Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 19, 2018 (SKNIS): Minister of Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Honourable Mark Brantley, during his contribution to The Appropriation (2019) Bill, 2018, on December 18, said that there should not be a divide between citizens who live on island and those abroad. Therefore, he said, various measures will be put in place to address this.

“It is high time that this artificial divide between those who are here and those who have left, let us remove that, and treat all of our people as citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis and therefore persons who have a contribution to make,” he said. “Because if we have 50 or 55,000 people here, I can tell you we have far more out there in terms of people who were born here and descendants of those.”

He stated said that the government recognizes the importance of the Diaspora. Not only was there a Diaspora Conference held in St. Kitts, but the government is now developing a Diaspora Policy, which is now before Cabinet.

The Foreign Minister said that the Government of National Unity has also appointed a Director for Diaspora Affairs and a Diaspora Unit. The duties of that individual will be establishing good working relationships with returning nationals groups, maintaining a database with individuals with their respective area of expertise and developing a needs assessment file that can be used to identify gaps to be filled by members of the Diaspora, said Minister Brantley.

“When fully operationalized, we envisage a boost in Diaspora involvement in nation building, not solely by contributing financially, but also in providing their expertise in a wide array of fields,” he said.

“This is important because we shouldn’t just go overseas to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) when we want them to run. We should go overseas to the BVI when we need a good engineer. We should go overseas to St. Maarten when we need a good contractor. So, we must not only do that, we must, when we have big projects, allow our people in the Diaspora the opportunity to be a part and to have their ideas and their energy reflected in the development of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to appointing a director of Diaspora Affairs, the government is also engaged in a process that is called mapping.

“That process is to give us a sense of where our members of the Diaspora are and what their skill sets are so we could have it as a tool that we can use to call on them as necessary to assist in national development,” said Minister Brantley.