This time-honoured tradition of bringing Independence greetings to the people of the nation holds a special significance for me.
Indeed, this time-honoured tradition is deeply important to me, when 36 years ago the new national flag was raised one minute after midnight, symbolizing our journey into Nationhood. Our Nation also gained a new National Anthem, and a new Constitution, the supreme law of the land. We record our gratitude and appreciation to all who participated in the struggle against colonialism and to whom we owe the success of our independence journey. We give special recognition to Kenrick Georges and Edrice Lewis for producing our beautiful National Anthem and National Flag respectively. We thank our National Heroes for inspiring us with their outstanding patriotic service.
As we commemorate our 36th Anniversary of Independence we are more keenly resolved to make our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis prosperous, more secure, more resilient and more competitive in the world.
Like Marcus Garvey all who come here marvel at our beauty and great potential. Our citizens and residents are very fortunate to live on these two beautiful paradise islands comprising our Federation.
As a government and people, we must remain focused on the task of nation building. In unity we can confidently face the social, economic, political and cultural challenges and seek to further advance the well-being of our people and the resilience of our Nation state.
Every Independence Day we should be gathering as a people who are safer, more prosperous, more united than the year before. That is why my government has invested more money on public safety and security. We are encouraged by the very dramatic reduction in gang related homicides, and by the peace and goodwill which abound. We thank our law enforcement officers, the families and various intervention teams for their outreach to the marginalized and vulnerable groups. We support the changes in mindset that have occasioned this significant period of peace and stability. We applaud our young men and women for recognizing that they were made by God and they can pursue successful lives free of violence and crime. We give God thanks for this peace and pray that it be sustained. We aim to build a society with the help of God, which is free of violence, fear, intimidation and hatred. The society we are building is founded on justice, fairness, transparency, dignity and equality. This is the message of our proud independent Nation which we share with the rest of the world.
Unify, Transform, Enrich: Uplifting Communities
Independence Day is more than just a time when we celebrate who we are. It is a time when we give God thanks for His blessings, grace, favor and mercy on our young developing Nation. It is a time when we envisage a better and brighter future.And it is a time when we dedicate ourselves to building that bright new future.
This year, we celebrate under the theme Unify, Transform, Enrich: Uplifting Communities for Independence 36 – a theme that encapsulates perfectly the ideals and aspirations laid out in the preamble of our Constitution. A theme that focus on us empowering each other to transform and enrich the communities and Federation of which we are a part.
This year we have continued a longstanding tradition of engaging students and teachers through annual visits to schools as part of our Independence Anniversary Celebrations. We urged all students to make the most of the academic opportunities available to them, but also to commit that they will try to unify, try to transform and will enrich St. Kitts and Nevis.
We conveyed our strong belief of the importance of the theme chosen for this year’s Independence celebrations. These children are our future and they have a huge contribution to make. We also commend our teachers who make such a vital and pastoral contribution to our Nation. They too will play their role in building a better future for our Country. They can help unify our young people, help them to understand and most importantly transform our Nation, to be the best small island state in the world.
Our teachers enrich our children and we fully support them. That’s why we will build the most modern secondary school in the region and upgrade the quality of all other learning institutions. The Basseterre High School will be equipped with all the support to foster learning and teaching: catering to the diverse talents, skills and interests of our students and teachers with a curriculum not only covering academics, but sports, music, technology and the arts, etc. We are investing $30 million in TVET education, 50 teachers are now being assisted to further their studies in education leadership and other areas. A record number in the history of our country.
We are about building our human resources and enhancing the dignity of our people. That is why we have made significant investment in the human settlement sector, education, health, public welfare, and poverty alleviation. In less than 5 years we have provided over 3000 housing solutions to citizens and residents. The best record in home delivery in our Country. We have delivered on our direct support to low income households, providing them a $500 monthly stipend. This was a promise made against the backdrop of the pauperization of our people as a result of high VAT and other taxes imposed by the former administration and the absence of medication in our hospitals. With this additional income our women headed households, our unemployed, and our grandmothers can where necessary purchase their health prescriptions, pay their electricity and water bills, top up their phones, or buy their groceries. Their dignity and decency are being restored. Lives are being transformed and enriched in more ways than one under Team Unity.
We will empower our people to further enrich their lives, achieve their full potential and lead meaningful independent lives. As we look ahead to the next 5 years and more of Independence under Team Unity, we pledge that St. Kitts and Nevis will continue to consolidate and expand its gains for the benefit of all. We shall build our socioeconomic resilience, expand the contribution of agriculture and fisheries to socioeconomic life, and enhance our nutrition and health. We will be the first country in the OECS to implement a comprehensive national health insurance system to provide affordable care and treatment. A healthy people can contribute more to nation building and wealth creation. We will establish a Growth and Resilience Fund to help buffer us against hurricanes and other negative impacts of climate change and to sustain our quality of life far into the future. We are among the best performers on the United Nations Human Development Index surpassing more than 120 Countries with our higher standard of living.
We shall give generous support for our people to benefit more from the phenomenal expansion in our tourism plant. Our public sector infrastructure investment will target the blue economy including coastal zone management, alternative energy, digitization of our society, and expansion of our water supply. We will work together with our various groups to support businesses and entrepreneurship in all areas.
Yes, the major issues of today and the future require the outstanding leadership which comes when we harness talents across the political divide. This is what Team Unity is about, – a better future for all.
In just over four (4) short years we have achieved unprecedented success – the largest number of persons employed, the highest wages paid in the economy, the largest number of business licenses issued, the highest number of tourist arrivals, the highest number of housing support, the largest fiscal surpluses, the best performance on global ICT index in the sub-region, outstanding report on the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2019 where we ranked number one in the OECS. Our national debt ratio is at its lowest. We have paid off the IMF debt contracted by the former Administration and reclaimed hundreds of acres of land from the land for debt swap arrangement for use by our ordinary citizens and residents. We have the highest per capita income in CARICOM excluding Bahamas. Yes, God has been good to us and we give Him thanks and due praise. We have strengthened the relationship between the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and provided Nevis with unprecedented levels of tangible support.
As we recommit to nation building let us cast divisiveness aside and the politics of resentment. The promoters of divisiveness argue that good things are happening to people who do not deserve them. They want to create an “us versus them” dichotomy. “They’re getting that, so why can’t I get this?” They forget that lower poverty levels, a much lower crime rate and the enhancement of our roads and public infrastructure benefit everyone and make St. Kitts and Nevis one of the best small island states in the world. Everyone benefits when a government succeeds in protecting the poor and in fostering respect for law and order. Creating wedge issues to promote in-fighting among our people not only undermines national unity which is an imperative for nation building. Further it undermines the ideals and aspirations of our people and vitiates the productive efforts so necessary for building a land of shared prosperity for all.
In this moment of national reflection and shared experience, as we celebrate the greatest milestone for our young Nation, let us also celebrate the inherent power of all of us, the citizens and residents – remembering that we are the pillars of democracy, justice, peace, and of a strong, successful Nation. Let us keep this at the top of our mind as we, the citizens and residents strive to move the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis even further along the path of progress.
As we celebrate Independence 36 and look forward to the next ten(10) years, we can feel assured that with God’s help and the support of our people and the international community, St. Kitts and Nevis under Team Unity will be the most prosperous and best managed small island developing state.
Happy Independence to the wonderful people of St. Kitts and Nevis.
May God keep us safe.