Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:
I am privileged to have yet another occasion to extend Christmas greetings to everyone in St Kitts and Nevis, and also our diaspora. I am ever mindful that our beloved Federation is a Nation under God; it is written that no man may know the Father except through His Son, Jesus Christ.
It is the birth of Christ which all Christendom celebrate on Christmas Day. That special child born in a lowly manger has been heralded as the Saviour of the World. His examples during his short sojourn upon earth point us to what we must do to live a life pleasing to God.
As we reflect on the truth of Christ, we are reminded of the many things in 2016 for which we ought to give God thanks.
We ought, as a Nation, to give thanks for the gift of life itself because with life, hope springs eternal. As a Nation, we are grateful to have had a relatively strong economic performance for a second year in a row. Such an above-average performance in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) provides the resources for us to build our resilience in a challenging world. Indeed, our consistent, positive fiscal performances have made it possible for your government to do what no other Government has done – reward its employees, pensioners and other public sector employees and employees of the Nevis Island Administration with a 13th month salary or a bonus of over 8 percent. For this unique position in which we find ourselves one can say “To God be the Glory”.
In keeping with the tradition of glad tidings associated with the birth of Christ and the display of generosity portrayed in the wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, your Government partnered with the private sector and gave a generous 10 percent reduction in Value Added Tax (VAT) on December 16, 2016. This made it more affordable for thousands of people to purchase vehicles, household products, furniture and fittings. Some private sector entities have described VAT Day 2016 as a “fantastic occasion”. For this good deed, we can also proclaim “To God be the Glory”. Let us be thankful for the gifts which we have received and for those that we have given. In this Yuletide Season let us experience the pleasure of giving. We are reminded that it is much better to give than to receive. Our giving can take on a multiplicity of forms:
it can be an act of kindness such as making breakfast for an elderly person;
it can be the act of undertaking the supervision of medication intake by a senior citizen who is ill;
it can be the act of inviting an unhappy or neglected child for lunch with your family; or
it can just be a simple call to say “Happy Christmas, To God Be the Glory”.
As we reflect on the modest circumstances of the birth of Christ, we are thankful for our advances in healthcare delivery, including maternal health care and for health professionals in service to us right here in St Kitts and Nevis. In this regard we give thanks for the provision of MRI services here in St Kitts and Nevis, saving hundreds of our people the expense and inconvenience of journeying abroad for such service. Equally, we are grateful for the enhancement of affordable health care in our Federation marked by the recent opening of an Oncology Centre at the J.N.F. General Hospital that is capable of providing cancer treatment to the many who fall victim to the prevalence of cancers in our region. The Team Unity Government also took the bold step of building of a Mental Health Day Treatment Centre. This demonstrates that the Government is serious about the holistic health care for all of our citizens and wishes to end the stigmatisation of those who are ill in body or mind.
The migratory movements of the Christ Child – first for his personal safety from a covetous King and latterly in service to humanity – should serve as a reminder for us to be a Good Samaritan at Christmas and always to be our brother’s keeper.
When we come together and open our hearts and minds to new possibilities we can enhance our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. God counts every one of us as being important, treasured and loved, no matter who we are or what we do. We have all been ordained by Him to fulfil a special role, for which He has already given us all of the gifts, talents, wisdom and innate abilities to carry out.
Through our many churches and faiths we are afforded opportunities to come together in worship to celebrate God’s love and forgiveness. This is where I look to all of our church and faith leaders, regardless of how they choose to express their love for God, to come together, inspire our people, and work in unity to support our young people in make better life choices.
It is imperative that we choose life over death; love over hate; hope over despair; and courage over fear. We can choose to shine a light in the darkness and carve a future of which our young people can be truly proud. We can – and must – create a legacy that is sustainable for the future.
This form of working partnership does not have to be among the same type of establishments. Instead, it can be multi-disciplinary, bringing together a range of organisations with many voices – all looking to achieve the common aims of peace and prosperity across St Kitts and Nevis.
Let us remember that peace provides the fertile landscape out of which prosperity grows.
Like farmers, we have to tend and nourish the land so that the community can bring forth new shoots of growth. The sapling tree through careful husbandry, will grow into a strong and sturdy tree, with firm roots created by a resilient family network, and the ability to have the flexibility of withstanding all weathers of life, including the ravages of storm. I want our young people to grow strong and tall, purposeful but flexible, strong in character and accommodating of life. Most of all, I want them to place a high value on human life.
Just as God made humankind in His image, so must we elevate our young people to the values that help them to appreciate (1) the beauty and dignity of humanity; and (2) the great tragedy when a young life is cut down before its natural end. Even when we disagree with each other, let us not lose our respect and regard for each other. As we go forward during this season of goodwill, let us genuinely seek to share our good wishes, not just for Christmas but throughout 2017.
Let this approaching year be one of peace, prosperity, and above all, unity. Ever mindful of the words of Psalm133 “behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”.
I encourage all of us – citizens and residents alike – to let the Yuletide Season be an awesomely positive one. Let our minds and hearts hearken to the true meaning of Christmas. Let us celebrate the abundant love of Christ, His infinite riches, His limitless grace, enduring mercies, and His omniscience and omnipotence.
Our Nation can be happy this Christmas because the future is in God’s hands.
My family and Cabinet Colleagues join me in extending a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to all.
May God bless you, your family, your friends and loved ones. May God bless and prosper our beautiful Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.
Thank you for listening and thank you for helping to build a better St Kitts and Nevis.