My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
I am honoured and privileged to give this message of optimism and empowerment on this Labour Day, which is dedicated to celebrating our Nation’s Workers and their rights.
It also pleases me to note that under my Team Unity administration, Kittitians and Nevisians are participating in the workforce in the largest numbers ever. Indeed, the Federation and its Workers are enjoying unparalleled progress on almost every front under my Government’s steady stewardship.
The first three years of my Team Unity administration have set impressive records, witnessing the highest annual Wage Bill, the most Business Licenses issued in a year, and the largest numbers of Jobs, Workers and Social Security Contributors.
All of this translates to more money for you and your families, as well as greater security, wellbeing and opportunities.
Speaking of opportunities, women – who head up more than 50% of our Nation’s households – have made great strides in the workplace. Under my administration, female representation on boards and in top-level Government and decision-making positions increased, with well-qualified women also having been appointed and promoted to become the first women named to several prestigious posts. Last year, females comprised 53% of the total number of Workers in the country.
In our short stint at the helm of the Government, not only have we increased people’s share of the pie, but we also grew the economic pie (GDP) by 9% – from EC$2.3 billion, as it was back in 2014, to EC$2.5 billion.
This is a marked contrast to the negative growth that marred the waning days of the previous administration. That stressful period for Workers also saw the introduction of 17% value-added tax (VAT), an 85% increase in electricity tariff and significant increases in our water bills, resulting in Workers having less money to work with and in employers restricting hiring.
To add insult to injury, between 2011 and 2014, the Douglas-led regime imposed on civil servants a wage freeze and took away their increments – whereas under my Team Unity administration, I am happy to note that they have been paid a 13-month (double) salary for the past two consecutive years, which represents a combined total bonus of more than 16 percent.
I am also happy to inform you that my Government has cleared more than 80 percent of the full backlog of severance and long service gratuity claims, which extends as far back as 2009 due to the previous administration’s mismanagement.
My Team Unity administration brought relief to 386 severance claimants last year, having made payments to them during the period January to December 2017, amounting to EC$4,744,866.89. Moreover, 113 long service gratuity claimants received payments during the period January to December 2017, amounting to EC$3,052,752.66.
That’s a combined total of EC$7,797,619.55, which was paid out from the Government’s Severance Payment Fund & Long Service Gratuity Scheme last year. The first quarter of 2018 saw two long service gratuity claims paid out, with a combined total of EC$40,000.00, and seven severance claims paid out, with a combined total of EC$89,647.52.
Furthermore, my Government is working to consecrate the future for Non-Establishment Workers who since 2012 were misled and disadvantaged by the Denzil Douglas administration. The Douglas administration refused to fulfil its promise to Non-Establishment Workers to make them part of the pensionable establishment.
Indeed, we are taking our mandate – to work assiduously on behalf of the people – seriously.
Five months into 2018, we are the only country in the OECS with a near five percent projected growth. What’s more, St. Kitts and Nevis is now the preferred destination in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for foreign investment.
On the heels of the Park Hyatt luxury hotel that opened last November – and with the recent news of the Six Senses and Ritz-Carlton coming soon, plus other announcements on the horizon – we are well on our way to become the destination with the largest amount of branded luxury hotel properties, anywhere, per capita.
Additionally, the US$48 million dollar second cruise pier that is being built will be a great boon to Workers in the tourism industry who are gearing up to welcome a record 1.5 million cruise passengers per annum to our shores.
On behalf of my Government, I take this opportunity to wish our Nation’s Workers a Happy Labour Day. I also give you the assurance that we will continue to do our part to create a nurturing and accommodating environment for all of you, underpinned by my Team Unity administration’s strong track record of economic growth, good governance, job creation and sound fiscal management.
Happy Labour Day to one and all!