Published 18 May 2023
Buckie Got It News Source
PRIME MINISTER’S PRESS CONFERENCE
Thursday, May 18th, 2023
NEMA Conference Room
Transcribed Opening Statement
It is always a pleasure to keep you updated on our work; first as your representatives – Members of Parliament, and secondly as Ministers of Government.
It was the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in Government that started these kinds of regular updates and we continue to raise the bar in this regard.
Accordingly, we continue to work tirelessly to represent your interests by listening to your complaints and your concerns, and to respond to you in a timely manner.
There are many constituency-level issues:
- Whether it is to provide shelter for those in need;
- Stimulating more local food production;
- Providing an environment to create more jobs for our men and women;
- Providing safer living conditions for all;
- Expanding health care services;
- Providing more reliable delivery of public utilities;
- Enhancing the delivery of Government services – to be more efficient;
- Supporting our parents to raise up-standing young citizens who are also excellent students, pursuing excellence in all they do;
- Maintaining our public infrastructure – replacing sub-standard quality water pipes, resurfacing many roads in our communities;
Suffice to say, we acknowledge the many constituency-level issues and we have been and continue to work on these.
In the coming weeks, I will be visiting Nevis to meet with Premier Brantley – there are a number of matters of mutual interest that we will be meeting to discuss.
Citizens and residents, we live on an island that currently depends on overseas suppliers – imports for all types of fuel, all of our building materials, most of our supply of food and beverages, all of our medical supplies, all of our motor vehicles and parts, machinery, chemicals, paper products, telephone equipment, clothing and footwear – most of our consumables.
Therefore, it is also important for your Government representatives who have Ministries, to engage our outside partners so that our voices are heard, we are seen, and the interests of the people of Saint Kitts and Nevis are represented and considered.
For seven years the previous Administration was unable to do so in a meaningful way – we have heard it when we travel abroad and we are doing our best to repair relations that had become fractured.
We are part of a Caribbean Community that I have come to realize, many of us know very little about. That is why, following the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings held in Washington, DC, held in April, I met with Prime Minister Mottley of Barbados, and we have agreed to strengthen relations between our two countries and I expect to be in a position to make an announcement in that regard very shortly.
The Republic of Suriname has vast amounts of water and vast amounts of farming lands – yet we have no trade with Suriname – a CARICOM member state that has offered land and water to our farmers.
The Cooperative Republic of Guyana is, and I quote: poised to become the world’s fourth-largest offshore oil producer, placing it ahead of Qatar, the United States, Mexico and Norway.
I am not sure if you heard what I just said. Guyana is, and I quote: poised to become the world’s fourth-largest offshore oil producer, placing it ahead of Qatar, the United States, Mexico and Norway.
Trinidad and Tobago is manufacturing instant food. Dominica is in the advanced stages of developing a 120 megawatt geothermal electricity plant.
There certainly exists a real possibility for us to recalibrate our policies through our legislative agenda, to facilitate deeper trade relationships within the Caribbean in our pursuit to ensure that our citizens are benefiting from the best available prices of the things we are dependent on that we import and consume.
So we are engaging our citizens and now also the world.
Currently, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Economic Development and Investment, is and has been off-island on several regional and international visits to strengthen diplomatic ties:
- From the Fourth Trade Policy Review in Geneva, Switzerland (May 3 – 5);
- We travelled to the United Kingdom for the Coronation (May 6 – 7) where we met with several high-level government officials.
- Dr. Douglas also attended the 12th Annual Investment Meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE (May 8 – 10);
- Then he attended the 9th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) in Guatemala (May 12 – 9);
- And is currently wrapping up a trip to Jamaica for the 26th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) and the Eleventh UK/Caribbean Forum (May 16-18)
The Honourable Konris Maynard, our Minister of Public Infrastructure, Energy and Utilities, Domestic Transport, Information, Communication and Technology and Posts is also overseas attending a meeting with his regional colleagues and digital transformation stakeholders at the ‘Digital Leadership in the Caribbean Executive Sessions’ taking place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
My other Cabinet colleagues are with me today, and they will each provide an update as to their respective Ministry.
Each time we engage the world and our region, there are tangible benefits for our people. We have to re-establish our relationships to ensure that we have the right partnerships to establish our Sustainable Island State. We cannot do it alone, but through partnerships we can definitely achieve it.
One of the major undertakings within the Ministry of Health is the implementation of Hearts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (CDC) and the effort Resolve to Save Lives, among other worldwide actors, are part of the worldwide Hearts effort, which is being led by the World Health Organization. This is an initiative of heart health. Cardiovascular disease or heart disease is the second cause of death within our Federation. So we have cancers, we have cardiovascular disease, which includes strokes, and heart disease. So we are attacking those diseases that are affecting our people so we can live happier and healthier lives.
We are also working on securing:
- 60 validated blood pressure sets
- EKG machines for our Health Centres
- We have also made a request that we have an island cardiologist placed at the hospital to take care of heart attacks and other acute and non-acute heart issues. Presently we do not have that service at the hospital and we need it most urgently.
- We are also procuring an echocardiogram, or “echo”, which is a ultrasound of the heart
- We are seeking to secure at least 10 Holter monitors to monitor the rhythms.
I am saying all of this so that people can know as we build out healthcare , it is really to save lives.
I also want to mention that we will also be having our Renal Transplant Specialist, Dr. Nadey S. Hakim whom I met with the MPs who are representing us in the UK Parliament when I was in the UK. That is why these travels are so important. He is a specialist in General Surgery who started the first Pancreas Transplant Programme in the south-east of England, and pioneered the finger-assisted nephrectomy (nephrectomy is taking out the kidney) technique for streamlining kidney transplants. He has published over 200 reviewed papers and has written/edited 24 textbooks in the field of surgery and transplantation. Dr. Hakim will arrive in St. Kitts and Nevis from London on Saturday June 3rd to finalize arrangements.
We also had donations from the Republic of China (Taiwan) who donated a number of equipment.
We also had a donations from Mr. Leo Estridge, in collaboration with Mr. Austin Edinborough and Mr. Gareth Payne, in the delivery of the dialysis machines. Fifteen (15) brand new dialysis machines; we only had five (5), which means the machines were overworking and people had to come for treatment late at night and the nurses were burning out. With much more machines we can now cut the hours of work and serve our people.
I also express sincere gratitude to the Republic of Cuba who would have helped us with the specialists who are here as well.
We have started the suggestion boxes so that our people can give us suggestions of how we can improve the healthcare of our people.
Just by note, with respect to the eye clinic, we have the microscope .which is a brand new up to date microscope that is to do eye surgeries. We have started some other eye surgeries and we will start the deeper eye surgeries, cataract and so forth, in very short order. There are supply chain issues which we now have death with and we are ready to issue.
When we got into office, no eye surgeries were taking place at that level in the Federation. So, we had to procure from the beginning and start the programme basically all over again.
We are making significant changes, for example, the Alternative Lifestyle Programme (ALP), we are revamping that and will make an announcement very soon as to what we will do with that.
The Explorers Club, we are also going to strengthen that and invest more in the Explorers Club, because we think that it is a club that, of course, form part of the whole initiative to ensure that we deal with a multipronged approach when it comes to security for our country. As you know, Saint Kitts and Nevis will be the leader of implementing what we call for dealing with violence from a public health perspective. We have the expert here, Dr. Izben Williams. We are now building out the teaskforce. We will implement that and that will become (we hope and we are pushing for it), a standard for the rest of the Caribbean. So, we will lead on that in the CARICOM as well. That is where we are positioning ourselves.
is now headed by Sergeant Ricardo “Ricky” Sampson who is the Leader of the Community Policing Team (CPT) of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force. He has over thirty (30) years of policing experience.
Graduate Finance Programme
With respect to the Graduate Finance Programme, I want to announce as well, as you know we had already brought the interest on student loan in the Development Bank down to five percent (5%) on new loans and the freezing of interest during the years of study.
A total number of four and one third (4 1/3) years, which means that if you go to Development Bank and take a loan your parents don’t have to pay any interest for you while you are studying. As a result of that it gives your family space, and when you come back, that interest will not accumulate. Before that interest would accumulate up to EC$15,000, even before you start paying back your student loan you had to clear that interest that you accumulated while you were studying, if your parents were not in a position to cover it for you, or if you were not in a position to cover it, so that is a big relief. Also, having 5% interest loan means that you pay less monthly and we have estimated that students would save up to EC$100,000, during the course of the loan repayment.
I want to announce today, that come June 1st, existing student loans in the Development Bank will now be reduced to 5%.
I think when we made the first announcement I said we were going to come back and announce something else. So students who are presently paying at 9%, from the 1st of Juneyou are encouraged to go to the Development Bank and have your interest reduced from 9% down to 5%. This will give students space to buy a home, invest in a business, so that they can get out of their parents home. Many of them come back from studying and because of the high interest on loans and the interest accumulated during their studies, they have to stay home until they are forty (40) plus. And so, we want that when students go to study they can quickly transition into independent living. After all, what you when to study for? It is to advance your life, we understand that. So, that is an announcement I want to make today.
In conclusion, I am very proud of the advancements that my team and I have made thus far. We have much more exciting developments upcoming. We are serious when we say we are going to transform Saint Kitts and Nevis into a Sustainable Island State. We continue to work diligently to propel our Federation towards, as I said, a Sustainable Island State. We pledged to provide better and that is what we will continue to do.
Before I wrap up I want to remind us of where we came from when we took office. When we took office we were running a deficit, even though they were talking about surplus, when we saw the numbers we were running a deficit. The Development Bank was in shambles. The National Bank ran its first deficit, I think, in its history and was not able to pay dividends for the first time. Tens of millions of dollar missing. The country under restriction. Tourism under stress. Economic growth stunted to some extent because of bad decisions, so we had to stabilize the banks.
We had to stabilize Social Security, because Social Security was paying out much more than it was taking in, becoming unsustainable. We had to deal with the deficit and we had to open up the country. And because we took so long to open up the country, our growth, especially in the tourism sector, is lagging behind our OECS comrades. And so, some of the things that we wanted to implement from a fiscal standpoint we had to delay them, because we first had to stop the bleed and save the economy. And now we are doing that we will be able to go along.
this Government is not a government of excuses. We state the facts, deal with them as they are , and will deliver for our people. So, just a reminder, of what we met, and I have been repeating it; and what was caused some of the postponement, but will dear say, that when objective people look at what we have done, I think, that they will recognise that we have done well in the short time, first of all, to save our economy, and then, to start to deliver in earnest for our people.
Thank you very much.