As Prepared for Delivery
Our focus continues to be how, in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic, we can secure the stronger and safer future for St. Kitts and Nevis. COVID-19 presents a real and present threat to world stability, growth and development. Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, we continue to gain international recognition for our leadership and success in managing the virus. Recently, the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reclassified St. Kitts and Nevis from a level 3-risk destination to a very low-risk destination as far as COVID-19 is concerned. Accordingly, the CDC says no travel health notice adverse to St. Kitts and Nevis is required. This is significant recognition of our leadership in the management of COVID-19. I commend our conscientious citizens and residents for their responsible behaviour so far. We have to be careful that an over-zealous few do not create a spike in the coronavirus disease by their inappropriate behaviours.
We have to be careful not to squander the gains made over the last 6 months by throwing caution to the wind by non-compliance with the non-pharmaceutical measures, which up to this time are the only known way to reduce the spread of the virus and avoid the overwhelming of the health systems and at worst death.
Globally, there are 27,236,916 confirmed cases, with 891,031 deaths recorded and 203,897 newly diagnosed cases within the last 24 hours. In St. Kitts and Nevis, we have no active cases and no deaths. We praise God for this.
With plans to open up the Country in October, our citizens and residents must use the intervening period to perfect their compliance with health protocols, including practising hand hygiene by frequent washing with soap, wearing masks and practising social distancing.
The unauthorized hosting of large parties and other events are in contravention of the laws, and law enforcement will enforce the law against all who breach the regulations. By breaching the regulations, we risk a spike in infections associated with the coronavirus disease, and threaten the wellbeing of vulnerable groups. Those who know better must do better. Lives are at stake. We have not come this far to go back into lockdown again.
Monday our schools reopened. Some 15,000 students across our Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis have to be managed. This is a most significant development in our opening up of the society in advance of our borders being fully opened. Let us not add to our challenges at this crucial time. I ask for the understanding of all and responsible action by all. Those who know better must do better now. A word to the wise should be enough.
One of our highlights of our 37th Anniversary Celebration is the Prime Minister’s Lecture Series. This year, 26-year-old businessman Mr. Mark Pennyfeather, a mechanical engineer by training, has the privilege of delivering a lecture that hopefully motivates all of us to reaffirm our love for St. Kitts and Nevis, as well as our commitment to build it and make St. Kitts and Nevis the Garden of Eden in this Hemisphere. So many opportunities are available and we need all our sons and daughters to seize these opportunities. I invite all to tune in tomorrow (Wednesday) night to the lecture series. This Sunday afternoon at Warner Park Cricket Stadium, we will have our Independence Church Service – a truly national event. We have so much for which we must give God thanks. Let us attend the Independence Worship, wearing our masks and observing social distancing as we enjoy songs of praise and turn in thanksgiving and supplication to our omnipotent and omniscient God.
We commemorate Independence under the theme Resilience, Innovation, and Security for Independence 2020.
Mr. Pennyfeather is amongst a cadre of young persons whose discipline, entrepreneurial zeal, patriotism, ideas and philosophy of life are the stuff on which nations excel. That is why my administration has established a Ministry of Entertainment, Entrepreneurship and Talent Development, with information and communications technology (ICT) as a subject of focus within the Ministry. The Ministry will coordinate Government’s response to an enhanced role for young persons in nation building.
As we build out our new Ministry of Entertainment et al, we will unveil our national policy to provide the necessary facilitating environment in which ideas emerge, talent shines, mentors volunteer and venture capital and other support are available to new entrepreneurs.
I commend our young people who dare to be different, to take a chance and dare to persevere – we only need a start and a spark. I have been impressed by the passion of our young people to excel, particularly in non-traditional areas. Names like Sister Sensia and Desi Brown are young talented artistes.
Our Country has many talented people. We cannot afford to lose them as we build out our nation, making it the Garden of Eden. We want our young people everywhere to shine the light and, in so doing, elevate their lives and the lives of others here in St. Kitts and Nevis. My hope is that more of our young people will add something of value to our Country by the effective way in which they utilize their talents – in music and entertainment, visual arts, craft, photography, choreography, literary arts, science, technology, engineering and math, fisheries and agriculture, etc.
I commend Jonathan Brown of Jay Black Productions, a photographer whose photography tells a story through its imagery, backgrounds and angles. I commend and acknowledge Amali Armony. It was my encounter with him that jolted me into imagining the new Ministry of Entertainment et al. I expect him and others to continue to give ideas as we fine-tune the further conceptualization and build-out of this new Ministry. Open Interactive showed incredible talent in managing Team Unity’s virtual campaign, coordinating with other young talents like Alexis St. Juste and Azem Bailey. I thank them all.
This next 5 years of my Administration, I dedicate to the young people of St. Kitts and Nevis who are not asking what their Country can do for them, but instead are doing incredible feats for the benefit and development of their Country. My Government will facilitate and help, but ultimately our young people must take the leap of faith in themselves – in their ideas, their dreams, their Country and their God.
Our efforts at nation building must and will be all-inclusive and non-discriminatory. All hands are required to make St. Kitts and Nevis the best managed small island state in the world. Our collective efforts must build a prosperous, secure and resilient St. Kitts and Nevis – where innovation, entrepreneurship and superb performance are recognized, rewarded and incentivized.
Tonight, I am honoured to have my Cabinet colleague and distinguished 3-peat representative for the beloved people of St. Christopher 8. Mr. Hamilton has portfolio responsibility for Housing, National Insurance, Social Security, Social Development, etc. I welcome him to Leadership Matters.
Update on Stimulus Build-Out
I am pleased to report that during the course of this month, Social Security will make a special payment to unemployed registered workers who are not in receipt of any state inflows, example Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP), severance payments, etc. Minister Hamilton will speak to this.
Speaking to severance, the Labour Department has begun the processing of severance claims. We expect by next week some employees will be receiving their payments.
The Minister of Labour advises me that the Federal Government has provided some $11 million to the Severance Fund to facilitate settlement of legitimate claims. Some 1,158 claims on the Fund were received as at September 4th, 2020. We ask for patience as this processing continues. All lawful claims will be settled, but not at the same time.
In closing, I thank the people of St. Kitts and Nevis for their love and support. I pledge always to do my very best for this Country of St. Kitts and Nevis and its people whom I love so very much.