Good day. The following is the post-cabinet briefing for meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers held Monday May 10, 2010.
IMF ARTICLE IV CONSULTATION
As part of its legal obligation to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) visited St. Kitts and Nevis from April 27 to May 7, 2010 to conduct an Article IV assessment of the macroeconomic status of the country and to have important policy dialogue with officials in the government and other stakeholders. At today's Cabinet meeting, the report from the IMF as delivered in a debriefing session on Friday May 7 at the Cabinet Meeting Room, was considered. Present at the debriefing meeting on Friday were: Division Chief of the IMF, Arnold McIntyre and other economists from the IMF; Tom Hockins, IMF Director for Canada, Ireland and the Caribbean; Sir K Dwight Venner, Governor of the ECCB, Deputy Governor and other officials from the ECCB; Elliot Murphy of the Caribbean Development Bank; Hubert Perr and other officials from the European Union; Janet Harris, Financial Secretary and other officials from the Ministry of Finance; Premier of Nevis, Hon. Joseph Parry; Deputy Premier Hon. Hensley Daniel; Financial Secretary for Nevis, Laurie Lawrence; Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Denzil Douglas, and other members of the Federal Cabinet.
Today's discussion centred around government's unswerving commitment to reducing public sector debt, turning around deficits, and achieving greater macroeconomic stability over the short to medium term. The Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance re-emphasised the commitment of government to reducing public spending through a number of initiatives. Important among these are the following:
· Tax reform, through the implementation of the value-added tax by November of this year
· Corporatisation of the Electricity Department with a view to increasing operational efficiency and responding more effectively to the fluctuating price of fuel on the world market
· Aggressive pursuit of our debt management strategy through the Debt Management Unit at the Ministry of Finance with EU support for an experienced consultant
· Reduction in expenditure on personal emoluments by reducing the public sector size through natural attrition and generally freezing salary increases for the time being
· Review of our concessional regime to ensure a more effective application of government's policy of assisting businesses and spurring investment through the extension of tax concessions
All signals indicate that, although small and large economies around the world have been hard hit by the current economic crisis, the Federation's economy will return to growth in the medium term, and macroeconomic stability will be bolstered, particularly assisted by the implementation of the preceding initiatives.
YOUTH EMPOWERMENT THROUGH SKILLS (Y.E.S)
Cabinet received an update of the YES project from the project coordinating unit in the Ministry of Youth Empowerment. The YES project commenced in March 2009 partly in response to the global economic crisis and the need to improve the vocational skills of unemployed youth in the Federation to better enable them to find jobs that require a level of mastery of particular skills, including attitudinal skills, and to prepare many of them to start their own small businesses.
To date, 1100 persons have received training in a variety of disciplines such as:
· Hospitality and Hotel Trades
· Building Construction
· Industrial Maintenance
· Business Administration
· Beauty Services
· Metalwork, and
· Clothing and Textile
at a cost over EC$10 Million.
Minister of Youth Empowerment, the Hon. Glenn Phillip, highlighted the need for YES trainees to be officially certified in their respective areas of training so that when they graduate from the programme there is proof of training to be offered to employers and lending institutions as they seek employment or opportunities to start their own businesses. Minister Phillip who heads the Ministry administering the Y.E.S project took pride in the fact that students of the Y.E.S project had been assigned to the ICC Cricket operational team and have been engaged in other useful projects such as the maintenance of the silver Jubilee Stadium and other facilities.
Members of Government raised concerns about the lack of discipline and self-application to the training of some of the students of the YES project. It was concluded that such students should be weaned from the project to ensure that very scarce public resources are applied in a justifiable way. In any case, the sustainability of the project going forward will depend on greater participation on the part of our social partners and more focused targeting of training needs of young people. These matters will form the content of further discussion.
Hon. Glenn Phillip, Minister of Technology, and Cabinet Secretary, Mr Joseph Edmeade, presented an update to the Cabinet on the planned implementation of the one laptop per child project, dubbed the One-to-One laptop project. One-to-One is viewed as a way to jumpstart the creation of a technology-savvy population in the Federation by putting a computer into the hands of every high school student, of public and private schools in both Nevis and St. Kitts, to povide a tool that will allow them to explore technology and develop skills that are requisite for their full participation in the knowledge society and the e-economy. Minister Phillip asserted that Government has identified Information and Communications Technology as one of the key sectors that will drive the economic development of the country, and that the One-to-One Laptop Project is a critical step towards achieving that objective.
To date, government has received expressions of interest from a number of stakeholders who wish to participate in the project. The Ministry of Technology has already made recommendations on technical specifications for the laptops. Matters relating to the full implementation of the project including timeline, budgetary allocation, infrastructural requirements, process management, implications for curriculum and teacher orientation, among other things, are being considered by a project planning and implementation committee consisting of the Chief Secretary, the Education Planner, the Accountant General, Development Coordinator and Projects Coordinator in the Ministry of Technology, and a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A further update on the project will be delivered in the near future.
RENAMING OF SCHOOLS
One of the policies of the Ministry of Education is to have schools and other important educational institutions renamed from their generic to other more socially and historically-connected names. Examples of this already exist such as is the case with the Newtown Primary School, the Verchild Primary School and the St. Peters Primary School which have been renamed the Tucker-Clarke Primary, the Tyrell-Williams Primary and the Deane-Glasford Primary, schools, respectively. It is the policy to have all schools renamed similarly.
At this week's cabinet meeting, approval was granted for the renaming of the Molineux Primary School and the Special Education Unit. Special ceremonies will shortly be held to mark the official naming of the institutions mentioned and as such further details will be forthcoming.
More generally speaking, as part of the implementation phase of the White Paper on Education, all schools that are yet named in line with the Ministry of Education’s school naming policy will be formally asked to commence the process of arriving at a suitable name for the school.
ARREARS IN ELECTRICITY BILLS
Cabinet requested an update on the accounts receivable or outstanding payments to the Electricity Department and it was revealed that the department has tens of millions of dollars of outstanding money to collect from both domestic and commercial consumers. Cabinet agreed that this situation is highly untenable and has asked that a mechanism be quickly put in place to enforce collection of outstanding sums. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Utilities have been given a broad mandate to recommend an array of mechanisms to deal with collecting overdue receivables.
THE UWI OPEN CAMPUS
Minister of Education, Hon. Nigel Carty, presented to Cabinet an overview of the financial obligations of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to the University of the West Indies for support of our students pursuing degree studies at the three (3) traditional campuses, Mona – Jamaica, Cave Hill – Barbados, and St. Augustine – Trinidad and Tobago, and at the Open (or Online) Campus. It was agreed that in light of the introduction of the Open Campus to make university programmes more accessible and more affordable, students requesting government assistance for tertiary education would first have to explore the option of the Open Campus of the UWI. If the course being sought cannot be pursued through the Open Campus, then consideration may be given for support for a programme to be pursued elsewhere.
This brings to an end the post-Cabinet briefing for Monday May 11, 2010. Thank you!