Basseterre, St. Kitts, October 15, 2016 (SKNIS): The Honourable Eugene Hamilton, Minister of Agriculture et al., described the three day estimates meetings that were held from Wednesday, October 12 to Friday, October 14, as informative and of paramount importance for all government ministries and departments, as well as the country on a whole.

Minister Hamilton explained that the meetings began before the planned three days, as each ministry was required to look at its vision and mission for the next couple of years in order to design programmes for implementing its vision. He said that such a task will result in meetings among all of the members of various sectors of the ministries.

“There needs to be that level of discussion about the way things are, where they ought to be and how they are going to get there and so that kind of planning has been undertaken in all of the ministries,” said Minister Hamilton. “We are at the point now where we are inviting the Ministry of Finance in particular, to examine the programmes that we are putting forward and to determine within the resources that we have, how much we can do or how much more we need to do to be able to arrive at the target that we set ourselves.”

He noted that the discussions over the past days were an opportunity for him as the Minister of Agriculture et al., to get to understand and appreciate what is happening in other ministries.

“That is basically one of the important outcomes of this exercise. We understand and we know that we are coming from a place where we were highly indebted and so we are prudent in what we eventually agree upon, while at the same time understanding that we must not blow our Budget,” he said. “The session is really an enlightening one. I think that the country should feel confident that the best minds are at work to deliver the greatest benefits for the greatest number of people using the utilitarian principle.”

Minister Hamilton said that his ministries had the pleasant task of contributing to the estimates meeting for two days. He said that although his ministries are requesting increases in various areas, they still have to understand that the overall picture for St. Kitts and Nevis must be in balance and within the Budget.

He spoke to an important aspect of the country’s infrastructure with respect to healthcare.

“One of the challenges is the important demands on the social services of our country. Over the last five or six years the demands on our unit at the hospital for Hemodialysis has been tenfold, whereas there used to be three or four people affected by kidney failures or kidney challenges, we now have 50 or more,” said Minister Hamilton. “And if one has to pursue paying for the services of Hemodialysis in particular, you’re speaking about EC$800.00 per treatment, three times per week, more than EC$120,000 per year. And it is in that context that we have to look at that Budget.”

He made mention of the benefits of universal health coverage in the Federation, adding that although the government provides it in some measure, there is still a gap that needs to be filled. Minister Hamilton said that through this budget preparation he is moving towards getting some initiatives implemented in 2017 that will hopefully bridge the gap.