The following is the full text of a statement made by Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) Hon. Vance Amory, in response to the non-payment of salaries to Public Servants on April 23, 2014, which was televised on Nevis Television Channel 8 later that day.
My Fellow Citizens, my fellow Nevisians,
I wish on behalf of the Nevis Island Administration to apologise to the Nevis Public Servants for the inconvenience caused today when they did not get their salaries as expected.
This has been a very stressful and traumatic and embarrassing experience for me and for the Administration but I believe it has been a source of embarrassment and concern for all the employees of the Government but also of all the people of Nevis and by extension, the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I want to state that this source of embarrassment to the NIA and the people of Nevis generally, must never be allowed to happen again.
I want to say as well that the National Bank, our creditors, have agreed to honour the cheques of the Nevis Island Administration and to pay the salaries for the month of April. The situation, therefore, has been temporarily resolved but it is my fervent hope that we shall be able to have a permanent resolution to the financial arrangements with the National Bank as soon as we are able to meet after Friday the 25th of April.
The CCM [Concerned Citizens Movement] Government is a government of all the people of Nevis and anything which affects the Government, affects every citizen of Nevis as well and by extension, affects citizens who live in St. Kitts and elsewhere.
I want to make it quite clear, that the CCM Administration has, over the past 15 months, not increased the overdraft which it inherited in January of 2013. The level of that overdraft was just about $62million. Today as we have been going through this traumatic and embarrassing experience, the level of the overdraft is $61.8million.
The Nevis Island Administration has done all within its power to manage its finances responsibly. We have sought to curtail any excess expenditure to ensure that we pay our major priority obligations and one of those priority obligations is the payment of salaries of Public Servants.
Today, the Government of Nevis, the Nevis Island Administration, suffered. It is obvious that the suffering spread not just to the government but to the many Civil Servants who went to collect their cheques and had to be told to hold on.
We have had, in the course of this day, long conversations. Yesterday when it became apparent that there was going to be some difficulty, I spoke with the Chairman of the Bank and I got my Treasurer and acting Permanent Secretary to speak to the CEO of the National Bank so that we can have the matter resolved.
This matter, my fellow Citizens, is not a pleasant situation. It has caused me much pain and much sadness and I do trust that the discussions we’ve had today in seeking to resolve this matter, we won’t be having them again in the future but we shall, as time goes on, ensure that we put in place a system; an understanding, which will prevent a recurrence of this day’s activity.
It is not easy and it must be obvious that this has caused much distress to teachers, civil servants generally and to all the hard working people who depend on the payment from Government.
Someone said to me it is tantamount to financial terrorism. This clearly has been my opinion, an unwarranted position.
I want to make the people of Nevis aware, again, that in 15 months, having inherited a bad financial situation, that we sought to manage our finances of the country well and our main priority was to ensure that we could pay our people and that we could stay within the accord which the IMF [International Monetary Fund] programme demands from us.
I reiterate that the overdraft has not increased over what we met in 2013 after we took government.
I wish also to indicate that this Nevis Island Administration has not received any financial subvention for budgetary assistance. We have made approach to the SIDF [Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation] asking for a similar accommodation which was accorded to the former Administration but every attempt has been refused.
I must advise that when in September the double salary was awarded that we did receive assistance from the SIDF to enable us to cover that double salary payment.
I again express my gratitude to the Chief Executive Officer of the SIDF and to the members of that Foundation and I will be asking again, for assistance as in the tight economic situation in which we find ourselves both in Nevis and St. Kitts and let me reiterate, not of the making of the CCM Administration. We will need and we can benefit from assistance from any budgetary support either from the Federal Government, the SIDF or from any source including the IMF.
My fellow citizens, to my knowledge, the Federal Government has received 9million Euros approximately EC$36million in 2014 from the European Union for budgetary assistance for St. Kitts and Nevis but from this amount, the Federal Government has not transferred any of those resources to the NIA, even though it was intimated to me that those 9million Euros or approximately EC$36million, depending on the exchange rate, were to be for the support of the budget for the Federation which and I remind all of us, comprises the Federal Government and the Nevis Island Administration, the Nevis Island Government.
It is clear to me that we have a situation with our creditors which has to be addressed and addressed in a way which will not depend on any last minute negotiations, addressed in a way which will remove any unnecessary distress especially to our people generally – single mothers and those vulnerable people in our society – who depend on their pay cheque month to month.
I long for the day when we can return to the situation where people can have savings, when the Government itself can have savings, so that we do not find ourselves at the behest of our creditors.
For our information, in this month, the Nevis Island Administration paid into its bank $3.2million in addition to having $1.8million in cash deposit at the bank to secure and cover the payment of salaries which should have been paid today without all of this stress and trauma.
I want also to advise that the Permanent Secretary (acting), the Treasury personnel have been in ongoing discussions with the representatives of our National Bank to ensure that public servants were paid and I advised just now that we put into our account the resources which should have covered the expense of our salaries today.
I make this comment, not with any pleasure but to state a situation which today must go down as one of the saddest days in the history of the people of Nevis, of the Nevis Island Administration, a sad day indeed that our employees having worked, had to have some uncertainty as to whether they will get their pay. I want to remind us that this should never be allowed to happen again.
Let me state for the record because the issue which is at hand, is that the Nevis Island Administration should transfer land for debt to the National Bank through the special purpose vehicle which was created in 2012 but let me also advise, that the 238 acres of land at Stock Pen is already held by the Bank in mortgage to secure the overdraft.
We have subsequently signed a memorandum to transfer that land and this was done before this week and I trust, as I said earlier, that we do not have a recurrence and that in our dialogue which we hope to have on Friday, that we can resolve our problems, get a greater understanding and get a facilitation of the Government’s business, so that those who work for government and who depend on their wages and their salaries, would be able to honour their own debts, buy food, buy formula for their children, be able to make an easier life for themselves and not to be subjected to embarrassment as they were today.
I place on record my appreciation to the Chairman of the Board who convened a meeting of the Board today to get this matter resolved. I know it has not been easy but it has not been easy for anybody. Anyone who has been involved in this experience today must have had a very serious high level of stress.
My fellow citizens, based on these facts, I wish to advise that the hardships which were created today, show that we are prepared to deal with any situation which arises. I called the Prime Minister. I spoke to him at length setting out the conditions, setting out the situation, the facts. I feel, based on our discussion and based on the resolution which the Bank has made to honour the cheques of the Government, that we will make progress in resolving these types of issues.
Again, I reiterate, I make this statement with much pain, pain for the more than 1,800 Public Servants in Nevis and their families and those vulnerable senior citizens who depend on them. I take no pleasure in making this statement but I trust that this message is clear, as I have sought to set the record straight.
Already, a lot has been said in the social media and no doubt a lot would be said on the radio but I have sought to talk to you very frankly, very honestly as painful as it has been. I trust that you understand that the NIA, in all of its 15 months, sought only to do right by the people of Nevis.
Finally, I believe that even though we had a harsh blow dealt to us today, it must never be allowed to happen again.
May God bless us. May God give us wisdom. May God give us fortitude and give us the willingness to deal with matters honestly.
The hype and if anybody wants to exalt, they will not be doing the Government any harm because the people of Nevis have been the ones who have suffered through all of this.
God bless you and thank you for listening.