High Commissioner for St Kitts and Nevis Dr Kevin Isaac lays out his country’s agenda for people-empowerment
On 19 September 2016, the twin-island Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis will celebrate its 33rd anniversary as an independent nation. These two islands are said to have one of the longest written histories of any island in the Caribbean, having at different points been the subject of great strategic and economic interest for the European powers of Spain, the UK and France. These days, St. Kitts and Nevis is proud to write its own history, fiercely rooted in traditions of good governance, constitutional democracy and the rule of law. These traditions represent vehicles through which the government is working to modernise the country, empower its people and transform the smallest country in the western hemisphere into the first small-island state to be completely independent of fossil fuels.
Having transitioned from an export-oriented sugar, mono-crop economy in 2005 to a more services-oriented economy today, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has successfully built a reputation as one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Through a mix of services, lifestyle opportunities and its Citizenship-by-Investment programme, St Kitts and Nevis has also been committed to establishing itself as a modern business destination, attractive to international travellers and investors alike.
St. Kitts and Nevis has one of the fastest growing economies in the Caribbean and remains one of the freest countries in the world. In a recent report, the IMF indicated that St. Kitts and Nevis had “successfully exited the Post-Programme Monitoring Framework in October 2015, maintaining favourable macroeconomic performance and a broadly stable financial system. The economy continued its strong growth at around 5 per cent, recording the strongest growth in the region over 2013-2015. Strong growth has been underpinned by construction and tourism sector activity and their favourable spillovers on the rest of the economy, supported by surging inflows from its Citizenship-by-Investment (CBI) programme.” Our country is open for business and welcomes the discerning traveller or investor who wishes to become part of the fabric of St. Kitts and Nevis’ lifestyle and family.
The Federation remains fiercely loyal to its democratic traditions. In a recent statement, Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris stated: “my government is committed to preserving and upholding the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. There can be no functioning democracy without a strong, competent and independent judiciary.” Going forward, the government is also considering ways to work more collaboratively with the private sector to develop more public-private partnerships for growth and development.
In addition, St. Kitts and Nevis remains committed to real growth with equity and equal opportunity for all. Education up to age 16 remains compulsory for every child in the Federation. As part of its people-centred agenda, the government has undertaken a strategic people-empowerment programme geared towards allowing increasing numbers of young people greater access to tertiary education, to build a more productive and modern workforce and to create a society where these people are empowered to become more creative, enterprising citizens and participatory adults in the political development and economic advancement of this young nation.
Also noteworthy, the Department of Gender Affairs recently launched a new Mentorship Programme for boys between the ages of 12 to 17, at one of the Secondary Schools on St. Kitts. “The mentorship programme aims to provide adolescent males with opportunities for adventure, self-discovery, cultural exchanges, building leadership skills and to develop traditional and non-traditional skills through training.” This transformative programme will incorporate the needs of adolescent boys and hopes to provide opportunities for the holistic development of adolescent males, including sharpening their learning capabilities, encouraging personal growth and developing peer-to-peer relationships. It is also expected that the programme will build self-esteem, resilience, confidence, self-reliance, and finding productive ways for these adolescent males to express themselves.
In July of this year, the government – through its Ministry of Education – initiated an EC$32 million ($32,756,000) Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Enhancement Project in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), aimed at providing high quality educational opportunities for its trainees.
On the issue of healthcare, the government is investing in additional training and sourcing more modern medical equipment. It has also established partnerships with international donors and health-service providers to improve quality and access to healthcare in the Federation. By the year end, it expects to have launched a Universal Health Care Coverage and National Health Insurance Scheme. Furthermore, as part of its policy to spur economic activity and to promote greater home ownership, the government has removed stamp duty from property valued at EC$150,000 and is making more affordable homes available under its National Housing Scheme.
With regards to the environment, the government’s determination to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and eventually eliminate its dependence on fossil fuels have been the impetus for a deliberate diversification of its local energy sources. Currently, international investors are exploring geothermal resources on both islands, which have the potential to become net energy exporters. There have also been developments in solar energy with the building of three solar farms, one of which supplies the energy requirements of the Federation’s international airport. Several street lights are also solar-powered, and the government recently launched an initiative which allows community groups to participate in environmental protection through funding from its Small Grants Programme (SGP). The SGP seeks to help these groups generate sustainable livelihoods, reduce poverty in their communities and foster community empowerment. The programme began with US$1 million and has already allocated over US$850,000 for projects in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Therefore, as St. Kitts and Nevis celebrates another political milestone, the overall health of the nation and its people remains at the forefront of policy development, and the foremost driver of growth and sustainable development.