, the Vesting of Certain Lands Bill, was passed in Parliament by the Labour Party Administration and although parliamentarians, Dr Harris, Sam Condor, Shawn Richards, Eugene Hamilton and Vincent Byron did not vote against the legislation.