My Fellow Citizens and Residents:
It was on February 18, 2015 that the mantle of leadership of our beloved Country fell on my shoulders when I was sworn in as the third Prime Minister of our nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. With the able assistance of my colleagues, I have endeavoured to wear that mantle with commitment, distinction and humility.
My Cabinet Colleagues and I have dedicated ourselves to the task of delivering a better quality of life to all of our citizens and residents. We believe that we have been successful in great measure. Our record has shown that when faced with opportunities and/or challenges we have always responded effectively and efficiently.
We are proud of the manner in which we restored our Country’s good name, which was sullied before we came to office. The Country had experienced a long and extended period of indebtedness and we had been subjected to an administration that had no regard for the rule of law.
Today, our economy is the best in the region. Our fiscal management of public finances has been second to none. We paid off a $117 million IMF debt left by our predecessors. We have recorded surpluses and positive economic growth every year of our tenure. This successful management has allowed us to pay the public servants a double salary four years in succession and cater effectively to the needs of our citizens and residents during this period of global crisis.
The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index has consistently placed us as No. 1 in the OECS. We govern with sobriety and the engagement of our citizens. The Administration of Justice is alive and well in our Federation and we have experienced significant advancement in this area, with the appointment of a 2nd Judge to the St. Kitts Circuit and the commissioning of a state-of-the-art Courtroom at the Sir Lee L. Moore Judicial Complex.
Your Team Unity administration has governed with thoughtfulness and compassion in every area and fulfilled manifesto commitments that were made in 2015. You will recall that we made the prompt payment of $16 million to former sugar industry workers. We removed VAT from food, medicine, educational supplies and funeral expenses. We also introduced the poverty alleviation programme and pay a monthly stipend of $500 to over 4,000 households earning less than $3,000 per month. These were promises made – and, thankfully, promises we have kept.
When we were impacted by hurricanes in 2017, we rebuilt homes and repaired roofs. This has improved the resilience in the housing stock in the Federation. More than 2,000 families have benefitted from this historic programme. We are particularly proud of our housing programme. Never before has any Government provided the type of housing here in St. Kitts, both in quality and quantity. We have distributed thousands of house lots to our citizens and residents.
We undertook the most significant public sector investment in our Country’s history. The construction of the 2nd cruise pier; the $69 million resurfacing of the island main road; also the reconstruction of the Old Road Bay to alleviate the longstanding dangers that were posed to travellers. The construction of the modern Ferry Terminal, East Bus Line and West Bus Line Terminals has received rave reviews. All this and more we have accomplished in five short years.
We are proud of our spectacular performance in tourism development, the build out of our ICT sector, advancement in education and health care especially the provision for the first time of a Cancer Treatment Unit at the J. N. F. Hospital and our mental health day care facility.
My fellow citizens and residents, you will recall that when this Team Unity Government assumed office, crime was rampant and our citizens were living in fear as homicides had reached an all-time high. Parents were burying their children at an alarming rate, fear stalked the land and many persons refrained from venturing out at nights. The economy was being negatively impacted and we promised to aggressively combat this scourge, which we inherited. I am proud that this country is now regarded as one of the safest places to live. Major crimes – in particular, homicides – have fallen dramatically and a new era of peace has been ushered in our beautiful Federation. Another promise made and another promise we have kept.
While at present COVID-19 poses a threat to our future, we are confident that we are a resilient people and with the right management of the Country’s affairs, we will continue to be successful. Working with you, my Government has been protecting our people, our economy and our islands from the worst elements of COVID-19. We must continue the fight. We are making good progress but there is so much more to do in these difficult and uncertain times. Our early, proactive actions by restricting travellers, enforcing quarantine and closing the borders have undoubtedly saved lives during this pandemic and prevented our health system from being overwhelmed.
Because of the tough decisions we took, St. Kitts and Nevis is now best placed in the Caribbean to recover. This is not by accident.
WE HAVE A PLAN
While we must continue fighting this pandemic, we must also put our Federation back on the path to a stronger and safer future.
I can assure you that we have a plan.
It is a plan for a stronger economy, where our jobs are secure, our streets are safer, and our future is brighter.
The plan acknowledges a greater role for agriculture. We are providing farmers free seeds and seedlings, free harrowing services and a financial grant for loss of their animals. We have provided additional lands for food security.
The plan is about being at the cutting edge of ICT. It is about empowering our young people. That is why we have procured nearly 2,000 ICT devices for our students and teachers to facilitate e-learning.
The plan includes getting our tourism plant back on the incredible growth trajectory in cruise and stay-over visitors experienced only under Team Unity.
The plan involves the continuing development of our infrastructure.
My fellow citizens and residents, we are living in unprecedented times, which none of us has ever experienced before. My Government is committed to keeping all of our people safe. The health of our nation is and will remain our number one priority. We know that we are all in this together, and in Unity, we shall overcome this challenge.
We are a Country governed by laws and our Constitution is our supreme law. Our Constitution is very clear. Every Parliament shall continue for five years from the date of the first sitting of the National Assembly after an election and shall then end, unless sooner dissolved.
It is now almost some five years since that first sitting and I have yesterday advised His Excellency the Governor General, Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton, to dissolve the National Assembly as from Tuesday, 12th May 2020 and he has graciously consented.
The next election will bring certainty to our Federation, preserve our democracy and allow us continue to deliver a brighter future, creating employment and prosperity, building bigger homes and keeping us safe. Let us stay together and see this through. In this election, you will have a clear choice. You can go forward to a safer and brighter future with Team Unity, or backwards to the past, which you rejected in 2015. I know that our Federation will be safer and stronger with Team Unity.
I invite each and every one of you to consider these Elections seriously, soberly, and with maturity. Keep the peace, and stay out of trouble. When it is over, let us overcome and rise above our partisan differences and combine our energies to the task of building our beloved nation for the benefit of every man, woman and child.
My fellow citizens and residents, I thank you for the opportunity to serve you, and I express to you my willingness to serve you again as Prime Minister with even greater vigour and skill, steeped in experience and commitment.
May God bless each and every one of us, as we seek to exercise your sacred Trust as citizens and residents of this, our beloved Country. May God continue to bless our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I Thank You.
CLICK THE PLAY BUTTON TO WATCH: Prime Minister Harris addressed the nation at 7:00pm regarding the Dissolution of Parliament as from Tuesday, 12th May 2020.