My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
This Christmas let us reflect on what joys can be achieved when we welcome into our lives the peace that the birth of Jesus Christ brought to the world.
As we go about our busy lives, too often we get distracted, caught up in events and our daily tasks. Christmas allows us to take a step back and find peace with our friends, our families and within ourselves.
The importance of God’s peace in our lives is central to the Christmas story. Angels heralded the birth of our Lord to the frightened shepherds with the words “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
This Christmas let us commit ourselves to finding the Lord’s peace in our own lives.
For when we are at peace, with ourselves and with each other, we become more aware of the community around us. We are more attuned to the relationships we have, and we free ourselves to actively pursue our hopes and dreams for a better life.
Indeed, our lives have been shaped by the dreams and aspirations that our forebears had for our future and those we have for ourselves.
Christmas is an ideal time for us to reflect on the importance of having a strong and peaceful family life and passing along the benefit of our experience and wisdom to those who will carry on our legacy and our good name.
This Christmas let’s examine our lives and our choices to determine if they are in sync with the future we want for our nation’s children.
Are we teaching them – and demonstrating through our words and actions – the values and standards of behaviour that ensure the stability and posterity of the family and society? Values such as caring, citizenship, discipline, faith, family, honesty, industry, responsibility, and service are indeed important.
Are we preparing them to successfully carry out their life’s mission?
The nativity story teaches us that a child’s future success begins with a simple dream. Importantly, our positive influence and involvement in that child’s life can make the difference between success and failure in fulfilling the dream.
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Those of the words of Langston Hughes writing in his poem, Dreams.
This is why my Team Unity administration is committed to implementing policies designed to give young people and families opportunities to take flight and rise above their circumstances.
We have done this in Housing and with our Small Business Development initiatives like our successful Fresh Start Programme and our Small Business Development Centre managed by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
It is not by chance that data provided by the Ministry of Finance indicate that over 600 applications were approved for business licenses as at the end of October 2019. This is the largest number of approvals ever for a single year!
Our supportive policies cut across several ministries, and their demonstrable successes were highlighted during the presentation of our 2020 Budget titled “Let’s Keep Building a Stronger and Safer Future for St. Kitts and Nevis.”
My administration’s Poverty Alleviation Programme is strengthening the financial position of over 4,000 households. They received a total payout of about $22 million for the first 11 months of 2019.
Beneficiaries appreciate this constructive support by my government. I have been moved by stories recounted. I am advised for example that the $500 stipend paid to these low-income families each month helps them to buy food for their children, pay rent and cover other necessities such as transportation costs to and from work. This month, these families can celebrate Christmas with greater dignity and with more food on the table and presents perhaps under the tree for their children.
For the fourth consecutive year my administration has paid an extra month’s salary to civil servants and employees of public entities in both St. Kitts and Nevis.
The double salary provides a comfortable financial cushion for them to do more during the hectic season and purchase Christmas gifts for their families, friends and well-wishers. The tradition of giving is an important part of our Christmas celebrations.
Again, I quote the poet Langston Hughes who asked in another of his poems titled Harlem, “What happens to a dream deferred?” He continued: “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? …Or does it explode?”
For far too long too many of our young men’s dreams had been deferred as a result of juvenile delinquency, gang activity and underemployment, and too many lives had also been cut short by gun violence. The senseless killings happened too frequently and for too long in the absence of a well thought out, holistic plan to contain and curb it.
I am happy to report that major crimes in the Federation have fallen significantly for the year so far when compared to the comparative period in 2018. Indeed, most importantly, homicides have fallen most dramatically by 48%.
With the help of a group of concerned citizens and residents working in collaboration with our security forces and other entities , many of our at-risk young men have now developed their ideas into viable business plans and received seed funding for projects that run the gamut from agriculture to landscaping, nature tours, car rentals and other legitimate entrepreneurial activities.
Helping at-risk youth is high on our list of priorities, and our efforts have helped us to build safer streets and communities.
What’s more, these once marginalized men and their families have found God’s peace in their hearts and minds. The peace initiative gave them a sense of hope that they too can dream about building a brighter future.
To God be the Glory! We, as a people and nation, have a lot to be thankful about. Our economic drivers such as tourism, construction, our CBI Programme and manufacturing are all doing relatively well. Our fiscal house is the best in the region!
I am aware that we are celebrating both Christmas and Carnival seasons. I invite all of us to give our unwavering support to the security forces and other essential workers as they work tirelessly throughout the season to ensure that we have a safe and peaceful time.
As Prime Minister of our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and peaceful Christmas and Carnival season. May it be everything you’ve dreamed of and even more!
God Bless You All and God Bless our beautiful Country of St. Kitts and Nevis!