High Fuel Prices In Saint Kitts – Nevis
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
June 05, 2008 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has been suggesting ways in which the Caribbean can combat rising fuel and food prices.
Addressing the 38th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) the St. Kitts and Nevis leader said the need exists for farming to be seen as a business, an examination of spending patterns, improved technologies and training.
In his address, Prime Minister Douglas noted the reality of the situation in the Caribbean at this time which is faced with “astronomical oil prices which continue to climb; rising food prices and in some cases shortages in essential items; increasing debt burdens coupled with declining access to concessionary funding; environmental concerns in particular the impact of climate change; as well as rising crime and its impact on our economies. These are coupled with the widely acknowledged problems of small size and our inherent vulnerability to natural disasters with which we continue to grapple.”
Dr. Douglas suggested the development of a strategy for dealing with issues associated with rising oil and food prices and an integrated response to rising fuel and food prices that looks at the impact on the overall fiscal and economic policy framework.
“We must examine social safety nets and their appropriateness in light of the Banks ultimate commitment to the reduction of poverty. In addition to looking at alternative sources of energy for the medium to long term, we must devise contingency arrangements for dealing with larger and longer than expected interruptions in the supply of oil and food,” said Dr. Douglas, who called for studies to be carried out on the region’s food supply to determine how adequate, dependable and affordable it is and look at ways to improve the identified short comings.
The St. Kitts and Nevis leader stated that long term solution lies in the Caribbean being able to feed itself and called for efforts to boost domestic and regional production of staples such as rice, bananas, yams, potatoes and cassava.
“This is an opportune time to become engaged in agricultural research to identify virus resistant strains of staple foods for example, improved technologies as well as infrastructure projects in roads and irrigation to assist farmers,” said Dr. Douglas, as he called for more support for farmers in terms of subsidies, training, and business advise at the incubation level so that they may be able to operate as successful commercial enterprises.
“We must look at ways of reorienting the thinking of our people to see farming as a business. We must encourage savings for a rainy day. People must begin to seriously examine their spending patterns and realign these to deal with the current realities,” said the Prime Minister.
He called for public education programmes in the area of managing finances. “We must look at ways of making the wholesale and retail trades more competitive and therefore drive down prices as a result. We must examine how we can sensitize the private sector to the realities of the times in which we are living and have them join forces with government and the society in general towards the betterment of our people,” said Dr. Douglas.
He enquired of what home grown programmes and projects a developmental finance institution such as the Caribbean Development Bank can strategically put in place or in some cases expand and strengthen existing programmes to assist Governments at this time as a matter of urgency.