My fellow citizens, residents, friends from around the world, and the vibrant youth of Saint Kitts and Nevis,
Today, I stand here on the hallowed grounds of what was once known as Pall Mall Square, a place where enslaved Africans were bought and sold like commodities. Forty years ago, on the 19th of September 1983, this Square was renamed THE INDEPENDENCE SQUARE, to commemorate the birth of our new nation of St. Christopher and Nevis! We must remember the significance of this Square. It is here that our journey towards self-determination and a brighter future began.
On this momentous occasion, as we celebrate 40 years of our beloved Saint Kitts and Nevis’ independence, I am reminded of the words of our first national hero and the Father of our Nation, The Right Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, who once said, “Independence is not a gift; it is a responsibility.” And this responsibility, my friends, is our call to action, our invitation to greatness. It is the fire that fuels our vision of a Sustainable Island State, where we will not merely survive but thrive, sustainably soaring together into a brighter future.
Today, beneath the same sky that has witnessed our incredible journey of 40 years of independence, I stand before you with a heart brimming with passion and a vision that ignites our spirits. We gather under the theme “Growing Sustainably, Developing Maturely, Building Resiliency: Independence 40.” This theme embodies our vision for the future – a vision that is forward-looking, filled with hope, and achievable. It is a vision that encompasses every citizen, from the young to the old, as we paint a picture of what our country will look like for the next 40 years.
Just a little over a year ago, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis unveiled a remarkable vision: to transform our twin island federation into a Sustainable Island State. This vision isn’t just a government initiative; it’s a shared dream of every resident and citizen, both here and in the Diaspora. Our collective aspirations for life on these two islands today and in the future shape the essence of this vision of sustainability.
While the government, under my leadership, has expressed a deep desire for transformation, we welcome your vision, your desires, and your understanding of what true sustainability means for our beloved St. Kitts and Nevis.
At its core, sustainability means enjoying the highest quality of life now and ensuring this standard endures for generations of Kittitians and Nevisians to come. Our journey towards sustainability revolves around three crucial elements: Climate Resilience, Digital Transformation, and Environmental Stewardship. In simple terms, every generation of our people will be equipped with the skills, tools, and assets needed to adapt to a changing climate, harness cutting-edge digital technology, and safeguard our environment and precious biodiversity.
Imagine a present and future where each of us enjoys:
24/7 Water Supply: With rainwater harvesting as the norm.
Clean, Affordable Energy: Connected to a single, sustainable energy grid between our islands, significantly reducing our utility bills.
Local Food Production: With a 25% reduction of food imports by 2025 and more from our backyards.
Economic Growth: Long-term job security, creative opportunities, experiential tourism, and diverse investments.
Smart Living: Modern homes and pedestrian-friendly urban spaces.
Zero Waste Economy: Say goodbye to waste with innovative landfill management.
Universal Well-being: Access to healthcare and a transformed, inclusive society for all.
We can achieve this! We as one people, one nation, can transform St. Kitts and Nevis into a Sustainable Island State, a sovereign nation, where every Kittitian and Nevisian enjoys the benefits of reliable cost-effective energy and water.
Where we grow a significant portion of the food we consume.
Where healthcare is universal, communities are inclusive and diverse, and protection of the most vulnerable is a priority.
Where growth in the economy is based on zero waste.
Where tourism is resilient and year-round.
Where creatives can thrive, and income matches the cost of living.
Where homes are smart, modern, and designed to withstand the changing climate.
A Sustainable Island State is something that every generation deserves. It speaks to the now and guarantees the same for the future. This is what we are aiming for. This is the path that we have come to pave for our beloved Federation.
To achieve our vision of a Sustainable Island State, we recognize that our young people are our greatest assets. By investing in modern education, we are equipping our youth for the future job landscape. We will promote courses that nurture creativity, such as content creation, virtual reality, data analytics, and mental health professions. Additionally, we will foster a culture of innovation by encouraging software creation and coding careers, ensuring our youth are at the forefront of the digital revolution.
Simultaneously, we aim to attract cutting-edge industries like semiconductor and computer chip manufacturing, providing exciting job opportunities and securing our place in the global technology landscape. Through education and strategic industry partnerships, we will empower our youth and drive economic growth, propelling us toward a sustainable and prosperous future.
But remember, the heart of our nation lies in its soil, its culture, and its people. Food security is not just a policy; it’s a movement to transform our food systems and build self-reliance. Food security stands as a cornerstone of our nation’s present well-being and our future prosperity for the next forty-plus years. It’s a topic that resonates deeply with all of us because it touches our daily lives. Saint Kitts and Nevis is committed to charting a sustainable path forward by significantly reducing our reliance on food imports. We pledge to transform our domestic food production systems by investing in critical infrastructure, and empowering our farmers, fisherfolk, and agro-processing organizations. We’ll create an inclusive, enabling framework that eliminates barriers to accessing local markets and fosters innovation. By doing so, we’re not only enhancing our resilience but also creating economic opportunities for our people. Together, we’ll ensure that every citizen has access to healthy, locally sourced food, and we’ll build a more secure, self-reliant nation for generations to come.
This is our moment, my fellow citizens and residents, a moment that demands action, a moment that beckons us to be architects of our destiny. Let us rise, let us unite, let us build this Sustainable Island State together. Let us be the change we want to see in our beloved Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Notwithstanding our strength as a people, we are immensely grateful for the enduring friendships and partnerships we have cultivated with countries that have established diplomatic relations with Saint Kitts and Nevis over the last 40 years. To Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and South Korea, we express our gratitude for your friendship, support, and cooperation. Together, we have achieved so much, and together, we will continue to thrive.
As we commemorate our 40th year of Independence, it is with immense pleasure that I announce a series of initiatives aimed at acknowledging and supporting the very backbone of our society, our hardworking citizens.
First and foremost, as a token of our appreciation for your dedication to building our beloved nation, each worker registered with Social Security will receive EC$1000 as an Independence 40 “THANK YOU”.
In addition, we are addressing the pressing issue of electricity and water services arrears. For all residential SKELEC and Water Services Department customers currently disconnected, immediate reconnection will be facilitated. We encourage regular payments and offer a deferred payment plan, with the understanding that necessary action will be taken if compliance is not met.
Furthermore, we recognize the burden of housing arrears and are introducing two vital initiatives. The first will eliminate all NHC penalties and reset outstanding mortgage balances to the principal amount. The second will freeze interest on mortgages for NHC customers who are up to date with payments for a period of six months.
Under the L.A.N.D Reset, effective September 1st, 2023, we are implementing a series of changes to residential land payments. Interest rates on residential lands have been reduced from 12% annually to 6%. No additional interest will be charged on land allocated from 1998 to 2022. Interest rate waivers will now extend from two years to three years after land allotment, with interest being applied after three years. New landowners will also enjoy an extended 6-month period without interest to make their deposits.
For those embarking on new construction or renovation projects, we are pleased to extend the following benefits up to EC$500,000. First-time homeowners will enjoy no import duty, no Customs Service Charge (CSC), and a reduced VAT of 13% for one year from the date of project approval. Those undertaking renovations and repairs will similarly benefit from no import duty, no CSC, and a reduced VAT of 13% until December 31st, 2024.
Together, let us continue on this path of growth, resiliency, togetherness, sustainability, and prosperity. Happy 40th Independence Day, Saint Kitts and Nevis!
Today, we don’t just celebrate 40 years of independence; we launch ourselves into a future where the possibilities are boundless, and the dream of a Sustainable Island State is our reality.
Thank you, and may God bless Saint Kitts and Nevis.