My Fellow Citizens and residents, I am pleased to address you today on some important matters of state, which I am sure will affect you positively. And as we draw closer to the yuletide season celebrations during which we experience so much joy and excitement, I bring you only good news.
As we approach Budget Day, which will be on Wednesday, December 12th this year, I would like to report to you that the economic and fiscal house of our beloved Federation is at its all-time best. The prospects for our economy in 2019, and the medium term, are for continued positive above-average economic growth.
This will be the 4th year in a row under our Administration that the Country would have recorded positive growth. The healthy fiscal position of the Government indicates that we have achieved the best ever debt-to-GDP ratio over the past twenty-five (25) years. We have posted a surplus on the recurrent account, a surplus on our overall account, and the primary balance attests to the fiscal and economic wellbeing of St. Kitts and Nevis.
As a result, my Fellow Citizens and residents, my Government is happy to announce the following measures, which we hope will bring a sense of wellbeing and enhance the lives of many of our citizens and residents at this time:
- The Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) will be launched on December 21st, 2018 when the initial payment of $500 will be made to the responsible person in those households that qualify for this support. The programme is designed to provide this special stipend of $500 every month to vulnerable households that earn less than $3000 per month across St. Kitts and Nevis.
This is a major development – one of the best social development initiatives to be implemented over the past 30 years, and fulfils a promise made by our Team Unity Administration in the campaign leading up to the historic General Elections in 2015.
I must congratulate the Ministries of Sustainable Development and Social Development in the Federal Government, the Nevis Island Administration, and the Caribbean Credit Card Corporation (4Cs) on the work they have done together to implement this most significant safety net for the poor and disadvantaged in our communities.
- The Cabinet of Ministers, of which I have the privilege of being the Chairman, has considered and determined, based on the excellent assessment of our fiscal health, that Government employees will receive, for a third year in a row, a double salary on December 14th.
The double salary will apply to all employees of the Federal Government, including the Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) or non-establishment workers; persons on STEP; pensioners; CFBC, and the NIA.Statutory Corporations, such as SKELEC, SCASPA, NHC, the Tourism Authority, etc., have also been encouraged to make payments to their employees.
I want to encourage all public servants to work more diligently and produce more, to demonstrate greater loyalty to the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, and commit themselves to give honest, courteous and professional service to the taxpayers of this Country who pay their salaries.
- My Government brings further good tidings and announces that we have decided to restore and pay the annual December holiday pay to the Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) or non-establishment workers on December 14th this year.
The annual holiday pay, paid during the month of December, had been stopped abruptly some years ago by the previous Administration on the pretext that the workers would become a part of the pensionable establishment. Unfortunately, this was never done for our non-establishment workers. Last year, we said that we would correct this injustice inflicted on our non-establishment workers, as we work to make them a part of the pensionable establishment.
My Government has engaged a well-known actuary to advise us on this matter. We have formed a diverse Committee, chaired by the Government’s Chief Personnel Officer and including GAE representation, to consult and work to achieve this desired goal, to ensure non-establishment workers attain the elevated status of pensionable employees of the Government. But, in the meantime, GAE holiday pay will be paid on December 14th. A promise made, a promise kept!
- I also want to report that during the month of December, as was done last year, our citizens and residents can look forward to benefit from duty-free concessions on the importation of barrels and boxes of food stuff up to 400 lbs. In addition, goods with a value up to US$200 or EC $540 will also attract no duty. Your Government continues to work hard to ensure that our Nation continues to grow from strength to strength and all our people share in the benefits that accrue to us. Good things are happening here in St. Kitts and Nevis.
- On Tuesday morning next, we will welcome to our shores the largest tourist vessel in the World that is Symphony of the Seas. We invite all to witness it and be a part of this momentous and historic event in the Basseterre harbour, as this cruise ship docks at 8.30 in the morning. The good news does not end here.
- Later that Tuesday afternoon, we also invite you to the official opening of the new East Bus Line Terminal on Wellington Road as we continue to make significant improvements in our transportation system. This new terminal has already attracted rave reviews from our citizens at home and abroad, impressed as they are by the sheer beauty of the facility and the enhanced convenience and protection afforded to members of the travelling public. Good things are happening here in St. Kitts.
- The fantastic imagery of Fort Street, now colourfully lit up, has been applauded by many. I am happy to report that we will pay particular attention to the Independence Square and will enhance the lighting there, beckoning others to the sacred historical grounds of our forebears and how we, their heirs and successors, have consecrated our future and moved from the periphery of development to become the creators of our pathways to development using our creativity and ingenuity. It is amazing what wonderful things are happening on this our beloved land of birth and residence.
As we approach this yuletide season, our people must give thanks to the Almighty for the wondrous things He has done for us. We have been spared so far from any major natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.
I thank God for the many good things he has bestowed on our people, and I thank him for favouring my Government with the wisdom and the foresight to be prudent in our management of the people’s affairs. We ask His blessings in providing for the continuing forward movement and progress of our Nation. Our Nation is moving in the right direction. Let us all unite and move forward with our Government of National Unity.
To God be the Glory! I Thank You.