It was clear that, based on our impressive track record, our people had placed considerable confidence in our ability to address the issues in respect crime and the national debt, which dominated the political debate during the 2010 election campaign.
Their confidence in us was well placed. Through enhanced management and strategic investment in the systems, equipment and infrastructure of the Security Forces, we have made significant progress in the fight against crime. We appreciate the need for continued diligence and vigilance in combating crime and we will continue to intensify our efforts in law enforcement, in crime detection, in the prosecution of criminals, and in tackling the social issues that give rise to criminal activity.
Moreover, after just three years in office the national debt has dropped dramatically from nearly 200% of GDP to some 130% of GDP and is projected to fall even further to well under 100% during the course of this year. At the same time our fiscal accounts has been improving at a rapid pace. During the last fiscal year we achieved a surplus on the current account, a surplus in respect of our primary balance, and an overall surplus from the fiscal operations of the Government. Indeed, at a time when developed and underdeveloped nations around the world have been staggering under the weight of huge fiscal imbalances and cash flow difficulties we now have money on the bank instead of an overdraft.
These dramatic achievements which now set the stage for the launch of a new era of growth in income, employment and entrepreneurial activities, were achieved notwithstanding strong and vocal opposition by a minority in the Cabinet. Indeed the opposition by Senior Minister Harris in particular, has become more and more vocal and intense and it is accompanied by political activity in the wider community aimed at undermining the programmes and initiatives of the Government. It seems quite clear that Senior Minister Harris does not regard himself as being bound by the collective responsibility of the Cabinet and this could become disruptive to the smooth flow of government business. Specifically Senior Minister Harris has refused to support the Government sponsored “St. Kitts – Nevis – Anguilla National Bank Limited (Vesting of Certain Land) Act”; He has indicated to the Cabinet and to the entire country that he will not support the Government-sponsored Senators (Increased of Number) Bill 2012; He has consistently refused to confirm to the Cabinet that he will support the Budget when it comes before Parliament for approval; and he has refused to confirm to Cabinet that he will vote against a Motion of No Confidence in the Government of which he is a Senior Minister. Even more critically he has clearly expressed his unwillingness to work with the leadership of the Government and of the Labour Party to advocate and implement critical policies of the Government.
In fact, based on my interaction with the Senior Minister Harris in recent months, I have formed the view that the Senior Minister will not participate meaningfully in the Government unless he is appointed Prime Minister. However, the Labour Party is a longstanding institution with strong democratic traditions that outline the processes by which one moves into a position of leadership in the Party. It is not within my power to grant Party leadership to anyone. It is the members of the Party that must do so. Similarly, it is not in my power to leave position of Prime Minister in my Will or to give to whomsoever I wish. The Prime Ministership is not of a Dynasty or Monarchy. The choice of Prime Minister rests in the hand of the people of this country.
Of course, it is completely within the right of the Senior Minister Harris or any Member of Parliament to hold and express views contrary to the Government or the Party of which he is a part. The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and it is not my intention to muzzle anyone. However, when differences between a Party or Government and one of its members are of such a fundamental nature that it could undermine the ability of Government to discharge its obligations to the people it serves, then the leadership of the Government has a duty to take action in the interest of the Government and people it serves. The need for action in the case of Senior Minister Harris is even more acute in view of his activities and statements aimed at undermining the programmes and initiatives of the Government.
It is in this context that I have, today, asked His Excellency the Governor General to revoke the appointment of the Honourable Timothy Harris as a Minister of Government and he has acted accordingly, in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution.
This action became necessary because of the need to ensure that the Government continues to function smoothly and that the investment climate is not unduly affected by the political manoeuvring that has become evident in recent months. Whatever the outcome of such political manoeuvring, it is my duty to ensure that the Government continues to carry out its mandate with a view towards advancing the quality of life of our people until the next General Election, whenever such Elections are held. Hence, to ensure that all functions of the Government are effectively performed, I have also asked His Excellency the Governor General to issue new Instruments to effect the following appointments:
The Honourable Patrice Nisbett has been appointed Minister of Justice, Legal Affairs, International Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Hence, he has been assigned some of the portfolios previously held by the Honourable Timothy Harris.
The Honourable Nigel Carty has been appointed Minster of Education, Information, Agriculture, Marine Resources and Cooperatives.
I have advised His Excellency the Governor General that the appointment of a new Senator to be assigned the portfolio of Attorney General will be necessary.
I will assume responsibility for the portfolio of Constituency Empowerment that was previously held by the Hon. Timothy Harris.
Fellow Citizens and Residents, I can assure you that I will do everything possible to ensure that my Government continues to honour and respect the trust and confidence that you have placed in us. I intend to get on the with job of building homes for low and middle income families, eradicating poverty, provide jobs for our people including our school-leavers and other young people; and build infrastructure that provide modern conveniences to our people and enterprises and support industry and commerce. The processes initiated in our Parliament must run their course within the framework of our Constitution, but we cannot put our economy on hold. The world is moving at a rapid pace and we could easily be left behind if we allow ourselves to be distracted by the political gymnastics that is now evident in our Federation. Let us go forward together and build a new society for the benefit of all.
I thank you.