Opening Statement by the Hon Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris at the Monthly Press Conference on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at the Parliamentary Lounge, Government Headquarters
My fellow citizens and residents, as this is my first Press Conference for 2021, I use this medium to again wish all of you a Happy New Year.
This year promises many opportunities to rebuild our economy and society, stronger and safer.
Our able management of our Country since 2015 has allowed us to build up unprecedented fiscal surpluses that have helped us so far to weather the rough storms of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine months after the pandemic we followed through on our commitment to deliver a stimulus package of $120 million – the largest and best in the region and your Government kept all 9,477 employees across the established division, government auxiliary employees and STEP workers on the job. Further 1,332 government pensioners received their due entitlements. We did not borrow $1.00 during that period.
Our aim for 2021 is to incur minimal debt and if and when we do, we shall apply it principally to assist with our economic recovery.
Public confidence in my Government remains high and there are clear signs that our private sector partners are ready to fully re-engage and make the necessary investments. It is the combined efforts of the public and private sectors that will get St Kitts and Nevis on a positive growth path soonest, notwithstanding the downside risks of COVID-19.
Several private sector projects will start in the first quarter of 2021, resulting in more jobs, better incomes and more economic activity in our Federation.
- The TDC Dewars Residential Development will begin housing construction. TDC’s Managing Director, Mr Earle Kelly reported on December 22, 2020 that TDC had already spent over $3 million to advance the 5.7 acre development. The residences will be offered at prices ranging from $540,000.00 for a lovely 2 bedroom model to $960,000 for a 4 bedroom model. The Dewars Development will provide about 100 jobs. Carpenters, masons, labourers, steel benders, plumbers, electricians, painters, truckers, etc all among those who will be employed. The forecasted construction cost of this project is estimated at $16.5 million.
- At the popular former Jack Tar Hotel now the Royal St Kitts Resort, we expect completion of The Cove Condominium Development and the commencement of a new high end villa project in February. The Cove Development will deliver 12 spacious suites with private outdoor patios surrounding a pool. The Cove Development is expected to be completed on February 15, 2021. Total investment is estimated at EC $10.8 million. It is expected that construction will commence on 6 luxury villas which will each cost US $1million for a total project cost of EC $16.2 million.
- The St Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank will renovate its branch in Saddlers. The long season of denied access to convenient banking services to the people of St Christopher 6 is being addressed. Better service will be provided to the people. I am advised that estimates are being sought from service providers at this time.
- I have some good news too, as it relates to the return to St Kitts of students enrolled with Ross University. We anticipate the return of over 600 students during the course of this first quarter. To date, 140 have already returned. Another 515 students are expected in due course. We welcome the return of as many students and faculty members as possible. Landlords and service providers will benefit. These entreprenerus, including our operators of salons and spas, taxis, car rental entities, bars and restaurants, supermarkets etc will all benefit. The multiplier effect of their expenditure across the economy will be significant.
My Government will work with all the offshore Universities in a mutually supportive way. The presence of large numbers of students on island is significantly beneficial to the entire Federation. We will provide the safest and most conducive environment to facilitate the purveying of quality tertiary level education here in St Kitts and Nevis. Let me here, convey well wishes to the student who was seriously injured in a shark attack. This is a tragic occurrence with which we all empathize. Our prayers are with the student, her family, friends and the entire University.
- CBI Projects: We are optimistic that our CBI Programme will do well this year. I will provide an update on a couple of real estate projects.
- Hillsboro Suites and Residences. The first phase of Hillsboro Suites and Residences, consisting of 40 luxury 800 sq. ft one bedroom condominiums, is expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2021. I am advised that Phase 2 which is earmarked to commence in the first half of 2022 will add 60 luxury hotel suites and conference facilities.
Work is at an advanced stage; current focus being on completing the interior finishing which had been slightly delayed as a consequence of COVID-19. Commencing Monday 18th January 2021, the workforce will increase to 45 persons as external works begin on the pool, parking, fencing and other external infrastructure.
Hillsboro Suites and Residences aims to provide a modern development of which all citizens and residents can be proud.
- Sea View Hotel. Significant progress is being made at the Sea View Hotel in West Basseterre. The first phase of this project will see an addition of 100 rooms to our hotel stock and several commercial spaces will be ready for occupancy by June 2021.
In March ZIZ will be celebrating 60 years of broadcasting. ZIZ is really the people’s radio station. It has delivered yeoman service to our Country.
ZIZ has undergone significant changes in technology, administration etc over the last 5 years. Recent upgrades at ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation include:
- Infrastructure upgrades to the Television Station and Production Studio including, complete remodeling and retrofitting of the Production Studio with repairs to the roof, installation of new air conditioning units, and transmission spaces.
- Partial upgrade to the Radio Station and Television Station IT Network to better facilitate increased bandwidth needed throughout both stations.
- Upgrades to its cameras, outside broadcasting equipment, production computers, and in-studio lighting.
Having upgraded most of its television production capability, ZIZ television experienced immediate improvement in its ability to produce content for local consumption on television, and across several online and social media platforms. This has made it unnecessary to carry wholesale news packages from other stations as fillers to its newscasts. ZIZ has returned to live production of its news and in-studio production.
Today ZIZ reaches viewers in 113 countries worldwide across multiple platforms. For example:
- Facebook – 4 Million Views
- YouTube – 1 Million Views
- ZIZOnline.com – 1.2 Million Hits
- ZIZ TV Online (website, app) – 1.1 million views
- ZIZ Radio Online (website, app, TuneIn) – 2. Million Hits
- ZIZ is the predominant broadcasting station in St Kitts and Nevis, popular with and loved by all our citizens and residents at home and abroad.
The Country’s oldest and best radio station, ZIZ will shortly release its programme of activities to commemorate this historic milestone. ZIZ is in many respects the Nation’s most reliable source for popular programming and authoritative issues such as COVID-19 briefings, Working for You and Leadership Matters.
Leadership Matters which started in 2020 on ZIZ Radio and TV, and social media platforms attracted a social media viewership of 410,334 over 30 editions or an average of 13,677 views across facebook, youtube, etc. Of course in addition to online platforms, thousands more tune in to Leadership Matters on radio and TV. The programme will resume in the first week of February, 2021. I thank our loyal fans and well wishers for their amazing support for Leadership Matters.
I now turn to some important issues relating to the Foreign Service.
Foreign Service Postings
Last Monday I updated Cabinet on our efforts to fill the vacancy for a Permanent Representative to the United Nations. His Excellency Ian Patches Liburd has been designated to serve as our Permanent Representative to the United Nations. The United Nations is the premier global organization with over 193 member states and a large number of entities accredited to it. Ambassador Liburd has served the Country well as its Minister of Public Infrastructure, et al. He is well versed in a range of public and private sector matters and will be an asset to our Country.
Other Foreign Service Officers are being transferred from Capital to postings in our Embassies and Missions abroad.
Mr Sheldon Henry will join Ambassador Ian Liburd working at the Permanent Mission to the United Nations as the Second Secretary;
Ms Shanelle Simmonds has been approved for assignment to the Permanent Mission to the OAS in Washington D.C. as First Secretary;
Ms Denaula Laplace will be posted to our High Commission in Ottawa as Second Secretary. I wish all these nationals outstanding success in their new assignments.
Board of Medicinal Authority
I am pleased to advise that Cabinet has approved the formation of the Board to guide the operations of the Medicinal Cannabis Authority. The composition of the Board is being actively pursued.
The Role of the Board
Subject to the provisions of the Cannabis Act, the Board shall inter alia be responsible for the policy, strategic direction and governance of the Authority. In performing its functions, the Board shall
(a) monitor the administrative operations of the Authority;
(b) submit recommendations to the Cabinet, in relation to the issuing of licenses and other authorizations;
(c) advise the Minister on matters of general policy relating to the management and development of an efficient and regulated medicinal cannabis industry;
(d) ensure that the Authority receives and manages its funds in a prudent manner; and
(e) do all such things as the Board reasonably considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of carrying out its functions under this Act.
At the Special CARICOM Meeting of Heads of Government on Tuesday, Heads reiterated our concern for equitable access to an efficacious vaccine and eschewed efforts at vaccine nationalism.
At present there are eleven ongoing phase 3 trials and three vaccine candidates have received emergency use authorization. The three being:
- 1) Pfizer Biotech vaccine, (2) Moderna Vaccine & Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine.
- The COVAX facility is a global mechanism for pooling the purchasing and fair distribution of vaccines. It hopes to allocate almost 2 billion doses this year 2021. St. Kitts & Nevis submitted its payment and confirmed its participation in the COVAX Facility since October 9, 2020.
- On January 5, 2021, the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) committed to a special fund of US$ 600,000.00 dollars for the purchase of additional vaccines. Our Chief Medical Officer is leading the national efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccines and is our technical advisor to the Facilitation Council.
- The end of the pandemic is dependent on rapid vaccination as well as the continued application of non-pharmaceutical measures.
We should aim to vaccinate at least 70 % of the population to prevent clusters of COVID -19 cases and local transmission.
Law and Order
We ended 2020 with a 20 percent reduction in major crimes when compared to 2019. Additionally, our detection rose to 50 percent, the best detection rate so far. This is the third year in a row that we have experienced such significant reduction in major crimes. Ten (10) homicides were recorded in 2020. In 2019, 12 homicides were recorded. Homicides continue to decrease year after year. Additionally, our detection rate for 2020 increased to 40 percent. We hope in due course to further enhance the safety and security of St Kitts and Nevis to such an extent that homicides are reduced to a single digit. The Police is making progress in its investigations on the two recent homicides in Basseterre. I must remind our citizens and residents that each of us can contribute to crime reduction if we practice to say something when we see a crime being committed or become privy to any information on it. No one must be allowed to take another’s life with impunity. The law must take its course. We must never recoil from seeking peace and pursuing it. We continue to work hard to make St Kitts and Nevis the safest small island state in the World. We commiserate with all families who have lost loved ones due to violent crimes. We promise never to relent in our efforts to eradicate violent crimes from our society.
Her majesty the Queen has graciously considered a recommendation from my Cabinet through His Excellency our Governor General that Mr Hilroy Brandy, Commissioner of Police be awarded the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) on account of his distinguished and meritorious service to law enforcement. Mr Brandy’s excellent record of 39 years, has received the recognition and acclaim of Her Majesty. I am happy to have played a part in this significant conferment on the Commissioner of Police. On behalf of the Government and people, I offer sincere congratulations to Commissioner Hilroy Brandy, QPM, on receiving this significant accolade.
The matter of street vending has been a source of concern for quite some time. The overcrowding of our streets in Basseterre by illegitimate vending, the exposure of our differently abled and elderly to risks and hazards by the improper placement of vending facilities in Basseterre must now to be controlled. My Government is in favour of small people plying legitimate trade. What is taking place in Basseterre is not consistent with our vision of a beautiful and friendly city, which allows pedestrians and motorists orderly, easy and safe access through the city.
To regain the best of beautiful Basseterre, Cabinet has approved an Inter Ministerial Committee to examine and report on the matter of street vending. The Committee will include representatives from the Building Board, Ministry of Sustainable Development, Justice and Legal Affairs, two vendors, the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force, Ministry of Agriculture, Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Transportation Board, the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Health.
We intend to address the matter of vending in a comprehensive manner shortly.
I extend condolences to Ms Dora Thomas, mother of Valentine Thomas, his children, siblings, and media colleagues on his passing. Val T. was a regular attendee at our Press Conferences. He will be missed.
Val T. was interred on Tuesday of this week. Hon Jonel Powell and I along with Ambassadors their Excellencies – Michael Powell and Ian Patches Liburd represented the Government at the homegoing service. May his soul find eternal rest.