Thursday July 13th, 2023 NEMA Conference Room
By Dr. Terrence Drew
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to all of our citizens, and residents who are listening by radio, internet, or whatever means.
I want to welcome you to this press conference and say to you that we do not take your time for granted. We appreciate that you spend it with us. These events update our people to our most critical. This government is at your service, it is because of you why this administration is here and therefore it is incumbent upon us to make sure that we stay in constant communication with you so that you can have first-hand knowledge of what your government is doing, to ensure that we remain transparent and open to you, our people.
As we gather here for our monthly Prime Minister’s press conference with my Cabinet Ministers, I stand before you with a profound sense of responsibility and determination. Our beloved nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis faces its fair share of challenges, but I firmly believe that by coming together, hand in hand, with the government leading the way, we can overcome any obstacle that lies in our path of course with God at our side.
Before I delve into the pressing matters at hand, I want to emphasize the unwavering commitment of my St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration to lowering the cost of living for all our citizens in this post-Covid environment with inflation, we see fuel prices and transport costs rising. We as a government are taking it very seriously and doing what we have to do to lower the cost of living for you our beloved citizens. We have taken significant measures to ease the burden and make a positive impact on your daily lives.
Today, I stand here to remind you of the transformative measures we have undertaken to alleviate the financial strain faced by our families here in our federation. We have granted concessions on school supplies, and it is extended up to September 30, 2023. As the new term begins most likely in September, we want to ensure that families are in the best position to get what is needed for their children to go to school. This ensures that our children have the resources they need to thrive academically, and this we think would have a tremendous positive impact. And as we put that policy, we are looking at even more ways in which we can work on it and make sure it continues to benefit our people even more. So, the feedback from our people, that feedback is critically important.
Our commitment to your well-being does not end with the concessions pointed out. We have taken decisive action to address the rising cost of food, recognizing the impact it has on every household. Shipping charges for food containers have been capped at pre-COVID rates, stabilizing prices and providing much-needed relief for our people. In addition, we continue to monitor to see how the food prices will move and to be ready to make any other adjustments that are necessary to make sure our people get the best price that we can have. But speaking to our food security, it is critically important, that is why the minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Samal Duggins, is pushing for the 2025 agenda and which is to decrease food imports from 25% by 2025 and so we are pushing for that agenda. The hope is that we have more food for our people, more locally grown and at a more affordable cost. Furthermore, we have also reduced the excise tax on gasoline, because transportation is critically important and that would make it more affordable for all. So, the Government has taken a number of these critical measures to make sure we deal with the cost of living in St. Kitts and Nevis in our commitment to economic recovery.
We have reduced Corporate Income Tax and Unincorporated Business Tax from 33% to 25%, and the latter from 40% to 2% we want to foster a favourable environment for businesses and facilitate growth and job creation. We are resolutely focused on reigniting economic growth and fostering a prosperous future for all of our people. And so, our businesses are being supported in this significant way.
These are just a few examples of the steps we have taken, but rest assured, we are actively exploring additional avenues to alleviate the cost of living and bring relief to each and every one of you on a daily basis.
Yesterday, in collaboration with Senior Minister Douglas, Senior Government officials in the Customs and Excise Department, Consumer Affairs, and representatives of major food suppliers and traders, we sought solutions to reduce the cost of food. The Government remains resolute in finding the right measures that will benefit both the people and these businesses. We are in this together, and together we can control the areas within our reach. This is a responsive government.
Additionally, our commitment to healthcare remains firm. Just two days ago, I visited the proposed site for a modern, state-of-the-art, climate-smart general hospital that will revolutionize healthcare delivery in our Federation. Climate change poses unique challenges, and it is essential that we invest in a hospital capable of withstanding its adversities. Through cooperation between the Governments of Saint Kitts and Nevis and the Republic of China (Taiwan), this vision will become a reality. Remember this was a major campaign commitment, and in less than a year we are already on the way to deliver that hospital for our people; this will also open opportunities for health tourism. We can serve the neighbouring countries around us and let me just add that in healthcare we have made significant strides and one of the things we are pushing for is for St. Kitts to become one of the safest places on earth to get pregnant and have a baby. We are pushing for that. We are on our way, it is a major, major accomplishment that we can have in just one year. This government is putting the right policies in place. So apart from building a new structure, we want to deliver services that will benefit all our people and put St. Kitts among the best in the world.
As I mentioned construction and developments. I wish to mention that the Robert Bradshaw Museum is well on its way. I visited the site yesterday and I am already impressed by the progress thus far. My fellow Cabinet colleagues will share more on the progress your Government has made in the various other ministries.
In terms of National Security, very soon on July 17th, we will resume police training school where we will have about 30 new recruits who will begin intense and focused training on the general duties of a police officer, self-defence, evidence and procedure, and weapons training, among other key areas. We are upgrading curricula to make sure that they respond to our National Security needs.
There is a need for the security forces to continue to focus on the established pillars of policing which include fostering a community and police relationship, intelligence-led policing, and predictive policing. To do this manpower is necessary.
In addition to the new recruits, the Ministry is focused on improved collaborations with local, regional, and international security agencies such as the Defence Force locally, RSS, and as far as collaborating with the FBI. We are making significant strides in these areas thus far and so I want to thank the Commissioner and their staff for the excellent job that they have been doing.
I want to also point out that Dr. Edwin Powell, National Security Expert, is here as a special advisor to National Security. who have been working tremendously hard with our security forces and have been putting a number of initiatives in place to ensure that we continue to secure our nation, Saint Kitts and Nevis. And so, I am very pleased to announce that a number of new initiatives are being put forward, a number of new areas are being established within our security forces and we are already seeing the tremendous impact that it is having.
As I said we will do all we have to do to make sure that Security in Saint Kitts and Nevis is dealt with by methods that are sustainable and can withstand whatever challenges we may have, and we have started those significant things and are partnering. We are also implementing our strategy of dealing with crime and violence from a public health perspective. I want to point out the number of critical areas where we are doing that, for example, the OASYS and Boys of Excellence initiative programme, the Explorers’ Club, the Cadets, and not only, that we have brought back the Scouts, and we have put a Task Force together to ensure the implementation of this. And so, we are the first in the CARICOM that I know who have gone further to establish the Task Force.
We are very serious about National Security to make sure we create a system that is long-lasting and effective. We are also looking to have more experts in our National Security apparatus in addition to who we have presently. So, I want to say that we are well on our way.
Earlier this month I met with high-level officials from the Regional Security Service, the United States of America Pol-Economy Unit, where we met a number of their agencies including the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as mentioned before and so we are tapping into resources to make sure that St. Kitts and Nevis is, of course, secured.
I want to further state that in addition to these collaborations, we have now a new patrol boat here where training is taking place because our borders are a significant issue. We also going to receive unsure radar in short order where we can detect any vessel that is coming into our waters here in St. Kitts and Nevis and that will help tremendously with the transshipment of guns and drugs across our region and that is reaching Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Let me point out that these collaborative efforts are indeed critical. I recently travelled to Trinidad where again we had a presentation from the DEA as they are forming a vetting unit throughout the Caribbean. One will of course be with the OECS where again we will increase our capacity to deal with any new challenges. So, I want to say that we are taking this matter seriously by making the necessary investments in resources and that of course will have a positive impact which we are seeing already.
So, your government is serious about mending the many socio-economic issues that we might have, and these initiatives are just a few that I have mentioned and of course, the colleagues at the table would mention more.
My fellow citizens and residents, I stand before you not only as your Prime Minister but as a fellow countryman who believes in the collective power of our actions. Our journey to a better nation requires the active participation of each one of you.
Let us continue to work hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, to build a brighter future for ourselves and generations yet unborn. Together, we can shape the destiny of our beloved Saint Kitts and Nevis.