|The Right Honourable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis as he addressed the 30th Annual Private Sector Gala on Saturday
PM Douglas Addresses 30th Annual Private Sector Gala
Remarks by the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
At the 30th Annual Private Sector Gala, Hosted by the St. Kitts-Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, And FND Enterprise Cooperative Credit Union
On June 16, 2012, Onboard the M. V. Freewinds at Port Zante
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I too am very pleased once again, to be with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, its friends and its supporters at yet another annual banquet.
As we know, the months between these gatherings are often packed with in-depth, and sometimes intense talks, talks pertaining to one aspect of the economy or another. And so, occasions like this, where representatives from the private sector, the public sector, labour, and the community at large can meet in a relaxed and pleasant setting, are welcomed respites indeed.
It will come as no surprise, ladies and gentlemen, if I were to say that we are living in quite troubled times; and in saying that I reflect on Greece, long embedded in our psyches as the creators of a great civilization, now totters even closer to the very brink.
I think of Egypt, from whose magnificent culture and civilization, Greece’s later civilization actually sprang and which in more recent times, was seen as the hope of the Arab Spring, but that is now gripped today as I speak at this very moment, it is gripped by turmoil.
Ireland, until recently was a shining star of Europe, shines it does no more. There is chaos in the streets of Italy. Spain and Portugal, they are caught in a vortex as well. England, France and their neighbours are all in crisis.
And Angela Merkel has been sending very clear messages even tonight on my way here, messages to her foundering Euro-zone partners that there is a limit to Germany’s economic wherewithal and her resources.
On this side of the Atlantic, the jobs picture in the United States is not what many hoped it would be – especially just before an election, despite the fact that U.S. corporations are sitting on one trillion dollars in cash.
And economic growth in our own Caribbean region, predicted at 4.3% by the IMF in September only of last year, it has now adjusted itself to 3.5% by April, and has been further adjusted once again as we heard only two days ago in looking at our own economy here in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Indeed, IMF economic counselor and research director, Olivier Blanchard, he has compared the global economy to a “roller coaster”.
And so I say, the storm is really ranging and there are no lifeguards on duty, my friends here of the Chamber.
Nations large and small, then, must be their own lifeguards. And we here in St. Kitts and Nevis must face the associated challenges with vision, we must face these challenges with courage and with utmost dedication. Most importantly, Government, business, and labour must move forward motivated not only primarily, but indeed solely, by our commitment to public good.
That is why, with thunder clouds gathering globally in recent years, your Government made the reduction of our national debt an absolute and non-negotiable priority. In this unpredictable global economic environment, the welfare of our very nation demanded it.
And so we rose to that challenge and thanks to the cooperation of our creditors, it was done.
Our Paris Club obligations were also a concern of ours. And so we headed across the Atlantic; entered into very intense and difficult, and lengthy negotiations and thanks to the reputation of our Government in international financial circles and the associated confidence of Paris Club officials in the management acumen that we bring to the table, St. Kitts-Nevis emerged with a historic debt rescheduling agreement; exactly what my Government had hoped for, and the type of agreement that any responsible nation would welcome.
With our traditional economic partners in Europe and North America experiencing their own economic stresses, the Government made the diversification of our economic partnerships a priority, and a Partial Scope Agreement with Brazil became paramount as the Chamber President related a moment ago.
This of course was pursued, and this we delivered.
Now more than ever, then, the global climate demands that we in St. Kitts and Nevis ensure that the trifecta of Government, business and labour functions as a constructive whole, in defense of that same public good.
The IMF has just announced, following its June review of our Government’s Stand-by Agreement, that St. Kitts-Nevis has met all, all agreed upon quantitative targets.
In addition, the Fund once again declared its very strong commitment to the policies and the objectives of St. Kitts-Nevis’ home-grown economic programme, as the path to fiscal and debt sustainability. And the effect of these achievements is a return of confidence, confidence of all in the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Nonetheless, the Fund has also pointed out that the global environment is now weighing on economic activity here, leading to a basically zero rate of projected economic growth this year.
And that is why I said before it has been revised downwards.
And so, with the global scenario as an inescapable backdrop, we push forward to ensure maximum benefits for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis from our Partial Scope Agreement with Brazil. We therefore call on the private sector to make use of this important facility so we can create more jobs and bring a possible positive economic growth here in our country.
In addition, we continue to assess the workings and impact of the Value Added Tax because of its important to our overall economic reforms. Our work to transform our oil-based economy to one powered by alternative energy is in fact moving forward. And maybe David was listening into our Cabinet meeting on Thursday because a package of incentives has already been passed so that we would move smoothly from fossil based energy to what we now call renewable energy.
And we continue to seek viable, responsible means of stimulating the economy via the construction sector because here, as everywhere else in the world, construction is key to economic vitality.
Indeed, determined to not only restructure the economy, but indeed to provide the impetus for growth, my Cabinet has for the past six months been involved in the in-depth evaluation of various construction-related investment projects - a number of which have now been approved, all with an eye to creating that upward trajectory in terms of economic activity that we all wish to see.
Indeed, just two days ago, on Thursday again to be precise, Cabinet was in session all day and went on into the night, fine-tuning various construction projects in order to maximize both the employment opportunities as well as the very important multiplier effects that go hand in hand with the construction industry.
The Government and the Chamber, we are at one, in terms of the role that the construction sector should play in moving the economy along.
And so, because the Government has been highly strategic in our design and provision of concessions to the construction industry, we can now state that not only will there be the rollout of these new projects, but we will also be in a position to point to the tangible results in terms of increased economic growth in fiscal year 2012 quarters 3 and 4.
On these and all other Government priorities, the view of government, the views of business and labour are not only welcome, they are in fact key. And so, in closing, I am very pleased to be able to state that these very pleasant Chamber dinners, to which we all come each year, are but the public manifestations of an important, in-depth, and ongoing conversation, very important conversation between those who function at the helm of the private sector and those whose responsibilities fall within the realm of Government. And these conversations we do value, we do welcome them, because they must assuredly advance that public good.