Declaration Statement for Financial Information Month Delivered by Mr. Howard Richardson

Declaration Statement for Financial Information Month delivered by Mr. Howard Richardson, Advisor, Ministry of Finance

Fellow Citizens, …

I am honoured to make this Declaration Statement on behalf of Dr. The Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, on the occasion of Financial Information Month (FIM) 2021. For many years the month of October brings to the fore, actions that would increase financial awareness here in our beloved St Kitts and Nevis and the wider Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) countries.

For those amongst us who are not familiar with what FIM is, I will give you some background information. FIM is a regional financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial education campaign executed in the ECCU since 2002, through the collaborative efforts of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), financial and academic institutions, the media, other private and public sector institutions and community-based groups. The month forms part of an ECCU financial and economic education programme coordinated by the ECCB.

The programme incorporates a series of initiatives designed to support the attainment of the goal of “a financially developed and vibrant ECCU region that fosters strong and sustainable economic growth and the improved well-being of the citizenry.”

Since it’s beginning the theme for FIM has been: “Financial Empowerment Through Education”. This year the focus is on Innovation in the Face of Financial Adversity – with the tagline Respond! Recover! Rise! The activities throughout the month will provide the public with information on the following sub-themes:

  1. Let’s Get Digital: Equipping yourself for the digital way of life – The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the transition to a digital society. Some of us are relying almost exclusively on digital tools to socialise, work and access a myriad of required services to continue with our everyday lives.  Discussions around this topic will address:
  1. Online banking and payments
  2. Using existing tools such as cell phones to make life easier
  3. Taking advantage of virtual platforms for work, conducting business, education, job search, staying in touch etc
  4. Cyber Security
  5. Digitalisation and the environment
  1. Making saving, budgeting and investing a habit for a more comfortable tomorrow – We can never speak enough about personal finance management. It is one of the most fundamental aspects in our lives and finding innovative and smart ways to practice it is critical, particularly when our world is rife with adversities such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saving, budgeting and investing for a better tomorrow will be the highlight in discussions on:

  1. The importance of budgeting and budget preparation
  2. Managing savings and different forms of savings
  3. Forms of investments readily available to us in the region and how to get involved
  4. Retirement planning
  1. Minding your business: How your small business can stay afloat in tough times – Currently, many small businesses are suffering. They are wary of what the future holds and whether they will be able to bounce back from this pandemic. Luckily there are measures they can put in place to stay afloat. With the advent of social and physical distancing, we were forced to seek new ways to connect with others and conduct our personal transactions. This area of focus will address:
  1. Fundamental business principles/practices
  2. Managing your business finances
  3. Seeking new opportunities
  4. Adaptation and innovation
  5. Funding/assistance options
  6. Risk Management: Physical and Financial

My Government will continue to be supportive of the efforts by the ECCB. As a fully committed stakeholder, we will make every effort to ensure the success of FIM 2021.  Indeed, the goal of the ECCB and the guiding principle under which we govern coincides, in that we both put the improved well-being of residents and citizens at the forefront of our policymaking and decisions.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, my Government had already embarked on a path of digitalisation. However, as I alluded to in my 2021 Budget Address, which I delivered to the Nation on 15th December 2020, the impact of COVID-19 has led to an increase in demand for the use of digital services to maintain social and physical distancing and enhance business processes within the Public and Private Sectors.  Throughout 2021 and beyond, our e-Government agenda will gather momentum. Areas of focus, in particular, will be the enhancing of our broadband infrastructure, strengthening cybersecurity and equipping Civil Servants with relevant digital skills.   Without the optimal broadband infrastructure to anchor the internet connectivity, people’s ability to work from home, including the many that are now participating in attending live virtual meetings as the norm, will suffer.  As such I would like to commend the telecommunications companies operating in the Federation namely the Cable, Flow and Digicel for continuing to strengthen their broadband capacities for the betterment of us all. This truly reflects “The-all-of-society approach to Digitalisation.

The ECCB is committed to turn the Eastern Caribbean region into a leader in the production and use of relevant digital services and their efforts in this regard must be lauded. The achievement of this outcome will be predicated on the strengthening of critical areas of the digital economy which includes:

  • digital infrastructure;
  • digital platforms;
  • digital financial services;
  • digital entrepreneurship; and
  • digital skills and literacy.

I am delighted that the first-ever Digital Cash (DCash) consumer-to-merchant transaction was successfully completed on Friday, 13th  February 2021 at

Geo F. Huggins’ Foodland in Grenada.  DCash is a securely minted digital version of the Eastern Caribbean dollar issued by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.  One of the key objectives of the DCash Project is to provide the people of the ECCU with a safer, efficient and cost-effective option for conducting their financial transactions. In an effort to promote the use of DCash, the ECCB has incorporated the tagline of DCash which is safer, faster, cheaper.

Consumers can access it via the DCash App on their smart devices.  Consumers can also obtain DCash from their commercial banks, credit unions or other authorised institutions. In addition to the payment functionalities, users of DCash can send money to friends and family who also use the DCash App.

In many fora, I have repeatedly urged citizens to save.  Further, in order to cope during the worst global recession of a lifetime, citizens must be prudent with their spending and seek opportunities to use their experience, talent and expenditure. Saving, budgeting and investing must be deeply rooted in our financial decision making.  Indeed it must be an automatic response in our income allocation choices. Since COVID-19 is going to be with us into the foreseeable future we must also adapt and innovate.  I am extremely grateful to Dr. Almesha Richardson-Campbell, who was the featured speaker at the Prime Minister’s Independence Lecture Series on15th September 2021 for giving us some useful insights into navigating within a new normal created by the pandemic.  She opined that “The future demands people who are agile, flexible, innovative, and always willing to learn and adapt”.

The pandemic has negatively impacted the livelihood of many of our brothers and sisters.  However, our people are innately strong and determined.  This is borne out by their willingness to continue to adapt and innovate in these challenging times. Their creative ways of income generation must be commended and encouraged.

In order to save, budget and invest one must first have a sustainable source of income and the attainment of such, means one should be employed in some income-generating activity.  However, despite all our past efforts to protect the livelihoods of displaced workers including our massive $120 million stimulus package, there are still those among us who are unemployed and suffering.  Your caring Team Unity Government will leave no one behind as we forge ahead to get our economy back on track.  That is why we have implemented the $15 million Additional Income Support programme in July 2021.  I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that my Government will continue to do everything in its power to offer support to persons, especially those who are having a difficult time and require a hand up and helping hand to usher them out of poverty, out of abuse, out of a life of criminality, and out of extreme dependence.

My Government continues to strengthen the framework to support the expansion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.  Growth in this sector will in large measure allow for the uptake of persons who have been out of work and struggling to find gainful employment in a compressed economy predicated by the fallout from COVID-19. I am also pleased that the new Ministry of Entertainment, Talent Development, Entrepreneurship and Communications is focusing its efforts on investing and developing the skills and talents of young people in the Federation who as a grouping represent a significant share of the Federation’s demographic profile.  Your Team Unity Government understands the technology needs of the young entrepreneurs in order for them to flourish in a digital economy and we are committed to the provision of assistance in this regard.

Within the context of a recovering Tourism Industry, the Ministry of  Tourism must be praised for their hard work and timely interventions.  The Ministry recently held a Future Tourism Business Adaptation Programme to train forty-six, primarily women-headed micro, small and medium enterprises in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.  The programme is jointly funded by the United Nations Development Programme.  The purpose of this programme is to ensure that the Ministry’s human capacity development agenda keeps pace with a rapidly evolving and dynamic industry.  Both internal staff and external stakeholder businesses participated in a number of virtual and face-to-face seminars that provided practical insights into the future of work in the sector and techniques for transitioning to the new normal that will characterise the global Tourism Industry.

I am pleased that the training recognised the importance and application of blockchain technologies such as mobile payment systems, digitalised tourism services and other platforms to expand visitor choices, spur innovation and development, and facilitate access to markets within tourism value-chains.

The activities planned for FIM were created for a wide cross-section of our population and thus I am sure there are activities that will appeal to every one of us.  Therefore, I am counting on you, my fellow citizens, to participate in as many events as you possibly can.  Your participation is key to the success of FIM 2021.

The following is a listing of the activities that will take place here in St Kitts and Nevis:

  • Virtual Treasure Hunt – Students from Secondary Schools across the Federation will participate in this fun initiative where they vie for the title of champion by finding and completing the virtual route.  Financial partners will be providing financial education clues and prizes.
  • Tik Tok Team Challenge – Secondary School students will create short videos surrounding sub-themes of FIM.  The video adjudged best will win a prize.  Videos will be shown on the FIM Facebook page throughout the month.
  • Radio Library Hour – A radio programme geared towards Primary School students to involve storytelling, call-in quizzes and prizes.  The programme will address the sub-themes of FIM.
  • Radio Programmes – FIM partners in the Federation will be guests on popular radio programmes educating the public about FIM and discussing sub-themes of the FIM 2021.
  • Financial Tips – FIM partners will record video tips which will be featured on the FIM Facebook page throughout October.
  •  FIM Virtual Symposium – Two presenters will engage the public in a lively discussion surrounding the FIM areas of focus.
  • Sporting of FIM Shirts – FIM partners will wear shirts every Friday throughout October.

I implore you to place your participation in the 2021 FIM at the apex of your activity scheduling during the month of October. With your participation and the contributions from your Government, financial institutions and many other organisations such as the media, academic institutions and community groups, I am confident that this FIM will be successful. 

On behalf of the Government, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the ECCB and the numerous stakeholder entities in both the public and private sectors for their undying support in ensuring the entrenchment of financial literacy that will redound positively with regard to our future growth and development prospects. We have shown that we are undaunted by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to be Innovative in the Face of Financial Adversity and yes with God’s blessings we will Respond! Recover! Rise!

With these few words, I am delighted to declare the official start of the 2021 Financial Information Month.

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