A Message of Hope and Encouragement For 2009
January 01, 2009
I bring New Year Greetings to all the people of Nevis, the people of St. Kitts and those Nevisians who live in the Diaspora. I especially remember those of us who live in the Virgin Islands, the nearby islands of St. Maarten and Anguilla, and of course the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The year gone by has had its successes and disappointments. In spite of a year of recession in the United States and the closure of the Four Seasons Hotel, which is the main source of employment in the private sector and the major revenue earner on Nevis, in relative terms, the people of Nevis did well.
Firstly, we were able to maintain full employment. In fact, due to the commencement of operations of the Brown Hill Communications Company in June of last year over 85 additional young persons are now employed. They work in a comfortable environment and there are certain worker benefits that are available for the first time in this sector of the economy. Early in the New Year, I have been informed that the company will be recruiting and training additional persons.
Secondly, the Government of Nevis commenced the exploration of Geothermal Energy with the assistance of the West Indies Power Company. It is of the greatest significance to the people of Nevis.
The oil crisis is not over. We have been fortunate to see a drop in World oil prices as they went from US$147.00 per barrel in June last year to approximately US$40.00 per barrel at the end of 2008. This has resulted in a considerable reduction in the cost of gasoline, diesel and other fuels over the ensuing month. However, as the major countries of the world recover from difficult times the world price of oil will rise again. Therefore, the development of geothermal energy for electricity consumption will bring stability to electricity rates and will also ensure consistent and affordable rates for those of us who do business with NEVLEC.
It will create additional jobs for our people in the construction phase, the production phase and it will attract other industries in search of cheap power to Nevis.
It will not only reduce the cost of energy to NEVLEC it will help the Government to save money and will attract revenue, especially, from sales to other industries and, overseas, in the future.
During the month of December the Government’s team of our Legal Advisor, Hon. Patrice Nisbett, Mr. Laurie Lawrence, the Financial Secretary, Ernie Stapleton, P.S Ministry of Communication, Works and Public Utilities, Cartwright Farrell, General Manager of NEVLEC, a representative from the Organization of American States, and advisors for the UK and Geothermal Association of the USA completed the terms and conditions for a contractual agreement with West Indies Power, for the way forward. Those terms and conditions will be made public before the end of January.
1. Royalties for the Government
2. Equity participation of Government
3. Profit sharing
4. A fund to finance Education, Health and Youth Affairs on the island of Nevis.
As a consequence construction of the first geothermal plant will commence later this year with a view to provide the island of Nevis with Geothermal power in the first part of the year 2010.
In 2008, we experienced one of the worst droughts in many years. Previously when Nevis was visited by severe drought we had to undergo a programme of water rationing. In 2008 we experienced rationing in the month of May and June. With the assistance of the company, Bedrock Exploration and Development Technologies (BEAD), however, the Government and people of Nevis were in a position by July, to have access to water 24 hours a day once again. Parts of Ramsbury, Hamilton, Bath, Brown Hill, Cole Hill and Brown Pasture, as well as Gingerland were relieved. The people of Nevis commended the Government for its initiative in developing two major wells, one in the Maddens area, and the other at Fothergills, for the comfort and satisfaction of all the people of Nevis. This year we are contracting with BEAD for an additional 500,000 gallons of water a day not only to satisfy present consumption, but to meet the expanding needs as more homes are built, tourism expands, and new businesses commence operations.
The construction industry was very vibrant in 2008. All indications point to its continuing vibrancy in 2009.
Phase two of the Nelson Spring Development led by Deon Daniel, a Nevisian entrepreneur, continues. Live Nevis and Paradise Palms located in Clifton’s Estate and Paradise Estate respectively will continue construction and so will the Four Seasons Estates. The Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation will also be constructing homes around Nevis and therefore providing employment for contractors and persons who work in the construction sector. Other private homes will be under construction.
The Tourism industry will encounter challenges in 2009. We are fortunate that Nevis is positioned at the upper end of the industry. The impact of the recession in the USA will not be as damaging as some other islands, but nevertheless we are going to be impacted negatively. In addition to the closure of the Four Seasons Hotel, it is anticipated that the fall off in arrivals can be as high as 30% of regular years.
The Government, through the Ministry of Finance will work with the Hotel Association to introduce ways and means to ease the shock of the recession and decline in visitor arrivals; will continue promotions and continue to work with the airlines to provide easy access to Nevis.
Now I turn to the Four Seasons Hotel. We are all aware that Four Seasons is pivotal to the continuing prosperity of Nevis at this time. It was closed due to an act of God. Since then, several announcements have been made in regard to its opening date. Rumours abound.
At this time I am not in a position to give any definite date in regard to its opening. What has been brought to the attention of this Government is that the problem is more complex than it appears. The financial crisis in the USA did not spare the Four Seasons Hotel. Its major banking and Insurance partners are in the United States. There are certain financial requirements and constraints that are presently impacting on the Four Seasons that will provide challenges this year for the Government of Nevis and the employees at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Initially it was advised that the Four Seasons will be in a position to cover its workers for a stated period. I am now advised that the position has changed. Regrettably, some workers will be laid off in January. The government is monitoring the situation and is being advised and consulted as new developments take place.
Worker benefits must be secured as we work our way through this difficult time for the Four Seasons Hotel. The government will also seek through its Labour Department to advise workers where jobs are available and will continue to work with the Banks and other Financial Institutions in regard to loans and other obligations of workers.
In the meantime, please bear in mind that we all must be prudent in our use of money. It is advisable to avoid unnecessary debt at this time; and to save. When the recession is over, Tourism would once again be strong and those of us who work or depend on the Industry, including the Government will be better able to budget and organize with less stringency.
Another area of activity that may be negatively affected by the World Recession is Financial Services. Any downturn in business is reflected in a decline in the formation of business entities. We however, will continue to promote the industry since it is so vital to us. In 2009 we are again faced by the threat from the OECD of a black list. We the government, will work closely with the local providers, the Federal Government and other friendly organizations to strike the right balance to maintain the integrity of the Financial Services Industry and to avoid the blacklist of the O. E. C. D. countries.
The Cost of Living
It is important that I place special emphasis on the cost of living. In 2006 when the Nevis Reformation Party formed the Government, one of our major goals was to make life better for Nevisians. It was in our manifesto. In the face of rising prices in 2007 and the first half of 2008 we have worked assiduously to protect the Nevisian consumer from the full impact of higher prices.
1. The government has controlled the price of bread
2. A basket of food products including items such as milk, sardines and other products were identified and certain rates and duties were removed from these items.
3. Civil Servants were given increase over a period of January 2007 and 2008 amounting to a total of 12½%.
4. In October 2008 a minimum wage introduced at the initiative of the Federal Government
5.The Nevis Island Administration has ensured that
Gasoline prices have dropped from $17.00 per gallon to under $8.00 per gallon in a period of 6 months.
The cost of diesel to the Power Plant has been reduced. This has been passed on to the people of Nevis in the form of a considerable reduction in the cost of electricity to householders
Today I am announcing that from January 1, 2009 the price of Liquid Petroleum Gas will be reduced as follows:
100lb cylinder from $160.00 per cylinder to $140.00 per cylinder
20lb cylinder from $35.00 to $30.00 per cylinder
This measure along with the reduction of gasoline and the cost of electricity will create savings for every family, every driver and every user of propane gas on the island of Nevis. It is not surprising that a group of young men who hold discussions on a regular basis on Nevis have concluded that the Nevis Reformation Party Government is at its best in serving the ordinary folk of Nevis.
Even as we seek to ease the burden of these trying times on our people we seek to be more efficient and prudent in the conduct of our finances.
The Ministry of Finance has done a great job in 2008. Property taxes will now be paid by some expatriate home owners for the first time in the history of this island. Several banking institutions will be paying corporate taxes on Nevis for the first time in 2009. We anticipate by the end of the year, all banking and financial institutions which make a profit by doing business on the island of Nevis, they will understand that they must return to the island and the people of Nevis what is due to them.
The government appreciates the great service Cable & Wireless has given to the people of Nevis. The Nevis Reformation Party led Government has been discussing with Cable & Wireless the need to pay its dues to the Treasury on the Island of Nevis. We anticipate that in 2009 this matter will be put to rest. We will not subsidise Cable & Wireless or any other business operating on the island of Nevis any longer. All communication companies need to take immediate note.
This Nevis Island Government will continue its investment in the area of Health, Education and Training. We have decided that NO major projects will be started in this half of the year and that we will monitor the state of the economy before any decision is made later. However, we must invest in some small way in these areas.
We therefore continue to upgrade the Alexandra Hospital, the Clinics and we continue our investment in preventative care. In spite of some rather strange and negative comments in the budget debate last year about Health, I am pleased to report that Health Minister, Hon. Hensley Daniel has done an outstanding job in the area of health. We are advised that senior doctors condemned the irresponsible statements that were made in the House of Assembly as not only false, but basically mischievous. All the clinics are properly provided with supplies, so is the Hospital. For the first time there are four ambulances available for service, including two new ones.
The Government continues to assist patients who need medical attention overseas. In 2009 we will be seeking to utilize the service of the Government of Cuba. It has been accepted that those services are first class and more finically friendly than any other services available to us. With the help of the Cuban Government we will continue to train persons not only in Medicine, but also other areas of Education, Sports and Agriculture that are so vital to our long-term viability on this island.
As we address the matter of health let us not forget the state of Solid Waste in 2006. Let us not forget that the people who lived in the vicinity of the Low Ground Solid Waste facility were infested by large flies and had begun to experience health issues due to the poor state of the facility. Today, I am pleased to congratulate the Manager of the Solid Waste facility for a job well done. Many persons have commented to me and have commended the workers of that Department for all the hard work done.
Many visitors have complimented Nevis for its general cleanliness. Let us appreciate the work that is being done by the Health Department and become part of the movement to keep Nevis Clean.
Education is so important to us. Rightly so, it consumes a major part of the Government’s financial expenditure. This year we must expand the staffroom of the Charlestown Secondary School and provide every Primary School with a bank of new computers. One person commented the other day that Nevis buys its own Fire-trucks, its ambulances, etc. These funding agencies seem not to make any meaningful contributions to Nevis. He is not absolutely right, but he is right in some form or the other.
The Nevis Island Administration will do what is necessary to ensure that its citizens are not disadvantaged. We will continue the expansion of the School meals programme to St. John’s Primary and will begin preparation for the final push to incorporate the Charlestown Primary and the Joycelyn Liburd Primary Schools in the Programme.
The Homework Assistance Programme continues and a new programme “Express Yourself” is now available to Primary School children. The programme focuses on releasing the potential of young children through oral expression publicly and will help our children to lose their reticence in articulating in public forums and the sharing of ideas with others.
The Nevis Island Administration continues its training programme for all students. This year due to the limitation of the budget and also because we are satisfied that quality education can be obtained in the Caribbean, our focus will switch to the University of the West Indies, University of the Virgin Islands, University of Puerto Rico and the University of Cuba for training of our students.
Those who wish to travel to the USA may continue to do so. Our contributions to the US institutions will be limited. The Nevis Island Administration is conscious of the need to ensure all of our students obtain a solid education. Teachers and Heads must be exposed to management procedures at home and abroad and parents will be required to play a more pivotal role in the education of their children. This is absolutely vital, as we seek to break the back of the gang culture and the influence of certain negative elements among our young people in Nevis.
The Government is also aware of the need to continue its investment in Agriculture. The Ministry and Department have performed creditability in 2008. In 2009, Agriculture has received the highest percentage support from the budget. We anticipate the continuing impact on food and meat production, the quality products from the Nevis Abattoir and the resurgence of the Cotton industry.
We also anticipate the re-emergence of the Fisheries Division and the development of agro-processed foods as we bring the small agro-processing plant into production. Finally, I address the matter of crime.
Again, in 2006 the Nevis Reformation Party stated very clearly in its manifesto that the fight against crime is one of its highest priorities.
Over the last two years the Government has introduced a number of programmes to assist alienated young people to become active contributing members of our society again.
Many jobs were provided in government for these people, sometimes at the objection of others in our society.
Local training was provided
Skills programmes in computers were introduced in our community centres.
Persons were identified and sent for training overseas.
In regard to the schools, a battery of programmes was introduced to improve performance. Efforts were made to dialogue with parents and teachers were alerted and asked to assist with children who seem unsettled in one form or the other.
In 2006, we were aware of the emergence of the gang culture, of drug use and the tendency of a number of elements toward criminal behaviour. We have supported the police in every way we can. We assisted with a police dog, vehicles for patrol, speed traps and computers.
We are at a point, however, where the most drastic measures must be adopted. Any further growth in crime will undermine our efforts to provide jobs for our people; will further impact on future generations negatively. It can destroy our economy and eventually our society.
We need to provide the police with more vehicles to patrol. We need to grow the Police Force. We need to provide equipment and materials for the police to be more effective. All this takes money. We can argue that police is a Federal matter. That argument will not help Nevis. If we are to save ourselves we have to find a way right here on Nevis to address the matter.
I am pleased with the response, especially of the expatriate community so far in rallying to our assistance. However, I must also say to them we cannot view security as a charitable exercise. The protection and security of Nevis is the business of all of us local and expatriate alike. We need to pay for security by paying our taxes. This goes for all businesses operating on Nevis. It makes no sense to identify problems, expect protection, but make no financial contribution. I am appealing to all concerned to be involved now.
I appeal to all stakeholders, especially parents to accept that there is a problem. With acceptance the problem is half-solved. Then we complete the solution. We all must be part of the solution in 2009.
I am optimistic that we will succeed in rooting out crime. I am satisfied that we can get young people to be more constructive in their lifestyle. It will take time. We must never get tired of trying.
In conclusion, let us accept we have a good country. We are good people. Let us accept the challenges of 2009. I am confident that we will overcome whatever hurdles we face during the course of this year, and by the year’s end we would be stronger, healthier and even in a better position economically than we are now to go into the future with confidence.
On behalf of my family, we wish all of you a Happy New Year!