BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 2ND, 2017 (PRESS SEC) — Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, speaking yesterday, Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 at his press conference, listed just some of his Team Unity administration’s major manifesto accomplishments achieved less than two years into its five-year mandate.

Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris led the three-party Team Unity coalition to a resounding victory at the polls on Monday, February 16th, 2015. Two days later, he was sworn in as St. Kitts and Nevis’ third Prime Minister then on Sunday, February 22nd his administration’s Cabinet was formally presented to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.

That Sunday, a massive, jubilant crowd at Warner Park applauded the Honourable Prime Minister and his Government Ministers, who vowed to quickly carry out the promises encompassed in the Team Unity Movement’s Prosperity Agenda.

“We can enumerate some of these promises. Some of them have been particularly beneficial to the poor of St. Kitts and Nevis…and for this Government, the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly and the young must take a special place and pride of place in our programs and policies,” Prime Minister Harris said yesterday.

Major accomplishments include the removal of 17 percent VAT on food, medicines, educational supplies and funeral expenses, as well as the payment of outstanding gratuities in the amount of $13.05 million to a total of 2,003 former sugar workers (or their beneficiaries) to date. The gratuity payments were facilitated through a $16 million grant that the Team Unity government attained from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

“We got the money and it did not cost our Treasury one cent. Thanks to the goodness of the government of Venezuela, we were able to do within four months what a government since 2005 could not do and could not resolve,” Dr. Harris said.

“Imagine how many families have been touched. One policy decision directly impacted 2,003. Contrast this with the payout in the year 2005 under the last administration when a mere 968 persons received sums. Two thousand and three versus 968; you do the math and see who has done more and who has touched more households and more families,” Prime Minister Harris added.

Yesterday, the Honourable Prime Minister gave an update on the Fresh Start program, which his Team Unity administration launched in September 2015, thanks also to the assistance of Venezuela. The program, which is administered through the Development Bank, provides concessionary loans and technical assistance to entrepreneurs so that they can either start or expand their micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

“For 2017…we have budgeted for $35.4 million to be made available…this is the largest pool of resources ever mobilized by any government in support of small businesses,” Prime Minister Harris said.

“To date, we are happy to report that 427 applicants have succeeded through the Fresh Start financing program…and $28.5 million has been disbursed since the start of the Fresh Start program…We are taking a chance on small businesses because, all over the world we are advised that, they have become the engine of economic growth,” Dr. Harris added while noting that a wide cross-section of the society has benefited from this program.