Prime Minister Harris was at the time speaking on WINN FM 98.9’s Inside the News programme on Saturday, May 16, 2020. He was joined on that show by the Director of Social Security, Mr, Antonio Maynard and Deputy Director of Social Security, Mr. Vernel Powell.
Under the former administration, St. Kitts and Nevis’ total public debt skyrocketed to an estimated US $1.05 billion, which was about 200 percent of GDP.
Prime Minister Harris said, “We [the Team Unity Government] will not do like the previous government because that government mismanaged the economy and the fiscal affairs of the country and it had to go to the IMF to borrow $225 million to pay wages and salaries of all things, to buy toilet paper for our hospitals – $225 million to keep the basic operation of the government going.”
After taking office, the Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris-led Government paid off the $117 million debt that was owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Dr. Harris further noted that it was the former Denzil Douglas administration that was responsible for introducing an 85 percent increase in electricity charges, a 600 percent increase in water bills and a 17 percent value-added tax (VAT) on food and medicines.
“We will not do like the former government because their policies led to an 85 percent increase in electricity; we will not do like them because the policy led to a 600 percent increase in our water bill; we will not do like them because they created a land for debt swap where $775 million now has to be paid back and over the last two years; we have had to pay $200 million to redeem about 200 or 400 acres of land under these arrangements,” Dr. Harris stated.
Since then, it has been the careful and prudent fiscal management of the country’s resources by the Team Unity administration that has led to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis becoming the first independent state in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) to reach the sub-region’s 60 percent debt-to-GDP target more than 12 years ahead of the 2030 target date.