It gives me immense pleasure to welcome you to our Federation and this is our third Diplomatic Week Event. We are deeply honored by your presence, which is a testament to the bonds of friendship and commitment we share as we seek to strengthen our diplomatic ties.
This year’s event is particularly significant, as we also commemorate the 40th anniversary of nationhood. This milestone presents the opportunity to not only reflect on the considerable strides we have made in our development but to also visualize the path ahead that will provide lasting peace, progress, and prosperity for all of our people.
Our 40-year journey has been buttressed by your unwavering support and assistance in advancing our policy objectives to build a better country for our people to thrive, and to become a responsible partner in the international community. I am privileged to lead the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis at this critical point in our history, having taken office last year in August 2022.
I am cognizant of the myriad of challenges that befell our country and our people, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, your government promised to bring about positive change and pledged to 2 transform our nation into one that is more resilient, modern, self-sufficient, prosperous, and peaceful, and indeed sustainable. The theme of this week’s event “Driving Change: Advancing a Vision for a Sustainable Island State” succinctly captures the aspirations of our government as we forge a different path for our people, one that is apace with the evolving demands of our global community and can meaningfully address our socio-economic challenges while creating the enabling environment to achieve the sustainable development agenda.
The Vision: A Sustainable Island State
Since our government’s assumption of office, over the last eight months, we have made considerable steps in laying the solid foundation necessary to build the transformational change required to attain a sustainable island state. This has included significant legislative and constitutional reforms to ensure transparency and accountability in our actions, as well as to remain compliant with international standards as part of our overall mandate to bring effective and long-lasting good governance to our Federation.
Moreover, our government has been working assiduously to reconnect and revive our partnerships internationally, to reboot our economy, and restore our country to its economic prowess. As the Government continues its quest to create a better St. Kitts and Nevis by transforming our beloved country into a sustainable island state, our government looks forward with great anticipation, to deepening our cooperation and collaboration with all our diplomatic and consular partners, to achieve this mandate.
Permit me the opportunity therefore to share, that our sustainable island state development agenda is focused on seven (7) key pillars which include food security, green energy transition, economic diversification, sustainable industries, the creative economy, COVID-19 recovery, and social protection.
As it pertains to the very critical area of food security, in the next few years we aim to significantly increase production and manufacturing of agricultural products by introducing or scaling up the use of technology and innovative techniques. We are cognizant that many of your countries are much more advanced in these areas, and we, therefore, hope we can count on your invaluable support to assist us in becoming equally competitive in this market.
Excellencies, I am delighted that many of you will benefit from a firsthand experience of our very popular annual Agriculture Open Day, which will be held later this week, as the inaugural Diplomatic Boulevard will be a great feature at this exciting Open Day.
I am certain you will all walk away with more knowledge as to where we are as a country in terms of Agriculture, but you will also walk away with memorable experiences after interacting with our people, especially our schoolchildren, who are eager to learn about your respective countries and roles.
Green Energy transition is also fundamentally important as we continue to champion the issue of Climate Action and mitigation, to minimize the hazardous effects of climate change on our very vulnerable society. We also share the vision to transition Saint Kitts and Nevis to a position where water and energy are sustainable and in sufficient supply to meet the growing demands of our country. As the cost of fossil fuels and the adverse impact of the use of fossil fuels on the environment continues to increase, we are committed, over the next five (5) years, to taking concrete action towards realizing notable green energy injection into the national grid. I am delighted to share that based on our recent assessments; geothermal energy has been identified as a viable option for the large-scale introduction of renewable energy into the national grid. We will therefore continue to collaborate very closely with stakeholders on both islands to ensure that this possibility moves very swiftly to reality, in fulfillment of Sustainable Development Goals 7 and 13.
Economic diversification is key to the transformation and sustainability of our country and economy, especially in this rapidly evolving age in which we live. The following are the key areas in which we intend to focus our diversification efforts as we move forward:
1. Energy as a sector
3. Medicinal Cannabis (and I stress medicinal)
5. Tourism and;
We intend to diversify even more.
All these areas are vital to the growth and development of our country, and we must continue to look at how we can improve upon what we have been doing in these areas, to deliver better and more fruitful results. We see all these areas as sustainable industries, which are integral to our sustainable island state development agenda.
Excellencies, our people are our greatest asset, and we have a country rich with talented and creative people. You had the opportunity to listen to the young student who sang our national anthem, and you also had the opportunity to hear our musician on the only recognized instrument of the 20th century, the steel pan, which was developed right here in the Caribbean region, and that speaks to our creativity. To continue, our people simply require the enabling environment and resources to make a greater and more sustained contribution to the development of our local economy. We therefore continue to not only explore the development of our blue and green economy but our orange economy has been brought into sharp focus as well. I am quite heartened to share that for the first time in this country’s history we have a Ministry of Creative Economy, which is poised to play a leading role in supporting our creative entrepreneurs, and the Minister of that Ministry is the Hon. Samal Duggins, who is here with us this morning.
Social protection is necessary in every society, as the protection of the most vulnerable amongst us must be an important duty of any responsible government. It is for this reason, I am pleased to share that this caring government has continued to expand on the programs, projects, and initiatives to deliver greater social protection, in education and socioeconomic assistance. Additionally, we have also expanded the Ministry of Community and Social Development, to include the Ministry of Youth, Ageing and Disabilities, to give more direct attention to these groups.
As we celebrate our 40th Anniversary of Independence, it is my fervent hope that many of you will not only return to be a part of this grand celebration of nationhood, but you will return ready to concretize mutually beneficial partnerships in areas such as food security, green energy transition, economic diversification, sustainable industries, the creative economy, and social protection, as you pledge your support to our vision of developing a sustainable island state.
Excellencies, I bid you an enjoyable experience here in our beautiful paradise, and may you all continue to benefit from the new relationships and opportunities that this week promises to deliver.
Thank you very much and welcome once again to Saint Kitts and Nevis!