While encouraging its citizens here in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to invest in their homeland, the government of St Kitts and Nevis said it intends to undertake further capital developments including a new cruise ship pier.
As such, it is closely studying the pros and cons of the highly controversial cruise pier/park project that was completed recently in the BVI, costing tax-payers at least $30,000 more than initially budgeted, and prompting the parliamentary opposition to call for a commission of inquiry.
While making the disclosure, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Timothy Harris said his country now is getting advice from one of the experts who worked on the initial plan for the pier expansion here in the BVI.
He did not name the expert.
“Your experience in your second pier – if you will, that is something that we are now contemplating for action at home.”
“And in fact in some ways, one of the original parties that had been involved in the construction of the pier here (in the BVI); he has emerged in St Kitts and Nevis. So, you see, there is some commonality, and we were able to share notes, receive some advice as to how things progressed, and where were the challenges with respect to the construction of the new pier [in the BVI],” Prime Minister Harris said during his visit to the BVI over the weekend.
He was responding to questions posed by host of the Umojah radio programme Cromwell ‘Edju En Ka’ Smith.
The St Kitts and Nevis leader added that his country is also taking note of how the BVI handles the issue of Belonger status, as well as its financial services industry.
He, in the meantime, urged his compatriots residing in the BVI to capitalize on the incentives being made available to returning residents. This position was also expressed at a meeting the prime minister convened with natives of St Kitts and Nevis.
During the meeting on Saturday evening, the St Kitts government’s point man on diaspora issues Duncan Wattley urged: “Some of you are living here [in the BVI] and may want to return home; we have a programme in place for returning nationals, where you can get certain duty-free concessions etcetera. You can reach out to us and we can ensure that you are taken care of.”
“We are encouraging that people who are living in the diaspora – you are welcomed to come and establish businesses – come and invest. We are not just looking for those people from the north or from the east…”
Don’t only fly home in election
Wattley further urged St Kitts and Nevis nationals to hold their government back home accountable, adding that they should not only be interested in traveling home to vote during general elections.
“One thing I have asked, don’t wait until 2019 just before the election; I don’t believe in that, and I believe you out here deserve more than that… Do not let it be when election time they (candidates) come put you on a plane to vote; no.”
“I am telling you that you have to – and you need to hold your representatives accountable; make them step up to the plate,” added Wattley, who promised to have further meetings with natives of St Kitts and Nevis who reside here.
Regarding the performance of the Team Unity government that was elected in February last year, Prime Minister Harris listed a number of accomplishments he said his administration has achieved economically and otherwise.
“St Kitts and Nevis is a country on the move. Over the last 18-plus months that we have been in office, we have seen significant transformation. We have been able to hold the economy on a growth path… We achieved between 5 and 6 percent growth which put us ahead of the pack of all countries in the OECS Currency Union, the CDB borrowing member states, and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. We were number one and indeed we were towering way above our size and way above the regional averages.”
“This year, we are forecast to have a growth of about 3+ percent, which again will put us above average with respect to the ECB forecast for the region as a whole of about 2.5 or thereabout percentage growth,” added Prime Minister Harris.
He stated that his government also has been helping sugarcane workers, and the poor who were ‘burdened by a 17 percent VAT (Value-added tax) on food, and medicine, and medication.”
The prime minister added, “we brought relief to thousands of people… We have been doing quite a fantastic job.”
Since the Unity government was elected, according to the prime minister, there is also a “good, happy” relationship now existing between the Nevis Island Administration and the Federal government.
“We are working successfully as a team to advance not just St Kitts but also Nevis. We take the view that when Nevis experiences happiness and growth, the Federation as a whole is better for it. And equally, when St Kitts grows, Nevis as part of the Federation benefits form that growth. So we are promoting cooperation – collaboration among our two islands rather than the competition that hitherto existed,” added Prime Minister Harris.