PM Douglas Speaks At 2008 National Economic Consultation
Photo By Erasmus Williams
Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
August 14, 2008 (CUOPM)
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said Thursday that in spite of the global upheavals that make the news headlines every day, the twin-island Federation continues to grow steadily.
“Our financial institutions remain strong, and investors ““ local and foreign ““ continue to place great confidence in the growth prospects of our Federation,” Prime Minister Douglas told the opening ceremony of the 2008 National Consultation on the Economy.
Prime Minister Douglas pointed to the continued development of the Marriot expansion plans that will see more than 300 additional hotel rooms added to St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The Kiawah group is still working steadfastly to expeditiously commence construction on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel as the first phase of a comprehensive development project that will transform the entire Southeast Peninsula into a world class tourism development capable of competing with any similar development on the face of the globe,” Dr. Douglas said, adding: “We cannot take our progress for granted.”
He pointed out that St. Kitts and Nevis as a small nation continues to be extremely vulnerable. “Indeed, even the global experts seem unsure as to how long the global credit crisis and the resulting economic slowdown will last. Hence, we cannot be certain that we will not be affected even more severely if these global problems are prolonged. We must therefore devise strategies aimed at mitigating, to a significant degree, the risk associated with the tumultuous changes in the global environment,” Dr. Douglas told the 200 participants drawn from the Federal Government and Nevis Island Administration, the National Assembly and the Nevis Island Assembly as well as representatives from several organisations including the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, bankers, the Contractors Association, the Association of Disabled Persons, students of the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College and the he Hotel and Tourism Association.
Prime Minister Douglas called for the identification of major sources of the Federation’s vulnerability and devise means of enhancing capacity to cope with the risks associated with such vulnerabilities.
“In particular, we must continue to strengthen the public finances with a view to bringing down debt and thereby enhancing the capacity of the Government to promote growth, accelerate social development and cope with natural disasters,” said Dr. Douglas, who also called for the growing of more food to protect its people from the ravages of the global escalation in food prices.
“We must find alternative sources of energy to protect electricity consumers and other users of energy from the unnerving fluctuations in oil prices in global markets,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.
Dr. Douglas also called for the stepping up of the fight against crime with a view to dramatically reducing criminal activity and preventing any further erosion in the excellent image among tourists and potential tourists or any disruption in the steady flow of investment to the Federation.
“In a nutshell, the global environment is changing rapidly, and we must continue to embrace social and economic change as the means of coping with global developments,” said Dr. Douglas.
He said his governiong St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Administration has been a major agent of change since assuming office in 1995 and will continue to play that role.
“As testimony to our commitment to change, our recent cabinet reshuffle has sought to ensure that new perspectives are brought to bear on some of the critical issues that affect us including public finance, national security, labour, information and technology, foreign affairs and social development,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He urged all the participants to be creative in the deliberations and to share of their ideas. “We will be taking extensive notes of the deliberations and we can assure you that many of the views expressed here will make their way into various Government policy documents including the annual budget and the medium-term strategy paper. Indeed, we have brought forward the National Consultations this year to give the Ministry of Finance as well as other line ministries adequate time to analyse and evaluate the ideas and views expressed here, and to ensure that they are reflected in all subsequent deliberations in relation to the 2009 Budget and related policy documents,” said Dr. Douglas.
He said that the theme “External Shocks and Changes in the International Environment ““ Our Analysis and Response” was timely and important.
“The selection of this topic signifies that Government’s strategic planning process is designed to deal with the current realities of our economy. We believe that proper analysis and planning puts us in a favourable position to deal with issues of our development in an appropriate manner,” said Dr. Douglas as he called for serious engagement in a serious analysis based on the country’s situation and not based primarily on what others are doing because “we are not looking to make alterations just for the sake of it, but we are looking for solutions that will bring benefit to our people.”
“Today we will focus on how we can use all our resources especially the abundance of human and Social Capital which we possess to treat with the circumstances with which we are confronted,” said Dr. Douglas, who called on all to recognise that the challenges faced are not restricted to St Kitts and Nevis, but that these are circumstances which are being addressed globally.
“These include the rising cost of oil and its cascading impact on the prices of other commodities; the rising cost of food as a result of increased demand and the trend in developed countries to use grain as an alternative source of energy; global commodity inflation; global credit crises; pressures on fiscal systems to deal with rising prices, and the changes in the way aid is now being delivered,” said Dr. Douglas.
“I believe that based on past record there can be no doubt in your minds and in the minds of all citizens and residents of St Kitts and Nevis as to this Government’s commitment to dialogue and the consultative process. We view your presence here today as an indication of your faith in this process, that is the partnership between the public and private sectors which ensures that the policies of Government receive the necessary ownership in order that the intended outcomes may be achieved,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
Also addressing the gathering were newly-appointed Minister of Finance, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris; Premier of Nevis, Hon. Joseph Parry and President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Mark Wilkin.