As prepared for delivery
In keeping with my Team Unity Administration’s commendable record of good governance, transparency and accountability in guaranteeing the smooth functioning of democracy in this our beautiful Country, I come before the nation today to update the people of St. Kitts and Nevis regarding the indisputable facts and figures that reinforce a picture of an economy and a state of affairs that is improving under a Unity Government. There are a lot of positive things to report. Something good is happening in our Country for which we give God all the Praise and Glory.
Law and Order
My fellow citizens and residents, I wish to begin by commending our law enforcement officers on their very good work over the last 14 weeks ending April 06, 2019. We have enjoyed a period of relative calm save for the difficult period of the first half of February.
Statistics from The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police reveal a significant 39 percent reduction in major crimes within our Federation. Major crimes include homicides, non-fatal shootings, other bodily harm offences, robberies, break-ins, sexual assaults, larceny, drugs offences (possession or importation), firearms and ammunition offences (possession, importation and smuggling) and other major crimes such as threats to kill; malicious damage to property; fraud offences, and technology-related crime. Significant reductions were recorded in larcenies, break-ins, robberies, and other bodily harm offences leading to the overall reduction in major crimes in the Federation from 580 during the first quarter of 2018 to 352 for the comparative period this year. The reduction occurred both on the island of St Kitts (42%) and in Nevis (21%). There are 3 Police districts: Districts A, B and C and the reduction was realized across all three. For 13 of the 14 weeks, reported crimes were lower in 2019 than in the comparative 14-week period of 2018. The residents of our Country deserve commendation for this improvement in our situation.
The most significant decrease in major crimes occurred in Division A. Division A registered a 46% reduction compared with the same time period last year. Division B registered a 30% reduction compared with last year. Division C, which is Nevis, registered a 21% reduction.
At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, we commended Acting Commissioner of Police Hilroy Brandy and other members of the High Command along with the National Security Advisor on what is wonderful news in terms of the downward trend in crime.
We appeal to all parents and support systems within the family - fathers, mothers, guardians, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. to promote a wholesome family life favourable to the positive growth and development of our nation’s youth so that they can grow up to reject violence and crime and become productive, contributing members of this Country whom we can all be proud of as they put into practice all of your wise teachings and example. We encourage them to follow the alternative path of peaceful engagement. My Government is committed to the peace and stability of our Federation. We are committed to a holistic approach to crime reduction and we will work with every entity that genuinely offers to help and is striving to make St. Kitts and Nevis “a Country where peace abounds.” Peace and stability provide the environment for the expansion of a larger freedom, a better quality life, businesses to thrive, the freedom of religion to be exercised and our sons and daughters to actualize and utilize their God-given talents. This downward trend in serious crimes is wonderful news indeed.
In my conversations yesterday with the diplomats of the United States of America and Israel, we discussed bilateral cooperation in several areas including security. When these initiatives are at an advanced stage, more information will be provided.
I turn now to our Fiscal and Economic Report.
The Financial Secretary has advised that our Fiscal Returns available up to February 2019 reflect that our Country is in surplus again. Our Recurrent Balance, Our Overall Balance and Primary Balance are all in surplus. These surpluses provide clear and irrefutable evidence as to our very good fiscal health and prudent management of our economy. Our accounts are done in accordance with international classifications and standards. Hence they are comparable with data of any sophisticated Country. It is the same data set used by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Economic growth in St. Kitts and Nevis increased in 2018 for the 5th time in a row. Over the 5-year period 2010 to 2014 the economy had declined in 2010, 2011, 2012 by -3.8, -1.9 and -0.9, according to the IMF Press Release 14/138 dated March 24, 2014. Even with growth rates at 6.6 percent and 5.1 percent in 2013 and 2014 respectively, over that 5-year period the economy grew by a mere 1.2 percent. According to the CDB, in 2018 growth hinged mainly on the tourism industry. There was a significant increase in airlift, additional room stock, and strong growth in cruise ship arrivals at the start of the year. The transport sector also displayed robust growth, while construction activity decelerated after a strong 2017 performance.
The 2018 St. Kitts and Nevis Country Economic Review issued on March 14, 2019 by the CDB indicates that St. Kitts and Nevis ranked 1st in the OECS with respect to its Primary Balance and Public Sector Debt ratio. Within CARICOM Member States, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Primary Balance was the best in the region at 7.1 percent of GDP. Real GDP growth for St. Kitts and Nevis was estimated at 2.50%. This puts us ahead of 8 of the 14 Member States of CARICOM. Public Sector Debt for St. Kitts and Nevis was recorded at 58.20% of GDP, making us the best performer in the OECS. The Federation ranked 2nd in the CARICOM region with international reserves providing 8 months of import coverage. This impressive performance in the region must be seen against the international benchmark of 3 months and is much better than the international standard.
The Caribbean Development Bank was very optimistic about our future. It says “CDB projects an increase in growth to 3.0% in 2019, mainly on the back of expanding construction and tourism activities. Construction activity is expected to accelerate with ongoing public infrastructure investments at the St. Kitts airport and seaport, and on each of the islands’ main roads. Tourism activity is expected to rise following a further increase in airlift, including a new direct flight from Minneapolis. The hotels and restaurants sector and the transport sector will be the main beneficiaries of this expansion.” I should point out that the CDB growth estimate was a preliminary one and ECCB’s estimate for 2018 is 3.1 percent.
Continued growth will be sustained by several public sector projects including:
• Old Road Bay Rehabilitation
• Old Road Fisheries Project
• Our Housing Projects being done by the National Housing Corporation (NHC), the Development Bank and others that are subsidized through the First-Time Homeowners’ Programme
• 2nd Cruise Pier
• Resurfacing of our runways at R. L. Bradshaw International Airport
Other Good News
We have been acclaimed by the international community. Credible, independent, unbiased assessment points to the fact that in many areas we are moving in the right direction and we are excelling.
According to the Henley Passport Index ranking on 26 March, 2019, our passport was adjudged number 1 in the OECS, number 3 in CARICOM, and number 27 in the world. The ranking is based on visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to other countries. St. Kitts and Nevis is reported to have visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 152 countries. It should be noted that the most updated statistics reveal that St. Kitts and Nevis has visa-free access to 158 countries. Japan, which holds the number 1 position in the world, has visa-free access to 189 countries.
Rule of Law Good Governance
The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2019 provides an independent evaluation of the Rule of Law around the World. It has given us some excellent ratings of which we as patriots should be proud while we continue to press on to an even higher ranking.
Within CARICOM, St. Kitts and Nevis ranked number 1 in Constraints on Government Powers, Order and Security, and Civil Justice. We were ranked as number 16 in the world under Civil Justice. In the categories of Fundamental Rights and Regulatory Framework, we placed second. St. Kitts and Nevis ranked 30 out of 126 countries; and 2nd in CARICOM. We are ranked number 1 in the OECS, the best performing Country on the Rule of Law and Good Governance.
• Constraints on government powers mean no authoritarian rule here. We rank # 1 in the region
• Fundamental rights are among the best in the region: we rank #2
• Regulatory framework: we rank #2
• Civil Justice: we rank #1
• Criminal Justice: we rank #4
• Order and Security: we rank #1
• Absence of Corruption we rank #3
These objective rankings by internationally reputable entities belie the propaganda being pushed by those with a biased agenda that there is corruption and dictatorship in our democratic Country. Our transparent bidding process is evident. We transparently selected the entities to construct our 2nd cruise pier, our road resurfacing projects, the Old Road Fisheries Project, the Tabernacle Health Centre and we can go on and on. We publicly declared who won these projects. Transparency, accountability, integrity and love for our people are at the centre of our operations as an Administration.
We are happy to host a large number of dignitaries as we celebrate the 4th Diplomatic Week. Diplomatic Week was inaugurated in 2007 under my watch as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs for continuing this worthwhile initiative. Yesterday, I successfully engaged in bilaterals with high-level representatives from South Africa, USA, Vietnam, Austria, Georgia and Israel.
Finally, I want to commend our Minister of Tourism and the Tourism Authority for winning the title of Best Sustainable Tourism Destination on the planet.
I am proud to report that on all fronts our Federation is doing well. Our economy is strong and buoyant, our society is at peace and stable, our future with the help of God is bright and our Team Unity Administration continues to work assiduously for all our citizens and residents to enjoy the benefits. Speaking of benefits, let me advise that the next payout under the Poverty Alleviation Programme should take place on April 30, 2019. To date, my Government has assisted an average of 3,848 households. The average monthly disbursement is in the region of $1.9m and the total processed by the Accountant General’s Department for the 4 months (December 18, 2018 to March, 31, 2019) is $7.7m.
Good things are happening in our Federation and to God be the Glory.
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