Commentary by Michael Evans.
After years of dependence on agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries, that were affected by the global economic downturn a few years ago, the economic state of affairs in most Caribbean countries was challenged over the last few years. Many have recorded no economic growth while others are still faced with fiscal challenges, but not in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, a Government led by a visionary Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, took hold of the Nations future, and started the process to build a better St. Kitts and Nevis. To do that, significant upgrades in the infrastructure was needed; in addition the continuing Government support of a social system that subsidizes almost everything from Education to Health Care; a few National disasters in the latter 1990’s and the almost annual support for a failing Sugar Industry, due to falling prices on the world market, caused the Nation to borrow in order to survive. The Government became innovative and saw the benefits of a Citizenship By Investment program(CBI), and what a successful program it has been.
The revenues generated from the program fueled growth, and gave the Government the foundation upon which to close a faltering Sugar Industry and transition to tourism and other services.
The vision of Dr. Denzil Douglas and his cabinet prevailed, and the Government invested heavily in our future to bring a better life for all citizens, similar to a parent investing in a child’s college education, and in the end progress was upon us. The cost of investing in our nations future, just like that of a parent investing in a child’s future was still there like a college loan, and it had to be repaid. The nations debt to Gross Domestic Product(GDP) ratio was high.
A few years ago, after consultations and guidance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), we saw our Government sit with the IMF, listened to their plan for our debt reduction and then modified it to make it work for our Nation. The Government entered into a homegrown stand-by agreement with the IMF to tidy up it’s fiscal affairs. Dr. Denzil Douglas, a focused leader, directing his team, was able to meet the road map put forth by the IMF and bring St. Kitts and Nevis back from a state of penny watching, to a state where “revenue surplus” is now the talk. Civil servants are receiving a 10 percent increase in salaries and the payment of increments, Government Departments are replacing equipment in modernization processes and the house is in order.
The house is in order, says the IMF in a recent press conference where it highlighted that our economy is doing better, leading the OECS with growth, GDP is up a projected 3.5 percent, Manufacturing Exports to the US are up, and the positives continue. They highlighted the innovative programs such as PEP, one that puts young people to work, the partnership with the SIDF in Nation building, and the Leadership and Stewardship of the Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas. As a result, we now see Leaders in the Caribbean entering into “homegrown” stand-by agreements with the IMF, similar to the one developed by Dr. Denzil Douglas.
It is this kind of leadership that is required in critical times, and with so many of our neighbors still feeling the clench of tough economies, eyes have been turned to St. Kitts and Nevis, and upon Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas. Last week, (week of 2 May) 19 of our region’s most senior economic and financial leaders from the Bahamas in the North, to Trinidad and Tobago in the South, Guyana and Belieze, and from 3 regional non borrowing countries Columbia, Mexico and Venezuela, plus five non regional, non-borrowing members, Canada, China, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom and as a result of his transformational work here in St. Kitts and Nevis with turning our economy around, elected our Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas as the Chairman for the Board of Governors of the all important regional Caribbean Development Bank.
Just as the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank clearly understands at this time; St. Kitts and Nevis should also understand at this time, Effective Leadership is required in critical times.