By Carol Phillip-Tudor, The Democrat Newspaper,
Beginning at the very slippery slopes of the wee hours of a February 17, 2015 morning, there emerged an historic victory for the combined political parties: People’s Action Movement; Concerned Citizens Movement and the People’s Labour Party (called as a whole TEAM UNITY) that defeated the entrenched 20-year incumbent St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party and its ally, the Nevis Reformation Party, in the General Elections polls of 16 February.
One year later February 2016, and the TEAM UNITY – now the Government of National Unity – is celebrating.Accordingly, leader of TEAM UNITY and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, has said, “so far, so good.”
In recounting the 365 days and some initiatives undertaken and completed by the Government of National Unity, first up will necessarily be theof EC $16 millionthat the Government of National Unity procured from the Venezuelan Government under the Petro Caribe and ALBA arrangement to make payment of overdue gratuities to 2,311 former sugar workers of the closed St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation.
Effective April 7, 2015, the 17% VAT (Value-added tax) was removed from food, medicines, educational supplies and funeral expenses bythe Unity Government.
The Nevis Island Administration, an integral part of the government of National Unity, was granted EC $25 million in budgetary support, but a far greater accomplishment is that the Hon. Vance Amory, Premier of Nevis has said that he applauds and welcomes the new harmonious relationship between local and federal government. “I subscribe to the new paradigm, the new approaches of transparency; good governance,” Amory has said.
The Government of National Unity inherited a debt to PetroCaribe of some US $49 million.Furthermore, the St. Kitts Electricity Company Ltd. (SKELEC) owed PDV PetroCaribe some US $18 million.The Ministry of Energy brought in Teranov, a French engineering and service company, with Jacques Chouraki as its presidentalong with five (5) other geoscientists to conduct feasibility studies in geophysics, geology and geochemistry and to explore the possibility of geothermal energy on St. Kitts.
September 4, 2015, the Government of National Unity signed a loan agreement of US$5 million with the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in order to facilitate the growth of small and medium-sized business enterprises (SMEs). The ensuing “Fresh Start Project” offered a US$100,000 loan to prospective small and medium-sized business owners with an interest rate not greater than five percent: the S.E.A.F is said to have had no payout or collections standards.
After several years of dealing with debilitating illnesses at the (BHS) Basseterre High School old campus – illnesses that includedheadaches, nausea, fainting, skin rashes, bouts of blindness, throat and respiratory issues – a new $5 million campus and temporary site of the BHS at Taylors Range, opened for the new school term on Monday January 4, 2016.The Government of National Unity has assured that beginning as soon as is possible a brand new modern facility BHS will be constructed.
The Government of National Unity is also attempting to re-direct the aim of PEP (People’s Employment Programme), an entity which has been an $EC167.9 million drain on the St. Kitts and Nevis economy. The Parks and Beaches Unit expansion of the PEP has been provided with 18 acres of land on which to use for the production of crops and farming.
The Tourism Industry with its increases in Air flight and cruise ship passengers is looking to increase stayover visitors to St. Kitts and Nevis. The Hon. Lindsay F.P. Grant, Minister of Tourism, International Trade, Industry and Commerce, announced an official marketing partnership with National Golf Course Owners Association Canada (NGCOA Canada) to help St. Kitts and Nevis capitalize on the approximately 5.7 million Canadian golfers who play roughly 70 million rounds of golf annually. “This partnership is a true WIN for our members, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the NGCOA Canada,” says Jeff Calderwood, CEO, NGCOA Canada.
Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, in his New Year’s address hasearmarked 2016 as “A YEAR OF WONDERFUL POSSIBILITIES AND PROMISING OPPORTUNITIES” and as TEAM UNITY officially celebrated its one year anniversary at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Bourryeau on February 14, Dr. Harris said, “I say to God be the glory, something good is still happening in St. Kitts and Nevis . . . We will not get weary in doing good.”
Of course, for a recently-made -opposition, the anniversary of TEAM UNITY’s first year in office doespresent the greatest opportunity for the opposition to air any grievances it may have had, and so the St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party promises to hold a protest march on February, 19, 2016.
Concerns of former Minister of National Security, Mr. Dwyer Astaphan, are, in light of that, beginning to have the sound of credence when Astaphan says the Government of National Unity is moving at a snail’s pace in its promise to investigate areas of alleged impropriety committed by the former St. Kitts and Nevis Labour Party Administration.
“If a proper and comprehensive audit and investigation was done or is done, people will face, at best some people, civil action and others will face criminal action. And the Government needs to clean the slate, bring the information to the public.”