Nevis Premier – Joseph Parry
January 01, 2010
It is with distinct pride and a sense of occasion that I greet all Nevisians at home and abroad. I extend greetings as well to all visitors and those who are listening or viewing this telecast.
Happy New Year’s to you! My Government in extending greetings and I must give consideration to the past year. I thank all Government workers for their cooperation. I thank the people of Nevis for their great support that they gave in such a challenging time and I extend words of appreciation to all the funding agencies for their assistance.
I make special mention of the Caribbean Development Bank, the Organization of the American States, the Governments of Cuba and the Chinese Republic of Taiwan.
2009 has witnessed the continuing world recession. On Nevis, the Four Seasons Resort has remained closed. The consequence of all this has been extreme pressure on the economy of Nevis especially ““
(1) In the area of employment and
(2) Revenues collected by the Government’s Treasury.
In spite of all this, the Government sought to act with prudence in terms of minimizing expenditure and making efficient use of its meager resources. The Government through a number of measures was able to keep unemployment at a minimum.
Firstly, the Housing and Land Development Corporation started a number of construction projects around the island. Its show piece being Cherry Gardens in the St John’s area, Cherry Gardens employs some two hundred and fifty (250) persons and continues into the New Year. It is also anticipated that other Housing Projects will start in the Charlestown area, Jessups and Cotton Ground, Newcastle, Butlers and Fountain, as well as the Gingerland area.
Secondly, the Government gave its full support to a new venture, the Call Centre located in the Brown Hill area which is known as Brown Hill Communications. That operation employed close to 200 persons and saved us from the worst impact of the closure of the Four Seasons Resort. I am pleased to inform the people of Nevis that in the New Year the management of Brown Hill Communications plans to expand the operation to employ an additional one hundred (100) persons.
This Government also has ensured that all Government workers were retained in 2009. In the Budget discussion of 2010 in the House of Assembly, we made it absolutely clear that the Government was suffering losses on a monthly basis. Therefore, it was a conscious decision to retain all Government workers on the basis, that with the present harsh economic conditions anyone who lost a job would have the greatest difficulty in obtaining a new one. This of course would lead to serious disruption in family life and would affect the capability of parents to take care of their children and obligations that they would have incurred over the past years. We as a Government could not allow that to happen.
The Government also held a number of meetings with the private sector and Financial institutions. We outlined the situation facing the island and I am pleased to express that we received the fullest cooperation and support from these stakeholders. In the face of declining profits the private sector maintained staff, and financial institutions worked with their clients to avoid chaos and confusion in the lives of Nevisians. No houses were ceased, no vehicles were taken away because of the existing situation.
We have much to thank God for. There were no hurricanes or natural disasters and while the problem of crime was not solved we were able to make great strides in addressing it.
At this point therefore, I must thank the Police for their fullest cooperation and I look forward to our continued efforts to maintain a peaceful Nevis in the New Year.
The New Year comes with its challenges. The Four Seasons is still closed. No date has been made public in regard to its opening and the world recession is only slowly going away. We as a Government and as a people therefore will have to continue to exercise prudence. I am calling on all Civil Servants and Government workers to continue to be conscious of the challenges and to work harder and to exercise even greater financial prudence with resources in the New Year.
Persons who have jobs, hold on to their jobs even if new jobs may become available. All of us must exercise caution in spending. Yet, I must say to the people of Nevis that the New Year brings hope, change and opportunity. Even while we have been grappling with the recession and its consequences the Government has seen this time as an opportunity to make change and to launch a new direction for the economy. Very early in the New Year, a new project will commence in down town Charlestown. We call it “˜the Charlestown Shopping Centre. That project in completion will provide some thirty-five (35) shops and seventy-five (75) new jobs for the people of Nevis. It will change the face of Charlestown and it will be an additional attraction for both land-based and cruise tourism. Restaurants, taxi-men and other industries allied with tourism will benefit directly.
In addition, the Government will be opening the Artisan Centre located at the Old Hospital ground. This Centre will be the home for small craft operators who are in the tourism business and will be a display centre not only for the sale of craft, but for the making of craft. It will also complement the shopping centre. Every article that is sold will be a genuine product of Nevis.
The New Year will also witness the commencement of the construction of a Marina at Cades Bay, the movement forward of Live Nevis and the development of Paradise Palms in the Barnes Ghaut/Cotton Ground area. In New River we are hopeful that a health medical centre will be constructed there that will have in addition to health service with a touristic appeal. This will be a fore-runner to the famous Amann Hotel which we will hear much more about in 2010.
The private sector has certainly demonstrated its confidence in this Government and we will therefore see the expansion of the Brown Hill Communications Centre to employ another 100 persons, the continuing construction of the Valumart Complex in the Bath Plains area and the construction of a new building for the Bank of Nevis. Social Security will be building a Complex in the Pinney’s area and the Government’s Fine Arts Theatre will be under construction as well.
In addition to these, Government’s own stimulus package continues.
The Cotton Ground Police Station will commence construction in the New Year, so will community centers in Jessups, Barnes Ghaut, Charlestown and Cotton Ground. The Charlestown market will be refurbished and work will take place at the Charlestown Primary and Gingerland Primary in order to provide kitchens to these facilities.
I am satisfied that the New Year will witness continuing activity in construction and that our construction workers will be called upon to do good service throughout the year as that sector of the economy continues to thrive.
I have already thanked the Government of Taiwan for their support. The Taiwanese Government has funded work for their farmers at Cades Bay. As we examine the renewed vigor in agricultural production and development in other areas such as New River, Indian Castle and Prospect, I am pleased that the Ambassador of Taiwan has indicated their interest to continue to fund agriculture projects on the island of Nevis.
Education – we have witnessed tremendous strides in Education over the years and the Government continues with investment in education. By September 2010, we expect that every primary school on Nevis will have a Schools Meal Program. The Schools meal program will be different to the old program in that there is a Coordinator whose responsibility it is to ensure that the quality of meals is improved and that we use our local resources in regard to meat and provisions to provide to the school’s kitchen. Our long term objective is to ensure (1) that we eat local and (2) that we eat healthy.
We continue to support the Homework Assistance Program and I have instructed the Principal Education Officer to ensure that we have an incentive package for teachers by the end of the school year. I anticipate that every teacher will have an opportunity to make an input. I have also asked her to look at the development of a Values Program so that once again we can highlight those Nevisian values which have served us for so long and so well and which are now under threat from values so alien to us and which are doing this society no good. I have also asked the Adviser in the Ministry of Education to deliver to me no later than March 2010 an assessment of the delivery of second education with recommendations that will reflect the needs of all our children and the requirements to take Nevis forward.
My Government has also invested very heavily in the health service of the country. Primary health care has been given priority for some time now. Presently, the Brown Hill Health Clinic is under construction and in 2010 a health medical facility will also be constructed in the St Thomas’ area. All the other medical stations will be upgraded over time. A variety of screening tests in the area of non-communicable diseases was conducted last year and these efforts will be continued in 2010. We have received considerable support from the Cuban Government. Presently there is an Ophthalmologist and Pediatrician available to us and an Orthopedic Surgeon whose services are made available to us every Wednesday. The Cuban Government has also offered to train Nevisians in Nursing and Medicine as well.
We continue to focus on the Alexandra Hospital as we seek to upgrade the services there and recruit new staff in the New Year. We have also established a relationship with Cuba which allows us to take patients who cannot receive attention on the island of Nevis to obtain medical care there. Minister Daniel accompanied the first batch of nine (9) patients late last year and all reports on their return were satisfactory. We acknowledge that for us to continue our thrust in economic development and diversification we must have a healthy nation. It seems that we have made considerable progress because we have been informed by UNESCO that the average of age Kittitians and Nevisians is now 73 years, very much in line with Canada whose health service is among the best in the world. This has been re-inforced by a CDB report last year which suggests that the level of poverty on Nevis has declined from 32% to 15% and that Nevis no longer has any manifestation of extreme poverty. The report confirms that Nevis is among the leading Caribbean nations in regards to quality of life.
The Ministry of Social Affairs has worked very hard to give support to increased standards of living by initiating a battery of programs in the areas of youth, development, good parenting, mentoring of young children, reading programs and assistance with school uniforms and other forms of support. Indeed many of our programs are considered models for development in other Caribbean countries. This is indeed a compliment of Minister Daniel and his team for the initiative they have taken and the hard work they have done on behalf of the people of Nevis.
The focus of the Government in regard to its continuing economic diversification will be on Tourism, Financial Services, Agriculture, Geothermal Energy and Home Construction. I have outlined the considerable successes in Home Construction, the work that has been done and is being done in Agriculture and our efforts in Tourism. The Financial Services Sector shall be receiving considerable attention in the New Year. Presently, the Government is in negotiation with an international group to put together a program that will focus on marketing of Financial Services in the Far East, particularly China, Hong Kong and India and also in the Middle East. We are aware of the demands of the OECD Countries in regard to the way our Financial Services Industry functions in relation to their own laws and the priorities of their own economies. We will seek to comply to avoid being placed on any list. Our focus will be to do business with institutions rather than individuals on these countries. Even though for the past twenty-five (25) years we have built a reputation of international proportions as far as Financial Services are concerned. We hope to attract more prestigious firms to the island as well as to increase the volume of business to Nevis over the next three (3) years. In this way, we expect to counter the decline in the business which we believe is associated with firstly, the recession and secondly, the aggression of the OECD countries. The Financial Services Division will remain an important part of the economy of Nevis. Today it contributes 10 to 13% of the Budget and providing some 9 to 13 million dollars per year, therefore, we will first stabilize and then begin to grow it again.
The Geothermal Energy is part of the great change that is sweeping the world as everyone seeks an alternative to fossil fuel. We have made considerable strides in this area in that we have completed the exploration phase on the western part of Nevis where deposits have been identified. We are now in the next stage which involves production both for Nevis and St Kitts as well as for neighboring islands. Very shortly arrangements will be made for us to proceed with the production and for us to determine to whom we will be able to sell supplies. The financing of this operation is very expensive. It has taken time but we continue to make considerable progress and several parties in Europe and North America are involved in negotiations with West Indies Power at this time.
In conclusion let me reiterate that much has been achieved. Our goals in 2010 is to continue growth through private sector, initiatives, to consolidate our position with Geothermal and Wind Energy, to maintain an acceptable level of employment on the island, to continue to promote and support education, health and people initiatives and to continue the work with the police and other agencies to reduce criminal activities to a level at which all of us will endure peace, quiet and harmonious living and qualities which we cherish as Nevisians.
On behalf of Government, my wife and family, Happy New Year to all and may God be with us, bless, guide and protect us through 2010.