Richards won his party’s approval on Sunday 23rd September, 2012, to succeed Mr. Lindsay Grant, who resigned from the post in July this year, after serving at the helm for the past 12 years.
For the two term parliamentarian, the first order of business, if he is successful in leading PAM back into government, after the next general elections, would be to bring relief to the people of St. Kitts & Nevis.
“As you walk the streets on a daily basis and you listen to persons, you know that they are hurting. Persons cannot find jobs, cannot afford to pay their electricity bills, can hardly afford to buy food to eat. They are in debt, and so the first order of business would be to find the means and ways to provide economic relief, while at the same time growing the economy of St. Kitts & Nevis,” outlined the 39 year old politician.
Richards went on to explain that the People’s Action Movement, under Prime Minister Dr. Sir Kennedy Simmonds, did it back in the early 1980s when Personal Income Tax was abolished. “That was one way of putting monies back into people’s pockets and thereafter one saw an increase in growth in the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis, to the extent that at one point, we had been rated as having the number one growth throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Other aspects of the agenda for the future stated Richard’s colleague and Deputy Political Leader, Mr. Eugene Hamilton, will include a greater emphasis on the role that could be played by agriculture. It is the argument that if carefully managed, with adequate and strategic support to farmers, including helping them to find new markets; agriculture could begin to satisfy our requirements for food security, while also producing surpluses for export.
A future PAM Government explained Hamilton, would also work hard to develop and introduce a Venture Capital program to assist local investors, especially small entrepreneurs hoping to enter the market.
Mr. Hamilton is of the view that currently the only emphasis of the incumbent government has been on foreign investment. He said while there is nothing wrong with attracting investment from overseas, the country has to encourage their own people to invest in the country in which they were born and live.
“The government’s approach to foreign investment is not correct. Take the Southeast Peninsula, for example, where the government acquired land, some of which was owned by local people, and passed it on to foreign investors without the local having an opportunity to negotiate his position in that land. When you are talking about foreign investment you must take into account how locals are going to fit into that development project.”
For Hamilton, who is the parliamentary representative for Constituency Number 8, in St. Kitts, there should be guidelines and options that would create opportunities for local stakeholders to become partners with foreign investors, or there should be some reserved areas of business that are not made available to overseas investors, especially in sectors that Kittitians and Nevisians are traditionally involved in.
“We need a Venture Capital program where our people can get funding for new ideas that are not usually supported by the commercial (banking) sector, giving them an opportunity to start a project at low interest rates,” stated Hamilton.
Both Hamilton and Richards made a joint appearance on local radio in St. Kitts on Tuesday 24th September, just two days after Richards narrowly defeated Hamilton by one vote to become PAM’s fourth National Political Leader, in the 47 years of the party’s existence.