Tonight is a very auspicious occasion. We are here celebrating the success of the people’s endeavours to bring change for the betterment of their lives. Their hopes and aspirations were captured in the vision and policies outlined in our contract with the people, that is, our Team Unity Manifesto for the 2015 General Elections.
Our people across the political divide appreciated that only a unified effort could bring a winning solution to the problems which our country faced then.
Thankfully, on September 26, 2013, the leaders of the 3 political parties came together at Greenlands Pasture, and before the largest crowd in political history declared that we were together as one to advance the prosperity and good governance agenda for all the people of St. Kitts and Nevis. In keeping with popular expressions captured in polls after polls, the leaders declared their support for me, to lead the movement to victory. The rest is history.
For this, we can say: To God Be The Glory.
I will always be grateful to the people who found favour in my ability to lead our country. I had never envisaged myself to be more than an ordinary citizen wanting the best for my community and country. Growing up, I first wanted to become a teacher, then a lawyer. My career path did not follow that trajectory.
Today, on the shoulders of the people and with favour of the Almighty God who is the source of all authority, I am humbled to reflect on my own successful journey spanning some 26 years of Parliamentary service and 22 years as a Minister in Federal government. I am honoured that, for the last 4-plus years, I have been serving as the Prime Minister of our great Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
I am the third child of Margaret Harris of Tabernacle, St. Kitts and one of the 33 children of Godfrey Nisbett of Cotton Ground, Nevis. That I from humble beginnings rose to the high Office of Prime Minister indicates there is no limit to our accomplishment.
I say thank you to all who have helped me in any way, and pledge to serve the country one more term as Prime Minister. Let me say a special thank you to the people, particularly of Constituency #7, who in every general election from 1993 to 2015 stood faithfully and loyally with me. They will always live in my heart. To my loving family, friends, colleagues and well-wishers, thank you for being there for me. To all the public servants whose work added value to my service as a Minister, and to the country generally, I say thank you.
The journey has always been about what we could do as a Team – each one individually and collectively working for the good of the nation. We have lived this. We have come together as a united team working not for self, nor individual party, but for the people and country as a whole.
We give substance and credence to our country’s motto: “Country Above Self.” Leading a diverse group of individuals is never easy, and yet that’s what leadership and success demand of us at such a time like this.
As a whole, our country has moved ahead successfully in all areas. However, there is still much more to be done. We shall continue to do the people’s work.
In our first term, we have done so much for and on behalf of the people. We remain confident that our fair-minded citizens and residents know that this Team Unity administration, on account of our outstanding performance, is deserving of another term.
Our Team Unity leadership went through the 4 phases which the Hon. Eugene Hamilton so often likes to speak about, and we have worked well in the name of the people.
We come together at the dawn of a New Year and a new decade.
Our beloved Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has every reason to be confident that the 2020s can be our best years.
This is our time to continue the forward movement of our country and people. This is not the time for self-doubt or going back to that which we rejected in February 2015.
Tonight, we further that journey to build a stronger and safer future for all of us.
Under Team Unity, there are safer streets, bigger and better housing, more jobs and more opportunities for our young people and indeed for all our people.
Whether it’s our construction of a modern cruise pier facility or the Government’s end-of-year bonus in the form of a double salary to civil servants, which we have given for the fourth consecutive year – today, our Federation is heading in the right direction.
There was a time our future did not look as bright. It was dim and did not carry much hope, especially for our young people. For too many of them in Basseterre, Phillip’s, Old Road, Boyd’s, West Farm, Cotton Ground and elsewhere, the refrain of hopelessness resonated like a road march: “Boss, nothing nar going on for me.”
Our country was down for the count, led by someone past his prime. It was a time of high debt, unsafe streets, expensive bills and international shame. We were a pariah country in 2014, sanctioned by the U.S.A. and Canada. And the rejected Prime Minister hid the shame and ignominy of not having his diplomatic visa to the U.S.A. renewed by the U.S. government. We can never as a people go back to that disgraceful leadership.
Under Team Unity, our country has been recharged with vigour and strength, as well as an indomitable spirit and an unrelenting drive for excellence.
We have much to be proud of.
Our debt-to-GDP ratio is around 55 percent – the best standing, by far, among the independent states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). We achieved that historic target of 60 percent debt-to-GDP ratio more than 12 years in advance of the Central Bank’s target date of 2030.
We have been adjudged the best in the OECS by independent and prestigious authorities on various indices, including information and communication technology development; rule of law index; our appeal as a cruise destination, and the strength and attractiveness of our passport.
The ICT Development Index compiled by the International Telecommunication Union, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, ranks St. Kitts and Nevis #1 in the OECS and #37 out of 176 evaluated in the world. Team Unity has reduced red tape, making it easier for you to conduct business even from the comfort of your home or office. We are the first country in the OECS to introduce and implement an e-services platform (via www.sknird.com) for the public to register and license new vehicles and renew drivers’ and vehicle licenses. We have logged on to E-Litigation, offering greater efficiency and effectiveness in access to the Courts.
The World Justice Project based in Washington, DC ranks St. Kitts and Nevis #1 in the OECS and 30th out of 126 countries assessed on the Rule of Law Index 2019.
Time after time, Team Unity demonstrates that we are serious about Order and Security, that we are serious about Fiscal Management, and that we are serious about Improving Efficiency and our country’s Performance across the board. Here are some findings about St. Kitts and Nevis in the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) report released on Friday, 13th December 2019 entitled Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean 2019:
- We have the lowest central government Gross Public Debt to GDP ratio at 39.1 percent in the region.
- We have the lowest gross external debt in the region.
- We have the highest fiscal balance as a percentage of GDP at positive 9.2 percent. Grenada follows at a distance with positive 5.1 percent ratio. The ratio of the other countries is near zero and worse negative (e.g. Suriname at negative 10.9 percent). We are well ahead of the class.
- Economic growth rate is better than most in the region and its projected at 3.5% for 2020.
- We have one of the lowest inflation/cost of living in the region at -0.4%. Cost of living is moving down. We intend, through greater support to farmers and fishers, to ensure more of what we consume are being produced in St. Kitts and Nevis.
- We have one of the lowest tax/government revenue to GDP ratio. That is, we do not burden our people with taxes.
Caribbean Journal’s Caribbean Travel Awards 2020 named us The Cruise Destination of the Year, and we also won The Destination Stewardship Award from the World Travel and Tourism Council during an awards ceremony held in Spain last year.
Such achievements and accolades send a clear message to investors across the world that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is not only open for business, but also that it is moving in the right direction on the path to becoming the economic hub of the future.
As a result, there is keen interest by developers to operate luxury branded hotels in St. Kitts and Nevis. A corollary of this is robust construction resulting in more and new jobs, and more money in the people’s pockets to take care of their children, buy land and save for a rainy day.
Under Team Unity, new hotel openings in 2020 will extend this season of hope and renewal. Expected to open during the first half of the year are Ramada Hotel (Phase 1), Koi Resort (as part of the Curio Collection, an upscale hotel brand within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio), T-Loft at Wyndham, and Sea View Hotel (Phase 1). Some 700 hundred new hotel rooms are to come onstream, bringing over 1,000 new jobs in the hotel sector alone. Wonderful things will continue to happen in 2020!
Construction will continue apace at Royal St. Kitts Hotel’s Cove Condominium Development, the Hillsboro Hotel and Suites at Mattingley, the Ramada Hotel at Heldon’s Estate, the Sea View Hotel in West Basseterre, and TDC’s middle/high income housing development at Dewars, and Era Development should commence their buildout. We have advanced a good governance agenda more than any administration.
Yes, there is much we have to be proud of. But our journey is only just beginning. There is much more we need to do as we lock in the social and economic gains we are making for our nation.
I submit that only Team Unity can move St. Kitts and Nevis forward ever, backward never, and to a stronger and safer future.
But we cannot do it alone. We need the commitment of everyone in this room, your friends and family, to help us continue this journey.
The Featured Speaker
The life of our featured speaker, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III, is an inspiration. His is a life dedicated to building a better, brighter future for others by empowering them. That is in sync with the philosophy of Team Unity.
Dr. Hrabowski, you are a true leader of empowerment, an example of selfless service and a shining example that the future can always be brighter. Our Cabinet will reflect the best examples of selfless service and the strength of faith that our St. Kitts and Nevis can and must always be the example of the best managed small island state. I shall during the next term as Prime Minister of this country continue to spend every waking moment advancing the cause of my beloved St. Kitts and Nevis, to ensure that every boy and girl can reach their full potential and rise to enduring heights of glory in culture, in sports, in arts and craft, in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, entertainment, music and literature.
Let us dream about the place of distinction for St. Kitts and Nevis in the world. Let us work together in unity to make that dream a reality.
May God bless us all and to Him I give all glory. Happy New Year to all!