BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, DECEMBER 16TH 2014 (CUOPM) – Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says the double salary been paid to Federal civil servants this week is not been financed by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF).
In remarks at the end of his weekly radio programme “Ask the Prime Minister” Dr. Douglas said it was time for the Premier of Nevis, the Hon. Vance Amory to stop blaming others and take the necessary steps to complete the process of restructuring and stimulating the economy of Nevis.
“I don’t believe that the grandstanding that the Premier is attempting to make in a statement yesterday (Monday night) absolves him from his responsibility to provide a bonus to the public servants in Nevis. They too would have been going through a painful adjustment I am sure. It is true that the government has been very tardy in not responding quickly as we have been warning them to do,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He told the listeners that local and international financial institutions have been warning Premier Amory and his CCM Administration to sign off on the outstanding issues.
“The bank has been warning them. We have been warning them. The IMF has been warning the NIA and saying to them that they must get their house in order instead of grandstanding on the land for debt swap issue. This should have been completed a long time ago and thus they would have created the fiscal space that has been created as in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, where they would have extra money on hand in order to facilitate the double salary payment as a bonus for Christmas,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
“We continue to say that responding to these things in a timely manner is important. The Nevis Island Administration has been spending far much time grandstanding saying that it is part of some Unity Concoction that is trying to bring the life of the Labour Federal Government to an end prematurely, instead of settling down and dealing with the issues of the economy, making sure that it can stimulate the economy, that it can look at the value of the land for debt swap and bring the debt down so that its overdraft situation can be improved and thus allow for these payments,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is not always that you have to continue to be political all the time; blaming the Federal Government on the island of St. Kitts because that is what it would appear as if the CCM seems to be doing as its political strategy, just blame the Federal Government, blame it for everything. You can’t pay your lights bill today, just blame the Federal Government. You can’t pay your debt to the Caribbean Development Bank, just blame the Federal Government. You can’t pay your debt on time for something, just blame the Federal Government,” Dr. Douglas said.
He accused Premier Amory of deliberately misleading the public when he is saying for example that ‘the PM well knows that the last time the NIA tried to access funds from the National Bank, the response was not favourable.’
“Of course it was not favourable at that time because the bank has been saying to Nevis what it needs to do to get its own the finances in order and the government has been very slow, deliberately slow. It claims it can’t find the title for the land – its own land it can’t find title for? What nonsense is that?” said Prime Minister Douglas, who advised that there is a way to proceed if the title for the lands cannot be found.
But Dr. Douglas is of the view that it was a deliberate strategy by Premier Amory and his CCM-Nevis Island Administration in order to blame the Federal Government, to blame the National Bank, to blame someone else for its own failing to deal with the economic and financial situations in the sister island of Nevis.
“The St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution gives that authority to the Nevis Island Administration to look after the financial health of the people of Nevis and so it can’t pass that responsibility to anyone,” said the Prime Minister who noted that Premier Amory in his statement on Monday stated that money for the double salary for St. Kitts civil servants comes from the SIDF.
“That is absolute nonsense. Total absolute hogwash that is what it is,” responded Prime Minister Douglas.
He said that the Federal Government has been able to put its finances in order by making very painful adjustments that is what it has done.
“It took away increments from public servants for three years. It actually transferred 1200 acres of land to the National Bank in order to get the kind of fiscal space that is necessary in order to do things in stimulating the economy and providing services for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis,” the Prime Minister.
He again stressed that the SIDF has not given the Federal government money for quite a long time and Premier Amory knows that.
“Whatever the SIDF is doing, it is pumping money into capital projects, supporting the PEP workers in both Nevis and St. Kitts with over EC$1 Million dollars every week paid to them,” Dr. Douglas said.
“The PEP is both St. Kitts and Nevis. The SIDF is not giving any money to the Federal Government just like that and I believe the Premier of Nevis is aware of this, but to say that the money for double salary is coming from the SIDF here in St. Kitts…that is absolute nonsense,” he told listeners to the programme carried live on ZIZ Radio, Kyss FM and Choice FM on Nevis and broadcast on Freedom FM on Wednesday afternoon.
“The Federal Government is not receiving any money from the SIDF to pay the double salary this year. Last year, we approached the SIDF on behalf of the public servants on both Nevis and St. Kitts and Nevis to finance the double salary in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of Independence,” said the Prime Minister.
“We had all kind of problems with the IMF to accept that, however it was done. The IMF does not allow the SIDF to just transfer money to pay people salaries that never happens” said Dr. Douglas.
“Whatever money is made from the Citizenship by Investment Programme is shared between the two islands. The fees which the government charges to administer the programme, the fees are charged in order to meet the expenditure for administering the programme. There is no administrative office in Nevis to do that, naturally therefore the government must collect fees,” said Dr. Douglas.
“The Budget speaks to how much we have increased it. The expenditure will increase by millions of dollars in order to ensure that proper due diligence checks are being done. Naturally if the government is going to spend millions of dollars to manage the programme, the government must get a return for it; it is the Federal Government that manages the programme. But when the programme does well as it doing, maybe processing 100 applications per month, then passports are being processed,” he said, explaining further that if the people in Nevis are also having projects on Nevis with the applications coming through Nevis, then the stamps for the passports are purchased in Charlestown.
“The $250 dollar stamp is bought in Nevis that goes to the Nevis revenue as when those stamps that are being bought in St. Kitts come to the St. Kitts revenue, the Treasury. So what does he mean by the proceeds of the Citizenship by Investment Programme are not equitably shared. It can’t be equitably shared because it is only one administrative arm that is residing here in St. Kitts,” he explained.
The Prime Minister disclosed that before the Hon. Joseph Parry and his Nevis Reformation Party (NRP)-led Nevis Island Administration left office, discussions were very much advanced in how a similar office can operate out of Nevis, or how the staff can be shared in the Citizenship by Investment Unit, but Mr. Amory has never sat down with him to discuss anything of that nature.
“It has just been an acrimonious relationship from the moment he took office,” said the Prime Minister.
He disclosed that the SIDF offered to continue the arrangement that was being made with the Nevis Island Administration under Mr. Parry to invest in getting the geothermal project going.
“The SIDF said let me be a partner, the NIA accepted it under Mr. Parry but when we had our first meeting after the CCM won, I sat down with Mr. Amory. I said ‘here is where we are on the geothermal project as the SIDF was coming in as a financing partner. He said ‘no, no, no, no, I don’t want that. We have our own way of financing the geothermal project.’ And now two years have gone and nothing has happened,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He reiterated that the geothermal project in Nevis is important to both St. Kitts and Nevis.
“Electricity rates by now would have been dramatically down, but again as I said the CCM NIA is not willing to work with the Federal Government in St. Kitts. It is not willing to do that. All that it is doing is creating confusion and opposing,” said Dr. Douglas.
He also said Premier Amory and CCM-NIA is also opposed to the Joint Cabinet Meetings that were held when the NRP was in office “and were so healthy in looking forward with a common agenda in moving the country forward. That has been opposed by the CCM-NIA.”
“They don’t want that, they don’t want to work with us” said Dr. Douglas, who admitted that he was embarrassed a few months ago when he called an emergency sitting of the Parliament to provide a guarantee by way of resolution.
He said he anticipated that Premier Amory was going to have difficulty in paying public servants in Nevis until the financial situation improved upon finalisation of the land for debt swap and the a Federal Government guarantee of the extended overdraft.
“I went to the Parliament with a proposal for EC$15 million so that all like now that won’t be a problem, but it was rejected,” said Dr. Douglas, who recalled that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Premier of Nevis, Hon. Mark Brantley publicly stating ‘who tell Douglas that we want money? We nuh ask him for nuh money, he too fast, keep out of our business.’
“That is what he said publicly and now trying to blame me, trying to blame the Federal Government because it is having difficulties,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He recalled telling the Premier on Friday that it was not the right procedure to write to the Financial Secretary asking that the SIDF give the NIA money.
“It doesn’t work like that, that is not how it works. The Financial Secretary cannot direct, instruct, request the SIDF to give you money. It can’t work like that,” said the Prime Minister who again indicated the Federal Government’s commitment to provide a guarantee to the National Bank to extend the overdraft for a further five million dollars to meet the commitment of $4.7 million dollars to pay the public servants a double salary.
“When in the past the government would pay a double salary, the Federal Government will declare it. Mr. Parry gets on the phone. Sometimes he doesn’t even speak to me directly. He gets to the Cabinet Secretary and he says ‘tell the Prime Minister that we can’t really pay it right now, but we want to pay and so if you can please speak to Mr. Lawrence at the National Bank.’ That is how it was done. What does that mean? It means that he is asking me to provide a guarantee to the National Bank, that will allow the National Bank to extend and increase its overdraft temporarily so that it is able to pay the double salary,” said Dr. Douglas.
He reported that National Bank has been trying to speak to the NIA in recent times indicating what needs to be done to give the fiscal space needed.
“’Let us complete the transaction with the land for debt swap and so you will have fiscal space, so that you will be able to have an overdraft that is extended so that you can meet the little emergency demands being placed on you from time to time. But as I said the Premier’s game is to blame St. Kitts for everything. That is old time politics. People are more educated today. The young people in Nevis understand that what the young people in St. Kitts are enjoying they want to enjoy it too,” Dr. Douglas said.