Featured Remarks by Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon Dr Terrance Drew, at the Luncheon Meeting ahead of the 75th Annual General Meeting of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce

Good afternoon esteemed members of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen…

While I cannot be with you in person, as I am attending the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, I sincerely appreciate your invitation to give remarks ahead of your 75th Annual General Meeting.

A dialogue of this kind with you, the members of St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, signals your Government’s commitment to transparency and good governance as well as to share the Government’s vision for transforming St. Kitts and Nevis into a Sustainable Island State. As we embark on this transformative journey, it is equally important that we identify and discuss the obstacles to economic growth and seek to address these challenges collaboratively.

In our relentless pursuit of progress, we have embraced the principles of a people-focused government. We recognize that sustainable development can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership with stakeholders from all sectors of society. The Chamber of Industry and Commerce, as a vital pillar of our economy, plays a pivotal role in shaping policies and initiatives that foster economic growth and prosperity. Your invaluable insights and expertise are instrumental in guiding our efforts towards a sustainable future.

Let us begin by reflecting on the fiscal performance of the past year. The projections for 2023 indicated a commendable overall surplus of $11.2 million and a primary surplus of $28.2 million, underscoring our commitment to fiscal responsibility and prudent financial management. Looking ahead, the medium-term outlook presents a promising trajectory of sustainable debt reduction and economic growth. Real GDP is projected to grow by 3.6 per cent in 2024, signalling positive momentum for our economy.

Our Administration has committed to achieving the goal of a Sustainable Island State by 2035. In the 2024 Budget Address, we outlined the Sustainable Island State Strategy built upon seven (7) pillars crucial to the Federation’s Sustainable Island State Agenda. These pillars – green Energy Transition, Food Security, Economic Diversification, Sustainable Industries, the Creative Economy, COVID-19 Recovery, and Social Protection, will chart our course toward a sustainable future. The transformation will be underpinned by sustainable fiscal and debt management. It is important to note that, this Agenda aligns with our commitments outlined in the Paris Agreement, the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), our National Determined Contribution (NDC) and our National Development Planning Framework (NDPF). The Government, to translate the Agenda into programmes, projects, and activities has commenced our engagement with stakeholders in which members of your organization have been included. In December 2023, the National Assembly approved the 2024 Budget totalling EC$1.09 billion with capital investment accounting for approximately EC$204.5 million. Priority has been given to the enhancement of expertise in critical to improve services in areas such as public infrastructure, health, education, the creative economy, and social protection. Resources have also been allocated to support continued investment in road infrastructure, water production and distribution, improved health and education services, agriculture, and sustainable social protection services.

Among the seven (7) pillars, the transition to green energy, particularly the development of geothermal resources, stands as a linchpin for our nation’s prosperity. Recognizing its profound impact across all sectors, we believe that resolving our energy challenges will create a positive ripple effect, influencing not only food security but also ensuring reliable and safe water access for our people. In the upcoming fiscal year, the Government will continue to evaluate the optimal renewable energy mix and expedite plans for the Geothermal project in Nevis and the Solar Power Project in St. Kitts. Simultaneously, we plan to upgrade the Needsmust Power Plant to enhance the overall supply of energy to residents and businesses, confident that these endeavours will propel us closer to achieving our vision of a Sustainable Island State.

With regards to the supply of water, I am very much aware of the water challenges in some of our communities and I empathize with the affected residents and businesses. However, the Government is determined to resolve the water challenges. This is evident in the budgetary allocations and composition of the Government’s Public Sector Investment Program. In addition to the traditional drilling of wells, the Government will construct two desalination plants during the 2024 fiscal year to increase the supply of water. Therefore, the Public Sector Investment Program stands as a testament to our deliberate efforts to improve the lives of our citizens and residents as well as to enhance economic growth, making strides toward our shared aspiration of a Sustainable Island State.

Another evolving challenge relates to the Manufacturing Sector. The Sector has been constrained by the ever-changing economic and financial conditions of the international environment, ranging from higher prices of inputs due to supply chain disruptions as well as high labour costs. We are equally aware of the challenges that have been experienced by our local manufacturers. Combined, these challenges have resulted in the closure of a few of our factories at the Industrial Site. Given the Sector’s contribution to GDP, which was about 3.0 per cent of GDP in 2023, it is imperative that we collaboratively seek ways to transform the Sector and increase its contribution to economic growth. As a first step, the Government will continue to update the National Manufacturing Strategy to guide policies that will drive investments in the Sector.

In addition, we have delivered on our promise to increase the minimum wage to $10.75 per hour or $430.00 weekly for our working population. Our St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration is determined to ensure that this important policy initiative reduces inflationary pressures due to the high cost of food and other items, and ultimately brings real improvement to the standard of living of the people in our workforce. We hope that the increase in the minimum wage will also result in increased productivity not only in the Public Sector but also in the Private Sector. In this regard, the National Minimum Wage Advisory Committee has been recommissioned to monitor the impact of this important policy initiative on the workforce and businesses continuously to ensure that it achieves the desired result of boosting productivity and enhancing the well-being of our workers. By implementing this policy initiative in a phased approach, we aim to ensure sustainable improvements in the well-being of our citizens.

In terms of the business community, the Government has been a strong partner in supporting business development and stands ready to continue its support to businesses, large and small. Central to our fiscal strategy is the reduction of reliance on Citizenship by Investment Programme revenues and the adoption of an equitable tax regime. We will continue to provide tax concessions to businesses based on the relevant legislation and current tax incentive policy. As you know, the Corporate Income Tax rate has already been reduced to ease the financial burden for businesses as they continue to operate in the post-pandemic era. The business community also continues to benefit from the extension of the temporary reduction in the Unincorporated Business Tax rate during 2024. Further, the Government intends to adopt a more comprehensive approach to tax reform in consultation with our Private Sector and Social Partners. We will provide more details of these plans as they are developed during this year and over the medium term.

Improving our infrastructure is paramount to fostering economic growth and enhancing the quality of life for our citizens. We recognize the pressing need to address road infrastructure deficiencies in various residential areas across the Federation. Building upon the investments made in 2023, which saw the construction of roads in Stonefort Heights, our government is committed to extending these efforts to underserved communities. Over the next two years, we will allocate resources to expand road works to residential developments including Shadwell West, Shadwell South, Boyds View Extension, Palmetto Point, Farms Meadows, Willets Extension, Rawlins Extension, Lodge Project, West Coast, Stapleton Extension, and others. Furthermore, we are poised to initiate several major capital projects in the upcoming year, including the construction of the Basseterre High School, Joshua Obadiah Williams Primary School, the new Smart Hospital, Coastal Area Revetment, and the Rehabilitation of St. Peter’s Main Road and FT Williams Highway. Additionally, negotiations are underway for further investment initiatives, such as a private fish farm development with funding from AFREXIMBANK and the construction of a performing arts centre.

Here, the invaluable partnership with the St. Kitts Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce comes into play. The Chamber’s advocacy for robust infrastructure development aligns seamlessly with our government’s goals, ensuring that our initiatives not only meet the needs of the community but also promote business interests and economic prosperity. By collaborating with the Chamber, we can leverage expertise, resources, and networks to drive these projects forward, creating jobs, fostering innovation, and stimulating economic activity across sectors.

I reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the journey towards a Sustainable Island State. The 2024 Budget serves as a roadmap for action, guiding us towards our shared vision of prosperity, sustainability, and inclusivity. As we embark on this transformative journey, I call upon each one of you to join hands in solidarity and partnership. Together, let us seize the opportunities before us, overcome the challenges ahead, and build a future where every citizen thrives and flourishes.

Thank you for your attention, and may we march forward together towards a brighter and more prosperous future for St. Kitts and Nevis.


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