My fellow citizens and residents,
Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew is currently battling the flu virus and is unable to deliver the New Year’s address live. However, as Deputy Prime Minister I am pleased to fill in. We wish Prime Minister Drew a full and speedy recovery.
As we embrace the dawn of a new year, I extend my heartfelt New Year’s greetings to each and every one of you. The year 2024 beckons with the promise of a fresh start, renewed hope, and the opportunity to collectively shape our destiny.
Reflecting on the challenges and uncertainties we faced in the past year, I am deeply moved by your resilience, cooperation, and unwavering hope. In the face of adversity, you have demonstrated the strength that defines our nation. Today, I express my sincere gratitude for your trust and patience in your Government, as we navigate the path toward a brighter tomorrow and toward our Sustainable Island State.
Your Government remains steadfast in our “Unwavering Vision for a Sustainable Tomorrow.” This vision is our shared commitment to building a resilient and sustainable nation. Hope is not just a sentiment; it is the catalyst for positive change. It is the driving force that transforms aspirations into reality. As we stand on the threshold of a new chapter, let us hold onto that hope as a guiding light in our collective journey toward progress.
Our St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration, led by our Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, believes that economic growth is not only measured in statistics but also in the sense of security and peace it brings to our lives. As we project significant strides in housing construction, increased tourist arrivals, and infrastructure development, let these advancements be a testament to our dedication to creating a safer and more prosperous nation.
As we embark on this journey, let us prioritize the well-being of our families, our neighbours, our visitors—one another. In this vein, your Government continues to serve based on the core principle of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration “for the good that we can do”. The vision of Saint Kitts and Nevis as a ‘Sustainable Island State’ is to advance our economy, for the betterment of our people; our current and future generations. That is why our agenda is founded on and guided by seven pillars: food security, green energy transition, economic diversification, sustainable industries, the Creative Economy, COVID-19 recovery, and social protection.
Over the past sixteen months, we have prioritized the needs of our people by working towards the transformation of our nation through sustainability, giving special focus to healthcare, financial stability through investments, education and digital transformation, housing, tourism (our nation’s main source of income), and agriculture.
We initiated a comprehensive overhaul of our healthcare system, marking a significant transformation by:
- Introducing 15 new dialysis machines and inaugurating the renal transplant program, significantly enhancing the quality of life for individuals grappling with renal disease across our nation.
- Elevating the eye clinic with state-of-the-art equipment, bringing immense relief to countless citizens and residents. This has led to a dramatic surge in eye surgeries, effectively reducing the lengthy queue of patients awaiting critical assistance.
- Recognizing and granting qualified nurses their rightful positions and well-deserved promotions within our healthcare workforce.
- Expanding training opportunities for our medical staff, ensuring they stay abreast of the latest advancements and techniques in the field.
- Undertaking essential renovations at the JNF General Hospital, creating a more comforting and healing environment. This included enriching the lobby, installing air conditioning units in the medical and surgical wards, and enhancing the overall landscaping to uplift the facility.
Actively pursuing investments in renewable energy components and semiconductor production, our CBI program stands as a driving force for substantial and beneficial transformation. Whether it’s directing investments toward education, building resilient infrastructure, or spearheading the shift toward green energy, our CBI program serves as a catalyst for tangible, positive changes. Throughout this journey, our unwavering focus remains on prioritizing the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, preserving the invaluable significance of citizenship, and meeting the expectations set by both our international partners and our citizens.
Ensuring ongoing advancement in the Education Sector remains of utmost importance. Along with the reintroduction of our Federation’s One-to-One Laptop Program, our Back-to-School Voucher Initiative, Free education at Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College, the notable progress made in Technical and Vocational Education through training and enhance qualifications, and the introduction of a two-story cutting edge audio-visual smart classroom at AVEC; We recently signed a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry of Education and Southern University in September, outlining several key benefits.
These include offering in-state tuition rates for both Undergraduate and Graduate degrees. The agreement allows students to transfer credits from Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC), reducing study time and overall expenses. Southern University (SU) will also recognize Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects for entry, simplifying the transition into higher education.
This pioneering agreement with Southern University is the first of its kind, presenting the people of Saint Kitts and Nevis with a cost-effective pathway to pursue degrees within the United States. This MOU is a significant milestone, promoting educational accessibility and affordability while establishing a model for future collaborations in international higher education.
These initiatives stand as pivotal elements in fortifying resilience within our nation, ensuring that our students and teachers are equipped to excel and compete in a contemporary, globalized 21st-century society.
We made a deliberate decision to extend a reduced Value Added Tax rate of 13 percent to first-time homeowners or existing homeowners looking to renovate their properties.
Our aim was to make homeownership more accessible and fairer to a wider spectrum of individuals and families while also stimulating growth in the Construction Sector. As part of our commitment, the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration pledged to construct 2,400 Smart Homes within the next four (4) years. Today, we are making substantial progress toward fulfilling this pledge. Several local contractors have already received training in the innovative construction techniques needed to build these homes, and an additional 17 training opportunities will be provided to facilitate more local contractors’ involvement during the project’s construction phase. This housing initiative is poised to significantly enhance the lives and livelihoods of our people.
Tourism (our nation’s main source of income)
The Tourism Sector is projected to grow by 7.3 percent in 2024, aiming to enhance the overall traveler experience through significant upgrades. Our shift to the Common Use Terminal Equipment System marks the beginning of an improved experience for travelers. Departing from the constraints of our current system, which limits airlines to specific counters, this upgrade better accommodates our expanded airlift situation. Plans are underway to streamline the check-in process by strategically installing kiosks and implementing informational screens throughout the terminal, displaying crucial flight information.
Efforts to enhance operational efficiency at our ports align with our vision for a Sustainable Island State. As we progress, our goal is to transform our ports to better support this vision. Our commitment remains strong as we actively work towards solidifying tourism as a foundational pillar of our Sustainable Island State.
An essential stride toward achieving a Sustainable Island State involves repositioning agriculture as a pivotal contributor to employment, social and economic stability, and the enhancement of collective health and nutrition. Our aim is on the verge of realization, prompting a commitment to escalate investments in infrastructure, the integration and utilization of technology, and the enhancement of our workforce’s capabilities, particularly in the technological and scientific realms within our agricultural sector.
Recently, we finalized another MOU with Southern University encompassing diverse dimensions that yield advantages for farmers and the wider population. This collaboration is designed to elevate agricultural methodologies, providing the farming community with cutting-edge insights and expertise. Specifically, this partnership will focus on advancements in crop cultivation, research into medicinal plants (with a focus on medicinal cannabis), and the enhancement of livestock farming practices.
Your Government aims to create robust and efficient agri-food systems in the Agriculture Sector, fostering economic growth and enhancing livelihoods. We intend to pursue investments aimed at elevating crop and livestock production to increase output and decrease the food import expenditure by 25 percent by the year 2025.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration’s commitment to national advancement was evident in the 2024 Budget, unveiling multiple initiatives to enrich the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.
Effective January 1, 2024, the introduction of a new national minimum wage at EC$430 per week signifies our dedication to equitable compensation. Our inclusive approach encompasses a contributory pension plan, an 8% salary increase for civil servants, and reinforced social security pensions.
Furthermore, an extensive financial education and savings program, including a significant Government contribution of EC$1000 per child in the Federation, with $500 earmarked for Government-owned enterprise investments, aims to empower our youth and foster lasting financial literacy. This initiative reflects our unwavering commitment to the welfare of all citizens, aligning with the core principles of our Sustainable Island State Agenda, a transformative initiative benefiting the entire nation.
In acknowledging the importance of compassionate assistance, we’re increasing funeral grants by 40%, offering comfort to families in challenging times. Additionally, a special bonus of EC$500 for non-civil servants and a generous 50% Christmas bonus for various worker categories highlight our appreciation and unity. These actions embody the spirit of generosity, securing a more prosperous future for Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Your visionary Government remains committed to fostering national sustainability, encompassing the vital aspect of human security. The recent launch of the ELEVATE program embodies this dedication, aiming to uplift marginalized and vulnerable individuals. This initiative stands as a testament to your Government’s earnest endeavor to make a positive impact on the lives of those in need. We are confident that the ELEVATE program will act as a catalyst, paving the way for a more promising future, especially for the vibrant youth of our nation.
To the young generation, I implore you to seize your educational opportunities with unwavering determination. You hold the key to a future liberated from the shadows of crime and violence. You are inherently deserving of greatness, and your choices today wield the power to shape the destiny of our nation tomorrow. Embrace your potential and take control of your destiny—it is in your hands to create a brighter future for yourselves and our country.
Among our many accomplishments this year, we passed 24 pieces of legislation, extended our foreign policy footprint and started a number of infrastructural projects. We intend to continue steadfastly in this vein come 2024. All of these achievements were made possible due to the hard work of our A-team comprising:
Hon. Dr. Geoffrey Hanley
Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas
Hon. Garth Wilkin
Hon. Konris Maynard
Hon. Marsha Henderson
Hon. Samal Duggins
Hon. Senator Dr. Joyelle Clarke
Hon. Senator Islalean Phillip
Our two Ambassadors: H.E. Leon Natta-Nelson and H.E. Kenneth Douglas and our Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Marcus Natta
Led by Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew.
As we bid farewell to 2023 and step into the promise of 2024, let us celebrate the harmony that defines us and recommit ourselves to the principles that elevate our nation. Together, we shall build a St. Kitts and Nevis where every citizen feels at home.
I wish you all a New Year filled with hope, safety, and shared accomplishments.
And as we embark on this journey of progress, may the coming year be a testament to our resilience and the boundless potential that lies within our ‘Land of Beauty…A country where peace abounds.
God Bless You and Your Family.
God Bless our beloved nation, St. Kitts and Nevis!