Published 3 August 2023
Buckie Got It Media Source
National Townhall Meeting
August 1, 2023
Prime Minister’s Opening Remarks delivered by Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Geoffrey Hanley
Thank you very much Press Secretary. A very pleasant good afternoon to each and every one gathered here. Allow me however to recognize our Governor-General’s Deputy, Hos Excellency Walford Gumbs, and our distinguished Cabinet colleagues at the head table.
As you heard from our Press Secretary, the Prime Minister is not here with us this afternoon. As he prepares to bury his dad tomorrow we continue to for God’s strength for him. I am happy to be able to deliver his remarks in this town hall meeting.
Good afternoon fellow citizens, residents, and all who are viewing and listening on the various media platforms.
I am pleased to welcome you to this National Town Hall event held under the theme: ‘Sustainably Soaring Together: Empowering Our Future’
I must pause here and say that we could not be here today, in a free, democratic, and progressive St. Kitts and Nevis, without being able to stand on the shoulders of those great ancestors who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. So, on this day, August 1st, on which 189 years ago our ancestors finally earned their freedom and was was emancipated, I ask that we stand and observe a moment of silence in their memory. We must never forget!
My dear brothers and sisters, in just 4 days, your St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration will be celebrating one year in office: one year of service to our people and nation. We are grateful for the opportunity you have given us and therefore it is important that as part of our celebration and commemoration of one year in office, that we engage and dialogue with you on the past year and our plans for the future.
My fellow Cabinet Ministers will present to you shortly the developments within their respective ministries. I am extremely proud of our team and the extensive work they have put in over the past year and the tremendous benefits they have brought to our dear nation.
Tonight, we come together to celebrate not just a milestone, but a vision for the transformation of our beloved nation. Together, we have demonstrated the power of unity and the strength that comes from working hand in hand toward a common vision. Guided by our shared vision of sustainable growth and development, we have endeavored to create an environment where every citizen is empowered to rise, flourish, and achieve their full potential.
Your government’s vision is resolute – to transform St. Kitts and Nevis into a Sustainable Island State, where prosperity, environmental consciousness, and social progress unite in harmony. In the past year, we have made significant strides towards this vision, and it is an honour to share some of the key achievements of your government.
We have invested in the education of our youth, recognizing that they are the architects of our future. By providing access to quality education and vocational training, we have unlocked opportunities and nurtured the skills necessary for a skilled and adaptable workforce. Education is the cornerstone of progress, and we believe that no student should be hindered by the weight of high-interest rates. Therefore, we have reduced student loan interest rates at the Development Bank from 9% to 5%, paving the way for our youth to pursue knowledge without the burden of financial strain. Cognizant of the financial struggles which resulted from the pandemic, your government chose to absorb the tuition costs for every student at Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College opening the door for more families to provide higher education for their children.
As we endeavour to improve the lives of our people, we recognize the significance of ensuring affordable access to essential goods. To this end, we are allowing barrels and containers of foodstuff up to 400 pounds in weight to enter duty-free, making life a little easier for our families.
Our commitment to the well-being of our citizens is unwavering. We have worked tirelessly to enhance healthcare services, promote public safety, and strengthen social welfare programs. Empowering our people with the tools to lead healthy, fulfilling lives remains at the heart of our agenda.
We understand the value of a thriving healthcare system. Your Ministry of Health is being strengthened with a full cadre of administrative and technical officers, ensuring that our citizens receive the care they deserve.
We are continually striving for excellence in our healthcare services. We have established a 24/7 doctor service at the Pogson Medical Center and provided life support systems training to over 250 healthcare workers, ensuring top-notch medical care for all.
As we strive for enhanced healthcare services, we have introduced former nurses to assist with triage at the JNF hospital, lowering wait times and providing expedited care.
In our pursuit of cutting-edge medical facilities, we have upgraded the chemical cabinet at the oncology unit and introduced an Automated Urinalysis machine at the JNF lab, reinforcing our commitment to the health and well-being of our citizens.
Our elderly citizens hold a special place in our hearts. We have welcomed ten Elderly Care Assistants at the Cardin Home, ensuring our senior citizens receive the utmost care and respect they deserve.
To provide seamless access to essential medical services, we have extended the operating hours of the JNF Blood Bank, guaranteeing timely and efficient care.
Throughout the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have stood steadfast in supporting our citizens and front liners. As a first act in office, we removed all COVID-19-related health and travel restrictions, acknowledging the resilience of our people.
Furthermore, recognizing the hardships faced by our businesses during the pandemic, we have introduced a Small Business Loan of $20,000 from the Development Bank, providing essential support to those affected by the economic downturn.
We have also extended a financial assistance program for children in dire need of medical treatment overseas, ensuring that their health knows no boundaries, essentially saving the lives of numerous children.
In an unprecedented move, we paid two CBI dividends to our people, sharing the benefits of our citizenship by investment program with every citizen of our nation.
Recognizing the importance of programs that foster peace and progress, we have launched the Elevate Programme to replace the Alternative Lifestyle Pathways Programme (ALPP), forging new pathways toward a brighter future for our young people.
We believe in the value of hard work and dedication. Thus, we have reinstated payment of gratuity to scores of retired Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) who served a minimum of 10 years, rectifying past injustices and honouring their dedicated service.
Recognizing the vital role of our female leaders, we have proudly installed the First Female Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Marcella Liburd GCMG, JP, a trailblazer and an inspiration to our nation.
In addition to the key achievements under my portfolio, I am immensely proud to highlight the remarkable strides made by other Ministers of Government. Their dedication and hard work have been instrumental in advancing our vision for a better St. Kitts and Nevis.
The commitment to eradicating poverty has been resolute. We have reformed and relaunched the Poverty Alleviation Program (PAP), empowering our citizens with opportunities to rise above challenges and achieve prosperity.
Our commitment to sustainable development extends to housing as well. The launch of the Climate Smart Housing Program stands as a testament to our efforts to create a greener, more resilient future for all our citizens.
Furthermore, we have dedicated ourselves to protecting and preserving our natural heritage. With a profound respect for our environment, we have pursued sustainable practices to ensure that future generations inherit a pristine and thriving ecosystem.
A stable electricity supply is essential for progress. We are making great strides to achieve this goal and have taken the step of subsidizing fuel costs to lighten the financial burden on our citizens and residents.
Our commitment to good governance is exemplified by the enactment of over 20 new laws, each designed to uplift the lives of our people and create a stronger, more just society.
These achievements stand as milestones in our journey toward progress and prosperity.
As I stand here tonight, I acknowledge the collective efforts of our entire government. Each minister’s contribution has been instrumental in achieving our shared goals. In the coming minutes, you will have the opportunity to hear more comprehensive presentations from each minister, highlighting their Ministries’ respective achievements.
Tonight, we celebrate the progress we have made as a nation and the bright future ahead. None of this would be possible without the trust and support of the citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis. Together, we will sustainably soar to new heights, empowered by the harmony and vision that defines our great nation.
Thank you, and may God bless St. Kitts and Nevis.