The Minister of Finance, Dr. Denzil Douglas told business leaders and public sector officials earlier this week that St. Kitts & Nevis and The Region must use this opportunity to build economies that are more resilient and competitive.
He said that the National Consultation on the Economy comes at a time of a significant period in the journey as a nation and it is therefore incumbent upon all to remind themselves of where they came from, and examine the position and to devise a strategy for the future.
“It is therefore a backward gaze for the purpose of moving forward with purpose and alacrity. When we look at how far we have travelled in our efforts at diversifying the economy away from dependence upon sugar, in improving compliance with our financial services regulations, tax reform, border security, fiscal consolidation and debt restructuring we can conclude that it is truly amazing how much we are able to do with so little,” said Dr. Douglas.
He added that government must make certain changes to the way they operate and take into consideration the uncertainty that is now being experienced and which by all accounts will continue for some time.
The Government has sought to offset the impact of external events on the country’s finances by increasing current revenue, accelerating land sales and streamlining expenditure.
As part of the fiscal reform programme the government launched a comprehensive fiscal reform effort focussed on broadening the tax base, increasing the efficiency of tax collections, reforming public enterprises and decreasing subsidies to the energy sector.
Douglas said, “Given the severity of the economic downturn the fiscal performance has been remarkable. However despite these efforts, the severe recession has eroded corporate tax receipts and taxes on international trade are declining due to the international paradigm shift away from border taxes as reflected in our agreements at the CARICOM level as well as the Economic Partnership Arrangement (EPA) with our European partners.”
“However, we cannot sit back and allow all of our gains to be eroded. It is very clear that growth in the economy is paramount in order to sustain the fiscal gains and to improve the standard of living of our people,” said the Minister of Finance, who is also the country’s Prime Minister.