Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 04, 2019 (SKNIS): The $117 million debt left by the Former Administration led by Dr. Denzil Douglas was paid off by the Government of National Unity with Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, at the helm.
“We commence 2019 from a unique position. Our fiscal health is at its very best. We have no IMF standby agreement,” said Prime Minister Harris in his 2019 New Year’s address, in referring to the three-year US$84.5 million-dollar standby arrangement the Dr. Dr. Douglas-led Administration entered with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2011 at a time when the country’s debt to GDP Ratio stood at over 200 percent with a public debt estimated at US $1.05 billion dollars.
Under the IMF standby arrangement, civil service reform was mandated where the multi-lateral agency said that the public sector in St. Kitts and Nevis was “large even by standards of small states” and that in order “to underpin improvements in the fiscal position during the programme” the authorities had to freeze the wage bill, which resulted in the non-payment of increments to public servants for three years. A CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) Country Poverty Assessment conducted in 2008 concluded that poverty in St. Kitts and Nevis had climbed to 21.8 percent of the population.
That untenable position is now contrasted with the present Dr. Harris-led Administration paying an extra month’s salary (Double Salary) for three consecutive years (2015-2018), 1250 Government Auxiliary Employees (GAEs) treated to a holiday pay for the first time in 10 years, and an EC$500 stipend to households earning less than a gross monthly income of EC$3000. Increments for public servants have also resumed.
“We paid off the $117 million debt to the IMF in 2016 which was left behind by our predecessors, thereby earning our right to sovereign control over policy prescriptions,” said Prime Minister Harris.
In its Staff Concluding Statement of the 2017 Article IV Mission, the IMF reported that public debt in St. Kitts and Nevis continued to fall and was projected to reach the 60 percent ECCU (Eastern Caribbean Currency Union) debt-to-GDP target by 2018, ahead of ECCU peers.
“Having sustained economic growth for four years in a row, we can build on this momentum and continue to create the right economic conditions for citizens and residents in 2019. Our people expect more jobs, the opportunity for higher wages and salaries, increasing FDIs, and overall improvement in their quality of life,” Dr. Harris added.
On Tuesday, December 2018, the Appropriation (2019) Bill, 2018, with total estimates for 2019 of EC$ 772, 881, 833 for recurrent expenditure, capital expenditure and net lending, was passed into law. With a total recurrent expenditure of EC$ 526, 764, 731, a total capital expenditure of EC$ 150, 229,342, and net lending of EC$ 1,000,000, the Bill made provisions for all ministries, departments and functionaries of the Government.
In his Budget address dubbed “Sustaining Growth and Prosperity”, Prime Minister Harris said that the theme “is rooted in my Government’s determination to deliver on the mandates given by the people” and that “the impact of the various policy initiatives, programmes and projects of this Administration has been far-reaching and is being felt throughout our communities.”
Some of these include the building of a second cruise pier at Port Zante, Basseterre, to accommodate larger cruise ships in an expanding tourism industry; the rehabilitation of the island’s main carriageway; the Team Unity Housing Solutions; establishment of an Oncology Unit at JNF Hospital; Construction of a new Mental Health Day Treatment Centre; the establishment of a second-high court chamber at the Sir Lee L. Moore Judicial Complex; and a soon to be built brand-new state of the art Basseterre High School.