On this glorious Christmas morning, I am honoured to address you, the people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis – a country that I am proud and blessed to lead and that we are all incredibly grateful to call our home.
I bring this Christmas Message of Charity and Compassion to the nation one month after celebrating 25 years as a Parliamentarian.
At times the sheer weight of the responsibility of leadership can seem overwhelming; however, the Bible reminds me that I can place my trust and confidence in God, who knows every need and who has all the power.
That’s why this and every other Christmas Day, we can recite with deep assurance the words of Isaiah 9:6 (New International Version):
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
These reassuring words – the government will be on his shoulders – tell us that God is taking care of the needs and concerns of not just this government, but of the whole body politic; he’s taking care of the worries and burdens of each and every single one of us right here in our beautiful nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Indeed, He’s got the whole world in His hands. He strengthens all of His people and lifts us up. He is our El Shaddai and Great Provider, a gracious and compassionate Lord, slow to anger and rich in love.
Inspired by such generosity of spirit, my administration and I are working to advance the lives of all the people and protect the less fortunate, fervently striving to live up to the ideals of the righteous man in Ezekiel who gives bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing.
Accordingly, the Team Unity Government has once again embraced the spirit of giving this Christmas season by providing duty concessions on foodstuff, gift packages and passenger allowances during the period December 1st to December 31st, 2018.
Yesterday, my administration also paid out the very first EC$500 stipend that households with a total gross monthly income below EC$3,000 will receive every month going forward. About 4000 persons in St Kitts and Nevis benefitted.
We designed this Poverty Alleviation Programme in direct response to the felt needs of the poor and needy, who made up 21.8 percent of our population 10 years ago when the CDB-funded Country Poverty Assessment was conducted in 2008.
Also in December, around 1,250 Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) were treated to a holiday pay for the first time in 10 years. My administration has rectified the situation for these GAEs because it is the right and just thing to do. Workers deserve justice and my caring Government has been a fair and reliable employer.
It is the Word of God in First John 3:17-18 (NIV) that says,
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
In 2018, my administration has actioned a sweeping suite of programmes and policies, resulting in much improved living conditions and quality of life. The benefits are felt in health, education, housing, security, wages and salaries, improved access to water.
Indeed, there is a lot to be thankful for this CHRISTMAS!
Cruise Tourism – already performing extremely well – will get a major boost when the construction of the second cruise pier at Port Zante is completed in the third quarter of 2019. The 2017-2018 Cruise Season marked the very first time the Federation achieved the one-millionth-cruise-passenger milestone in a single season, resulting in the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) designating our country as a marquee tourist destination.
Housing sector investments have witnessed an amazing, historic feat never before accomplished in the history of St. Kitts and Nevis from the era of slum clearance to modern times – more than 3,300 families have benefited in some way by my administration’s expansive housing programme!
Roofs that were damaged during the 2017 Hurricane Season have been repaired under a Hurricane Relief/Rehabilitation Programme initiated by my administration in April 2018. More than 2,000 households have been helped, leaving countless families much better off and no longer having to sleep with pots and pans on and next to their beds.
Infrastructure (capital) projects, such as works to resurface and widen the island main road and pave community roads; works on the taxiways and aprons/tarmacs at the Federation’s airports; the completed East Line Bus Terminal and the brand-new Basseterre Ferry Terminal, as well as the downtown lighting enhancement programme, have rejuvenated and rehabilitated the country’s landscape. Everyone can see the progress everywhere. We thank God to have witnessed such wonderful developments right here in our Country.
Security has been bolstered in St. Kitts and Nevis! There is effective police presence and coverage, thanks to the teamwork and cooperation between our local security forces and Regional Security System (RSS) officers who began arriving in the Federation on October 10th to provide additional crime-fighting resources. Moreover, our CCTV project supported by the Republic of China (Taiwan) will be further built out in the New Year.
Technology continues to be maximized at the National ICT Centre, as well as in the Ministry of National Security, which now boasts a state-of-the-art forensic lab. The ICT Centre, which reopened in February, features an Innovation Hub, where students can study and access state-of-the-art training in information communication technologies (ICTs). On the worldwide ICT Development Index, St. Kitts and Nevis ranks first in the Eastern Caribbean, coming in at #37 out of 176 countries.
Medical advances have become commonplace under my administration. There is now a cancer care unit at the J.N. France General Hospital; the Dr. Arthur W. Lake Mental Health Day Treatment Centre; a brand-new Mary Charles Hospital in Molineux, and a modern health centre under construction in Tabernacle. What’s more, 2018 saw both an ambulance service become available at the Mary Charles Hospital 24 hours a day and a new dental unit open at that hospital. Brand-new hemodialysis machines donated by the Republic of China (Taiwan) have enabled the treatment of more patients with renal (kidney) failure. My administration is now taking firm steps towards implementing Universal Health Care, so that our people, particularly the poor, can access care on a timely basis. Public consultations on national health insurance wrapped up on the 10th of this month, making way for the publication of the White Paper.
Agriculture has been assisted greatly in recognition of its importance to our economy. In June, my administration launched a $2 million-dollar Agriculture Support Fund at the Development Bank to give a boost to the production efforts of our farmers and fishers. Two Hundred and Thirty (230) farmers and fishers received grant funding totaling $1 million. The Government of the Republic (Taiwan) has also lent its expertise with the launch of Agricultural Weather Stations that will provide our farmers with early weather warnings to reduce disaster damage to crops.
School children in Basseterre will soon have an ultra-modern new Basseterre High School. It will be a model High School. The High School will have comfortable amenities conducive to studying and learning in furtherance of helping them achieve their fullest potential. It will cater for the handicap and a range of recreational activities.
Indeed, there’s been a lot of progress in our country, and my administration remains committed to ensuring that all of us who live here achieve our fullest potential. As we celebrate Christ’s birth, my Cabinet and I wish all of you joy, peace and prosperity – and, above all, love.
Merry Christmas! – and may you be at one with your neighbours and extend a little kindness, compassion and charity this Christmas season and into the New Year.
May God bless each and every one of you and your families, and may He bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis!
I Thank You!