Citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis, all, good day. I bring to you today the post-Cabinet briefing for Cabinet meetings held Wednesday May 7th, 2014 and earlier. For general information, Cabinet meetings are held on Mondays, and occasionally on Wednesdays if for some reason a Monday meeting was missed.
DEVELOPMENT OF SECOND PIER AT PORT ZANTE
Minister of Tourism and International Transport, the Hon. Richard Skerritt, brought to the Cabinet a full update on the progress being made with the proposed development of a second cruise pier at Port Zante, in support of an earlier decision by the Cabinet of Ministers approving the need for the pier. Present at Cabinet to help finalise outstanding issues related to the decision were officials from the Ministry of Finance, the SIDF and SCASPA.
Cabinet agreed to the concept of a private-public partnership (PPP) arrangement which would involve a private joint-venture company developing the pier and owning it initially, but then transferring ownership to SCASPA over a fixed period of time. Cruise shipping operations on both piers would be the responsibility of SCASPA as normal.
It was confirmed that a draft agreement between SCASPA and a joint venture company, Cruise Port Development Limited, was awaiting conclusion of final details before signature. Cabinet emphasized that it was important to pursue a financing option for the construction of the pier that did not increase the long-term obligations of SCASPA given that SCASPA had already made significant strides in reducing its debt and setting itself on a highly sustainable financial path. The development financing arrangement agreed to will be a viable combination of equity and debt originating from both local and foreign sources, with loan repayment coming only from revenues generated by future cruise arrivals.
Cabinet supported the view that the development of the second pier should commence as soon as possible so that our country can benefit from immediate scheduling by the cruise industry for the 2015-16 season, thus enabling the economic benefits of the expanded facilities to be felt locally at the earliest opportunity.
The new cruise pier and upland improvements involved in the development are estimated to cost US $32M and the project is expected to commence in the second half of this year, 2014.
EARLIER CABINET DECISIONS
I now report on some earlier Cabinet decisions.
REVISED FOREIGN POLICY FOR ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Cabinet approved the revised foreign policy of St. Kitts and Nevis presented by the Hon. Patrice Nisbett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who advised that a foreign policy ought to be dynamic since world events define and shape international relations on an ongoing basis. The Minister surmised that it was imperative to review the existing policy considering the evolution of global affairs, geopolitics and how our national agenda can be pursued within the evolving environment.
The revised foreign policy outlines the principles and priorities of the Federation that will guide the interactions of government officials with foreign governments and regional and international entities.
The ten (10) Foreign Policy principles established are: Sustainable economic growth for all, Human and Social Advancement, Respect for the environment, Non-intervention, Peaceful settlement of conflicts, Right to self-determination, International peace and security, the Promotion of human rights. Democracy and good governance, and Respect for the rule of law.
Sixteen (16) specific foreign policy objectives have been identified and include the following:
• To promote trade, investment and tourism through bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation.
• To promote and facilitate investment in the Citizenship by Investment Programme
• To strengthen relations with traditional partners and non-state actors
• To take full advantage of our membership in regional and international bodies including the UN and its organs, the OAS, the Commonwealth, CELAC, OECS, and CARICOM and ACS, while fulfilling our role as an active and contributing member
• To create and maintain strong networks with the Diaspora through our overseas missions
• To build strategic partnerships for cultural cooperation
• To address current global issues of concern to the Federation including human rights, climate change, vulnerability of small states to natural disasters, and the mobilization of concessionary and grant funding, among other things
The foreign policy document also lays out specific strategies for our country’s relations with Africa, North America, Latin America, the European Union and its members states, the Asia Pacific region, Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
The Hon. Patrice Nisbett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, intimated that St. Kitts and Nevis faces challenges for which local action alone will not suffice. He advised that no state acting alone can protect itself from the internal and external vulnerabilities, and the purpose of foreign policy is to build relationships in pursuit of our national interest.
NEW FOREIGN SERVICE REGULATIONS
Cabinet has also approved new Foreign Service Regulations, or rules that will govern the foreign service of St. Kitts and Nevis. The St. Kitts and Nevis Foreign Service is a component of the Federal government that falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and refers to the cadre of individuals who are employed in the Ministry either at Capital or in any overseas mission.
The new regulations will provide guidance regarding the duration of posting overseas, privileges afforded to staff and their dependents, such as spouses and children, the responsibility of the State and the accountability of officers to respective authorities. The Foreign Service regulations also set standards for governance, conduct and discipline of foreign officers, and financial management at overseas missions.
The Hon. Prime Minister highly commended the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett, indicating that the new Foreign Service regulations improve transparency and strengthen good governance as they relate to the Foreign Service under his charge.
LAND DISTRIBUTION FOR HOUSING CONTINUES
Consistent with the government’s policy of empowering nationals through land and home ownership, Cabinet has recently approved the creation of the Saddlers Park View Housing Extension further expanding the residential community of Saddlers Village. This new land distribution initiative adds to the Saddlers Park View Housing development which was created by the government a little over 10 years ago.
This new development creates an additional 63 housing lots averaging 4700 square feet for the people of Saddlers Village and will assist in meeting the demand for housing lots by residents of the area.
This new decision by the Cabinet follows recent similar decisions allocating:
• 42 housing lots for the Estridge Housing Extension in Mansion
• 91 housing lots at White House Garden Housing Development
• 48 housing lots at Shadwell West Housing Development and Olivees Circle
• 42 lots for housing development at High Point Housing Development in Sandy Point/Fig Tree
• 10 new lots for housing re-development at Stonefort Estate Housing Development in Challengers
It is worthy of note that several other areas have been identified by the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and the Ministry of Sustainable Development for further land distribution and housing development.
DECLARATION OF FRIGATE BAY SALT POND AND ITS ENVIRONS AS A PROTECTED AREA
Finally in this briefing, Cabinet has recently approved the declaration of the Frigate Bay Salt Pond and its environs as a protected area, as under section 9(1) of the National Conservation and Environmental Protection Act of 2006. This decision is in keeping with the vision of the National Physical Development Plan of St. Kitts that recommends that this area be zoned and developed for recreational purposes.
Moreover, the Protected Areas Systems Plan for St. Kitts and Nevis recognizes the fact that the Frigate Bay Salt Pond is located in an area that supports a number of bird species and is linked to the breeding of three such species. The Protected Areas Systems Plan envisages the rehabilitation of the of the area under consideration for eco-tourism and educational purposes.
The designation of the Frigate Bay Salt Pond and its environs as a protected area will allow the following:
1. The continued use of the area as space for recreation by our national and visitors without the threat of development in the area
2. The preservation of the area as a green space for environmental, aesthetic and other purposes
3. The establishment of a management framework to oversee the activities conducted in the area
This is indeed a very positive development for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.