I congratulate all the successful competitors in this year’s carnival events. I thank all those who were not successful as without them there would be no competition. The police for a relatively crime free period, and the people for exercising restraint, in all the revelry.
Last year, 2011 was a challenging year for our Federation. We had warned for a very long time that the cumulative effect of bad management of our Federal economy would cause us one day to default and that day has come. I pray for us to get economic relief and for us to enjoy a successful 2012. I wish you these pleasantries and do so with mixed emotions knowing full well that the days, weeks and months ahead will be difficult and challenging.
God has allowed us to see the year 2012 and as difficult as it may seem, January 1, 2012 and beyond can get better, brighter and become prosperous for all if we collectively work together to turn this unacceptable period around and into something acceptable that will benefit all Citizens of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
As we start the journey into 2012 we begin with major challenges inherited from the year past. While on its own this could be perceived as a negative phenomenon, I too agree, that the beginning of the New Year also gives us an opportunity to start a fresh, with renewed vigour and vitality. This is the conviction of my Party, The People’s Action Movement henceforth. We strongly believe that things could get better and should get better for as a people we deserve better.
Shortly, you will hear from the People’s Action Movement, on our agenda for this year and onward. We will systematically unveil and succinctly outline our programme for success at the next polls. My Party’s approach will be to be more representative of the people and the issues affecting us all in an effort to bring about change via action. We will be calling on you frequently and on a continuous and sustained fashion.
The People’s Action Movement started as a strong opposition to the Bradshaw Government. Then it became the most successful and financially prudent Administration that this country has ever seen, led by the first Prime Minister, Dr. The Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Alphonse Simmonds. It is now time for the Peoples Action Movement, its leadership, its members and supporters and the entire right thinking citizens of the Federation to stand up and be named in the fight to return our blessed Federation to the days of prosperity regardless of political affiliation. We ask you to stand up for yourself and others and recognise that we deserve better.
Undoubtedly, and by far the greatest success the country collectively experienced in the year past is the successes of our athletic teams as a whole. Our athletes continued to make us proud as a people and as a Nation.
We were all glued to the Internet and other communication devices that were transmitting the games back into the Federation just to witness live how our athletes were doing. Our Nation stopped, if even for a moment to celebrate the successes of Tiandra Ponteen, Brijest Lawrence, Delwayne Delaney, Jason Rogers, Antoine Adams and Kim Collins. We are proud of all of you and we wish you continued success as you continue to lift you Nation to higher heights. Mission
Atlanta, launched in 1996 by the PAM Administration, continues to yield the successes it was envisioned to do. The Nation salutes you all as we continue to look to you as a uniting force for our Nation. Our athletes have heard the pleadings of our nation to be a force to be reckoned with on the international stage and have delivered simply because they realized that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis deserve better.
In my day to day operations I come across so many of you who are without jobs and without the means to support yourself and your love ones. I hear you when you say that you cannot find a job in your homeland. I hear you when you say the best jobs are not available to you and that there are not enough good jobs available on a whole. We hear you and assure you that the next PAM Administration will create job opportunities for all citizens, not by swelling the walls of Government Headquarters but by creating incentives geared to the private sector and by ensuring that there is a substantial amount of funds set-aside specifically for use by small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs. We still believe that small businesses are the engine of growth in any economy and more specifically the engine of growth in our economy. Any economic plan must of necessity have small businesses at the center of any program.
It is the People’s Action Movement’s policy that the private sector should be the engine of economic growth. We also believe that we need to invest in our people and provide not only opportunities for investment but to assist tangibly with investment capital to those who wish to venture into the world of entrepreneurship. We conceive these plans as a means to elevate our people out of these economic hard times as we believe that the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis deserve better.
In times of recession governments cut social services first. In the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, and more importantly, under this Labour Government we have witnessed the deterioration of our Social Services on a daily basis. The promise of medications to the elderly is still in existence, however, take you Granny’s prescription to any health centre or government pharmacy and count yourself lucky if you can get that prescription filled.
If for some reason you have to end up in the hospital, be sure to walk with even the basics for those essential items are no long part of the reasonable package of our health care services. You will need to keep money on hand to purchase any prescription issued to you during your stay and you may be asked to leave the excess medication behind. It was just last week in Newtown I was speaking with an elderly gentleman. He said he was 67 years old, not working and according to his doctor’s required medical attention. The money required for his stay at the hospital I am informed would be in the region of $600. The gentleman does not have the money required and as he tells me he would have to forgo the needed attention.
Are we to continue to allow our elderly to be treated in this way because they do not have the resources when these same individuals a few years ago would have been the cornerstone of our country’s development? They deserve better.
If you have children in the secondary schools you already know that there are not enough desks and chairs for the pupils at these institutions. Teachers are forced to use their meagre frozen salaries to purchase learning materials, which was once provided to each school from government vouchers. The teachers and students deserve better.
Road users will know that in every single community there are roads that may as well be considered off-roads. We are no longer pothole dodging. The wastage of filling these potholes only for them to be opened up again in less than two months should be abolished in favour of a meaningful programme of resurfacing. There are other numerous examples of Social Services degeneration. However, you need to understand that the continuous decline in Social Services is an approved Labour Government measure of debt restructure. This ‘silent measure’ is designed to reduce government spending and is part of the debt restructuring policy now being implemented by this Labour Government. However, a PAM Administration we will fully restore all meaningful Social Services to an acceptable and mutually beneficial level simply because the people of this Federation deserve better.
It must be noted that this year we recorded the highest death rate per year. I had to readjust this speech as just two days ago we lost the 34th victim to senseless violence. To their family, friends and loved ones we extend our sympathies. Crime is out of control and while we wait and see how the new administration will work to reduce all crime we cannot sit idly by without making our contributions to successfully reducing all crimes. We continue to pledge our support to the authorities and we stand willing and able to be a part of any meaningful gesture that will help to fight crime and reduce the number of incidents of violent and other criminal activities. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis can still remember the days when one murder was recorded over several years. Those are the years we yearn for and will do everything in our power to return to, because we deserve better.
Tourism is now the mainstay of the economy. This seems to be the only focus of our government. However, putting all your eggs in one basket is a risky proposition. We need to develop our tourism product, no doubt. More money needs to be invested in to tourism. We need to expand our ship birthing facilities. I was delighted to see the Allure of the Seas berthed at our cruise facility. It was great to see that after 20 years of being conceived by The Right Honourable Dr. Kennedy Simmonds we still can berth the largest ship in the world. That is foresight and vision. We need to assist local craft vendors with proper marketing and packaging of their products. Design a campaign of local cuisine so that our restaurants can promote local dishes. This will complement what we intend to do with our Agricultural strategy. However, as we move forward tourism cannot and should not be our only focus. We need to encourage development in the light industries and Manufacturing. We need to give them the incentives that are required to promote their various businesses.
We need to revisit our economic citizenship program. It is a very popular program, but its popularity has to be monitored. We cannot make our passport appear as if it is for sale. We are interested in development of our country not sale of citizenship. That is why as a policy we will end the SIDF program in its present form. We believe in development and the construction industry is our single largest area that promotes growth, hence we have to ensure that persons wishing to get citizenship are not attracted away from development and into a government slush fund.
There are significant opportunities in information technologies. Incentives will be given to such industries as they provide acceptable standards of employment and sustain decent salaries for our people. These are also industries that our locals can begin to invest into. By diversifying our economy we will be able to comfortably survive future world recession much like we did during the years of the previous PAM Administration. You must remember that we survived two recessions without knocking on IMF’s doors.
The previous PAM Administration always put people first and we did this as we acknowledged the fact that our people deserve better.
By now you would have realized that it is my Party’s goal to reshape the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis for the betterment of every single citizen and more specifically the ordinary people. It is our goal to create more jobs in the private sector. This will initially provide more jobs and better paying jobs than the public sector. My Party will be considering foreign investment from investors who will make it a priority to allow some form of local ownership by employees and other local ordinary citizens of the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. A PAM Administration will not stand by and allow its citizen to be subservient in their country and will not allow it citizens to become second class citizen. Kittitians and
Nevisians *deserve better* treatment than that.
We are considering financial strategies that will make banking institutions more welcoming of ordinary people and their immediate circumstances. When one approaches the bank for assistance it is because one is in need. It make no commonsense to borrow a $100,000 and have to find $100,000 in cash to secure it when one does not have that amount in the first place.
Returning professionals must be given an opportunity to succeed. They are retuning with huge student loans without even an income in most cases. Some would have already been paying while studying. That system puts them at a serious disadvantage financially. A PAM Administration will design programs based on needs and personal circumstance through the financial industry that will assist returning students and persons in similar situations to alleviate these teething financial issues. We say that the youth is our future, yet we are burdening them financially and hampering their future. I am sure you will agree with me that our young people need a helping hand. The young people of our Federation deserve a chance and more importantly deserve better.
Food security, our import food bill and the agricultural industry need to be a major focus of a new Administration. It is laughable that the minister with responsibility for agriculture is not the minister of lands as well.
We will fix that. We are convinced that we can and should be able to feed ourselves, even if it is in some small measure. A serious programme of food production and sustainability will be vigorously pursued. Farmers and fishermen will be provided with exposure to the necessary technologies and support needed to make their industry a success. We know that we have the best lands in the region, which is evident by our beloved name Liamuiga.
Therefore it stands to reason that we deserves better when it comes to our agricultural industry.
Recently, last budget address to be exact, you were told that there would be no new taxes and a promise not to increase existing ones. I do not know how many of you took that seriously. Frankly, I do not believe a word uttered by the minister with responsibility for finance. No sooner than those words were spoken, the famous dollar bread increased in cost and is now two dollars. No sooner had he said that departure tax was increased 100 percent. Do not take my word for it but you will see the same thing in the cost of LPG gas and other items. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis are paying way too much in taxes. As taxes increase we are not seeing a corresponding increase in salaries. Therefore effectively you are earning less than you did before all the increases. The more we pay in taxes is the less we get in services. Enough is enough. A PAM Administration will abolish all nuisance taxes and will consider reducing VAT on all food imports or expand the basket of VAT free goods the Value Added Tax in an effort to reduce the cost of living for all citizens. Enough is enough the people are saying that they deserve better and we hear you.
Our government has admitted that it has drawn down on most of the funds allocated to it from the IMF standby agreement. This amount is just over US$30 million. This year is the year we take the ‘bitter medicine’. I take this opportunity to warn you now that things will be very difficult. If you have not yet seen the documentary, Life and Debt, which is the story of how the IMF affected life in Jamaica after the government of the day implemented what is now called the bitter medicine please take a look at it. It can be found on the Internet. If we are not vigilant the same things can happen here. If you do not stand collectively and united we will fall sick to the ‘bitter medicine’. If you agree that you deserve better them stand with us and let your collective voices be heard. This is not about party. It is about country.
The Federal Opposition took a stance last budget address by not attending the sitting of that session. From all accounts the Federal Opposition met some of its objectives. There is more work here to be done. The Federal Opposition members cannot do it alone. We will need your support and we will need you when we call on you to preserve freedom and restore democracy. The issues are still on the table. The opposition Parties still believe and is committed to Integrity in Public Life and the Freedom of Information bills to be tabled in Parliament. With your unrelenting support we will achieve this goal. All politicians must be made to be held accountable for his or her conduct in public office. Politicians should be more than willing to be held accountable. I unveiled more than years ago my entire portfolio of both my assets and my liabilities. There is no secret there. As seen by the tabling of the Bill everyone else is ready to do the same. If the government wishes to govern us by the laws that they pass, why then are they, the government, unwilling to also be governed. The
Integrity in Public Life bill is absolutely necessary. Help it to be tabled by demanding it.
Fellow citizens, my Party has a lot in store for you this coming year. We will begin to bring to the fore the persons who will shape the various constituencies leading up to the elections. We expect you to be ready, willing and able to participate in our endeavours to restore democratic principles to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. Very shortly we will witness the hearings to the challenges of the local elections held in Nevis July of last year. This is a good sign and a great way to start off the New Year. Electoral Reform remains the pinnacle of the restoration of our democracy. One man one vote must now be one man one vote where you live. It is time we put an end to electoral fraud. We know it is happening; you know it is happening. It is time to implement the suggestions of the CARICOM observer team. Let us not wait until it is too late. The chairman of CARICOM must accept the finding of his observer team and lead by example and implement what his team has found to be measures to secure democracy for our nation and the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. We call on the NGO’s to support calls for true and meaningful electoral reform. Failure of our democracy will sound the death knell for us as a Federation or liveable country.
So, as you begin to take the first few steps of the your journey through 2012, remember that the People’s Action Movement is your alternative to good government and the only path to freedom, democracy and a brighter, better and prosperous 2012. We give our pledge that we will continue to protect and preserve your God given rights and humanity as we all deserve better.
Happy New Year!
May God continue to bless you all.