My fellow citizens and residents, you will be pleased to learn that the prudent fiscal management of the affairs of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, which has been the hallmark of our Team Unity administration, continues in the fifth (5th) year of my administration.
Our 2019 Fiscal results for period January 1st to April 30th, 2019 indicate:
We have achieved a surplus on the recurrent account 2019, four (4) times the size in 2018
Overall balance reveals a surplus
Primary account is again in significant surplus
Net Fiscal position is remarkably strong as at the end of April 2019
Our fiscal house is robustly strong and one of the best in the region. Let me commend my support staff led by Financial Secretary Mrs. Hilary Hazel and the heads of our key revenue collecting departments: Mr. Edward Gift at Inland Revenue, Mr. Kennedy De Silva at Customs and Excise, and Mr. Levi Bradshaw at our Accountant General Department.
Based on first quarter performance, the revenue total and grants target of $784 Million for 2019 seems very much realizable. Contrary to the doom and gloom presented during the 2019 Budget Debate from an Opposition out of sync with the virtues of fiscal management, our projections so far have proven to be conservative and proper. Very significantly, we are likely to surpass our best estimates of revenue for 2019.
There is no room for complacency, and we urge those who owe taxes of any type to pay them promptly. Our excellent expenditure management has helped contain actual total expenditure within negligible variance of the budget. Again, the realism of budget estimates is being vindicated.
A healthy and growing economy is producing record revenues at a sufficient level to cover our expenses and produce savings for a rainy day and for our legacy projects like the Unity Bridge connecting St. Kitts and Nevis.
CBI – First and Best in The World
Our CBI programme enters its 35th year this year. It remains the first and the best citizenship by investment programme in the world. Our programme has provided the intellectual underpinnings for subsequent programmes and permutations thereof by countries such as the USA, Canada, Malta and Cyprus, all of which have their versions of CBI programmes.
Our programme provides an alternative pathway for attracting foreign investments to spur economic growth, create jobs, build out resilience of our country to climate change and catastrophes and to allow our people the opportunity to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the second (2nd) time, St. Kitts and Nevis will host the Caribbean Investment Summit over the period 19th – 21st June 2019. We are grateful to be host of this prestigious event and to build a network for greater cooperation and harmonization of the CBI programmes in the Region.
Our due diligence is one of the best. It is multilayered and multifaceted, using international firms and agencies. We do not accept applicants from States labelled as uncooperative in the fight against terrorism or considered rogue nations. We cooperate with the EU, USA and Canada. We have excellent relationships with our regional and international crime-fighting agencies, including the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Joint Regional Communications Centre (JRCC), and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). Our support is reflected in that we keep our contributions up to date.
We are largely compliant with respect to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) requirements for transparency in tax matters, we are compliant with the European Union’s (EU’s) requirements, which change ever too often, and we are an excellent performer on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index for 2019, placing 30 out of 126 countries assessed and 1st in the OECS and 2nd in the sub-region. In the context of the foregoing, we are very disappointed that two (2) members of the European Parliament should issue a letter to the EU Commission and the President of the European Council to request scrutiny of our programme without a scintilla of evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone in our programme, and by relying on misdeeds of the former Douglas regime and the inaccurate claim that a Russian citizen of interest to law enforcement agencies was an economic citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis since 2014. It is not a good reflection of the reliability and seriousness of members of the European Parliament that they should seek punitive action against any entity without giving the accused the benefit of due process and natural justice and without regard for the consequences of their ill-informed letter, not just for the viability of the CBI programme of St. Kitts and Nevis but also for the wider Caribbean. We call on Madams Gomes and Schaake to recall their letters and to apologize to our people.
My Government is satisfied that the significant reforms, which have been made to the CBI programme since our coming to office, our high level of cooperation with our international partners and the excellent quality of our due diligence have transformed our programme into an international leader amongst all programmes. We will continue to be a very responsible member of the International Community. We regret that our predecessors had not exercised the proper due care and attention. We inherited serious problems in 2015, but we have since consecrated that history and we now have the best CBI programme in the world. We are open, transparent and democratic, and our programme provides the global platinum standard for its safety and security.
Report on Official Visit Abroad
I am very pleased to report that my visit to Washington, D.C. over the period May 22nd – 27th, 2019 was very productive. The first round of engagement involved my participation in the World Bank/ECCB Workshop on the Digital Economy Moonshot. Given the ubiquitous nature of the digital economy and its importance as a driver and enabler of economic growth and inclusiveness, it was important for St. Kitts and Nevis to participate. I was supported, inter alia, by the Financial Secretary, Mrs. Hillary Hazel and Ambassador Thelma Phillip-Browne. The excellent literary skills of my Press Secretary were commended by the World Bank. St. Kitts and Nevis will incorporate the learning from that workshop in the build out of our ICT infrastructure, digital skills, digital financial services, digital platforms and digital entrepreneurship in such a manner as to promote digital transformation and economic development. A high-level delegation from the World Bank will visit us in the summer to render support to us in these areas and more.
The World Bank is committed to work with the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) in harmonizing policies and legislative framework that are critical to the development of the digital economy. We have asked for support in the financial technology area, including policy and legislative support.
Coming out of that meeting was an important offer for support with climate change resilience and mitigation. Particularly the prospect of St. Kitts and Nevis benefitting from the Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (CAT DDO) was discussed. A window has been made available via the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). We cannot access International Development Assistance because of our high per capita income. At US$17,925 in 2017, our per capita GDP is the highest in the OECS and the second (2nd) highest in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. (This excludes the USA and Canada, which are not our peers.) This is a remarkable position for St. Kitts and Nevis, which 41 years ago had a lowly GDP per capita of US $1,017!
I was a guest at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and engaged media in a wide range of issues impacting our development, including climate change, correspondent banking, the digital economy and Venezuela. Speaking of Venezuela, on Friday, May 31st, our Foreign Affairs Minister and I will confer with a high-level representative of the Juan Guaidó faction as we seek to update ourselves on developments in Venezuela. I have been invited by the European Union to talks early in June on the said matter.
Most memorable was a highly interactive engagement with the St. Kitts and Nevis diaspora on two (2) occasions:
Saturday at a picnic of Nev-DC, I had a special opportunity to meet Everton “OB” Elliott, a well-known blogger residing in the USA. I thank him for the interview conducted.
Sunday at a townhall meeting on the eve of Memorial Day. The topics were wide-ranging. Very helpful suggestions and interesting ideas were put forward on constitutional reform, general elections, relations between Federal and Local Government, the Cannabis industry, the kinds of investors we need to engage, and other issues in relation to health care and national health insurance coverage. I thank the Hon. Ian Patches Liburd for providing able support at the event.
2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season
The 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season starts on 1st June 2019. Thanks to our Team Unity’s compassionate Hurricane Relief Programme, the most significant post-hurricane assistance ever has provided assistance to over 2,000 families across the length and breadth of our country. The beneficiaries include the elderly, the poor, the vulnerable, the physically disabled, as well as pastors, churches, schools, early childhood care facilities, the Carnival Village, UWI Open Campus Centre, Fire Stations, Police Stations, etc. etc. Never before in our Nation’s history, and certainly not in the 20-year period before Team Unity, has such a magnificently helpful response been given.
We urge all citizens and residents to avoid complacency and begin now to make their best efforts to mitigate the exposure to loss of life and damage to property. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is already being engaged and has already begun work on disaster preparedness and risk reduction. I am pleased to advise that the Attorney General, the Hon. Vincent Byron is the new Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial National Emergency Operations Committee and Cabinet’s Representative to NEMA for the Hurricane Season. The Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Shawn Richards served as Cabinet’s focal point on matters relating to NEMA’s disaster preparedness and response efforts during the previous Hurricane Seasons. I record Cabinet’s deep satisfaction and support for his herculean efforts, dedication and superb performance. He has left big shoes for the Attorney General to fill.
The St. Kitts Evangelical Association in collaboration with the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs has organized a National Service of Prayer for our Safety and Wellbeing during the 2019 Hurricane Season on Thursday, May 30th, 2019 starting 7:30pm at the Evangelistic Centre, Needsmust Estate. All are invited to join in worship.
Antonio Maynard – I am happy to advise that the Hon. Vance Amory, Minister for Social Security informed Cabinet that Mr. Antonio Maynard, former Secretary General of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO has been appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Social Security Board, effective 3rd June 2019. Mr. Maynard emerged as the best choice to lead Social Security at this juncture from a field of excellent candidates, fifty-one (51) of whom applied for the job. Amongst the candidates were Nationals from St. Kitts and Nevis, the Caribbean region and beyond, that is, the USA and Canada.
I commend Mr. Maynard for the major successes in his own career development, and I am certain he will surpass all expectations. I proffer my gratitude to him for his contribution to national development via the UNESCO National Commission of St. Kitts and Nevis. Indeed, I was Minister of Education when he was first appointed, and I have seen him grow and develop into one of the most productive Secretaries General in the region serving the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
I wish Mr. Maynard all the very best in his new assignment. He is an industrious and thoughtful person with a good head and kind heart.
Elrether Simpson-Browne is our new Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sustainable Development. She comes to the job with a wealth of knowledge in the human settlement sector and in human resource management. Ms. Beverly Harris continues in a supernumerary position to ensure orderly transition. She is one of the longest-serving civil servants. I commend Ms. Harris’ service to nation-building.
Visit of Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister and $8 Million for Old Road Bay
My Government has been pleased to welcome the distinguished Foreign Minister of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Dr. Joseph Wu and his delegation to St. Kitts and Nevis. The visit helped to further strengthen our bilateral relationships. My Government expects to shortly receive a significant contribution of $8 million from the Republic of China (Taiwan) for the historic Old Road Bay Rehabilitation Project, which will enhance the safety and security of users of our road network and provide an enhancement of socio-economic life when completed.