||The British Virgin Islands
||June 19th, 2013
St Kitts and Nevis19th Independence Anniversary
19TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY ADDRESS TO THE NATION
HON. DR. DENZIL L. DOUGLAS PRIME MINISTER,
ST. KITTS AND NEVIS
Thursday, 19th September, 2002
Office of the Prime Minister
Fellow citizens, today we celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of the Independence of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Independence Day is always a milestone in our country's history which affords us the opportunity to reflect upon the distance we have traveled as a people as well as to evaluate the successes and also setbacks, which we have experienced.
Looking back over the last 19 years, I can assert with confidence that our independence project has been an outstanding success.
But fellow countrymen, while we celebrate our liberation from the tentacles of colonialism, we must not forget that independence never arises ex nihilo…meaning, for nothing.
No people can enter independence and govern as successfully as we have done, unless that independence is built upon the foundation, which preceded the formalization of St. Kitts and Nevis becoming a sovereign entity. Therefore, independence may be seen as the culmination of an anti-colonial struggle, which still shapes the course of our country's development.
And though we take this opportunity to congratulate the Rt. Hon. Dr. Kennedy Simmonds for having the foresight to press for Independence when he did, the ability to achieve that goal rested on the struggles successfully waged by his predecessors, led by the Rt. Excellent, Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw.
If therefore we look at the evolution of St. Kitts and Nevis from slavery to colonialism and independence, as constituting a line of unbroken continuity, it would lend perspective to an appraisal of our achievements.
Let us look at the sector of tourism, for example, to demonstrate my arguments of continuity.
When the Government of the Rt. Excellent Sir Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw took the decision to acquire the lands at Frigate Bay there were criticisms emanating from certain malcontents who derided the decision as a waste of resources. Today, in the year of our Lord 2002, the Frigate Bay area represents the flagship of tourist development in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
One of our founding fathers, the celebrated, late Hon. C.A Paul Southwell perhaps suffered a pre-matured death because of the strenuous efforts he exerted for the establishment of the Frigate Bay area as a tourist resort.
He pursued his vision of St. Kitts as a top class tourist paradise in the face of much criticism and skepticism and even personal ridicule. Today, Frigate Bay stands as one of the most beautiful and well-organised tourist areas in the Caribbean and its development is still proceeding apace.
My fellow citizens, I am happy that the Party with which I am associated in the past and now in government, has as part of its storied history, an unmatched record in the development of hotels in this particular area.
The Royal St. Kitts Hotel, now known as the Jack Tar Resort, for a long time was the most dynamic force in the growth of our embryonic tourism sector. We now stand poised to enter a new and mature phase of tourism and to thrust St. Kitts forward into modernisation with the opening of the St. Kitts Marriott Royal Beach Resort.
Our golf course is presently being refashioned and rebuilt, to enhance its marketability for the hosting of international tournaments.
It is my government's expectation that consistent with our commitment to maximising the financial and other benefits of the Marriott investment, together with the generation of income for the Frigate Bay Development Corporation, a second golf course, built to even higher standards, will be completed no later than the celebration of our 21st Anniversary of Independence.
Planned also are further low, middle and upper income housing developments in communities across St. Kitts in particular. While it could be said that the housing revolution was realised in our first term of office, your government is forging ahead with plans to develop another one thousand homes for our residents. There are also plans by private developers to build upscale housing in selected areas catering particularly to expatriates and the high-end of the tourist and visitor market.
Fellow citizens and visitors, this young country of ours has withstood an unprecedented number of shocks, concentrated into a very short time frame. These shocks include five hurricanes within a five-year period, a flood, external impacts of the September 11th crash at the World Trade Center in New York and the impact upon intra-Caribbean commerce as a result of the contraction of the banana industry within Caricom and in particular within the OECS sub region.
These developments threatened to derail the economic development process, halted economic growth and pushed many of our people below the poverty line.
My Government was not prepared to sit idly by and watch our people suffer and squirm under the weight of these massive economic shocks. We therefore intervened through implementation of a carefully crafted programme of economic rehabilitation and fiscal expansion, aimed at alleviating the very difficult conditions of low income families and enhancing the attractiveness and competitiveness of our country.
This programme my dear citizens, was pursued through the allocation of more resources to human resource development, the improvement of social and economic infrastructure and the creation of an economic climate conducive to the profitable conduct of trade, commerce and business.
We took this policy stance because we are acutely aware that the world is not waiting on us. We knew that a deferral of our programme of development would have compromised our ability to respond to the challenge of globalization in a timely manner and could easily have left us swimming around in the backwater of human development.
Fellow citizens and residents, the ability of our country to continue to attract foreign direct investment, including the massive Marriott Hotel and the impressive Scenic Railway enterprise, despite our recent history of natural disasters of unprecedented frequency, is a tribute to the success of our efforts.
Moreover, our ability to consistently achieve positive growth rates reaching as high as 6% in 2000, tells a very convincing story of the character of the people, the pragmatism of our Government and the resilience of our national economy.
Of course, my dear fellow citizens, implementation of this strategy has combined with the effect of natural disasters and other economic shocks to increase the national debt. However, our debt is manageable and we are comfortably meeting all debt service payments in a timely manner.
Additionally, we have agreed on a programme of fiscal consolidation which we expect will result in a fiscal account surplus over the medium-term.
So far this year, your government have been meeting the fiscal targets that we have set ourselves, and we expect to improve on those targets as the growth rate accelerates with the opening of the Marriott and Port Zante, and as the private sector responds to the creative policy measures that Government has put in place to strengthen the various sectors of our national economy.
Fellow citizens and residents, your government took the initiative in 1997 to put in place the infrastructure for the creation of a vibrant financial services sector. This was an important step in the ongoing modernization of the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis.
But as soon as our embryonic financial services sector began to take off, there were attempts by OECD countries to undermine the success and viability of the financial services programme throughout the entire Caribbean.
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis was forced to make adjustments, which we hope will improve the quality of our financial services. At the same time, we have positioned ourselves to continue our participation in a diplomatic offensive which will ensure that we can withstand any future assault of a similar kind on our financial services sector.
We are also grappling, Ladies and Gentlemen, with the problem of shifting our economy away from a reliance on sugar production. The contraction and reconstruction of the sugar industry is a challenge of tremendous complexities and has ramifications that are social, economic and ecological.
A careful balance of all of these considerations must be achieved in order for the transition of less dependence on sugar to be effective with the minimum of disruption. Precipitive action, as some irresponsible persons have urged, can result in unnecessary harm and suffering to the people of our country.
Fellow citizens and residents, your St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Administration is particularly proud to be given the opportunity to be the standard bearer in the quest for improvement in the quality of lives of the people of this country at this conjuncture of turbulent events in our history.
We are prepared to accept this challenge of the 21st century and to confront it with the courage, tenacity and wisdom that have characterized St. Kitts and Nevis' approach to governance from the very early days of representative politics in this country.
The successes of the anti colonial period to the present are too numerous to record here, but we are especially proud of making secondary education universally accessible to all of our children.
Soon we will achieve the objective of making early childhood education and tertiary education available to all of our people, regardless of their age.
This commitment to the training and education of our people is in recognition of the fact that the quality of our Labour force will be determined by the excellence of our education system, which, as results have shown, is already second to none in the developing world. I note with pleasure the high level of participation and student success in the recently concluded Adult Education Programmes both in rural and urban St. Kitts.
These sessions were designed to improve the marketability of our adult population, regardless of age or previous occupational backgrounds. Our intention is to create the opportunities for citizens to acquire ongoing skills so as to adapt to the ever changing work environment. This you would recall is what I referred to some months back as the making of the proverbial 'Renaissance Man'.
Notwithstanding the official statistics, we are challenged at this time to formulate creative measures for dealing with those who, for varying reasons, have had an aborted secondary school experience.
I am personally alarmed by the number of so-called ‘secondary school drop outs', barely 16 years of age and certainly not 17, especially our young males. They are leaving school without the basic skills and accreditation necessary to guarantee them a productive role in society. The facilities are there, but somehow the system is casting these persons aside.
We undertake now, in the upcoming months, to develop systems to put the talents of our non-academically inclined youths to much better use.
Fellow citizens and residents, St. Kitts and Nevis has now moved to the forefront of health care in the Leeward Islands or should I say the OECS. The recent upgrade and expansion of the Sir Joseph N. France General Hospital has accentuated our status as a source of quality health care in the sub-region. A proper health service is an integral part of the development of tourism as the lead sector in our economy.
It is important that highly skilled professionals in the medical field be easily available to both residents and visitors alike and that our Accident and Emergency Unit be equipped to the standard of first world emergency units to deal with the problems that will beset citizens and visitors alike, from time to time.
We are rapidly moving in this direction and with the improvement of our hospital, more and more professionals in every area of health services are demonstrating an interest in working in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Expansion of development in the tourist sector has implications for development in virtually every area of life in St. Kitts and Nevis. The opening of the Marriott Hotel in St. Kitts will make an additional 900 beds available.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has entered into specific marketing arrangements with the management of Marriott and, as is well known, Marriott has an impressive record for marketing its products.
Since our government is availing itself of Marriott's sophisticated marketing techniques it can be predicted that a substantial increase in visitors to this country will occur and this will impact not only the Frigate Bay properties but the entire tourism plant.
The spin off will be more business and enhanced opportunities for smaller and indigenously owned properties.
As a result of this anticipated growth, more and bigger planes will be using our airport and therefore it is necessary for government to address the ever-changing issue of making our airport facilities adequate for increased passenger and airline traffic.
Government will move shortly to expand the tarmac, resurface the runway and expand other facilities. Checking in and other processing of arrivals and departures will be upgraded to reduce delay to a minimum and to make more passengers comfortable in the environs of the airport.
Already we share the pride of Nevisians in welcoming the developments that have taken place at the airport in Newcastle. Following shortly on the extension and upgrade of the runway and the new air traffic control tower, today, the 19th of September, the new terminal building, with all its state of the art facilities, will be officially opened.
This is a remarkable achievement for the Federation and it places St. Kitts and Nevis in an even more enviable position of having two new and modern airports of international standard.
Of course, the drive from the New Castle Airport has been made a whole lot smoother with the completion of the first and second phase of the resurfacing of the Island Main Road.
These infrastructural developments in Nevis and St. Kitts are central to the development of tourism. Much emphasis is placed on highway surfaces and their appearance by visitors, in particular, the high-end of the market, who take great pride and interest in driving and surveying our landscape.
The new golf course to which I referred earlier and which will be located in the Sandy Point Area could necessitate the planning of a new road or a widening and straightening of existing roads to afford easy access to those patrons of the golf course who are required to travel from Frigate Bay to Sandy Point.
My government has already had discussions with Marriott with respect to widening and improving access roads between the airport and the Frigate Bay area. We are also seeking to improve the aesthetics of our capital, Basseterre, which will include an urban renewal programme.
The urban renewal programme will consist of the renovation of buildings, which exemplify the architectural legacy of our country. We will implement our programme in relation to the development of parks.
We will look at the improvement of housing within Basseterre, in particular the cleaning up of blighted housing areas. We will rehabilitate and resurface the streets of Basseterre and ensure that the main arteries are as attractive as possible.
Special programmes of island wide landscaping will be effected.
Our beaches are precious, a resource which cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Our country has tended to take this resource for granted. We can do that no longer.
It is not satisfactory to have sporadic efforts aimed at cleaning our beaches, which are largely of a philanthropic nature…there must be a professional approach to maintaining our beaches and providing ancillary beach services.
We must address the question of beach fatigue on a regular basis. We must control the removal of sand from our beaches and we must embark on a programme of increasing the number of beaches which we have so that persons in rural areas would not have to travel long distances to have access to the beach.
We have established the appropriate committee to address the question of the creation of a National Park over the Basseterre Valley Watershed, with the assistance of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Fellow citizens and residents, these are but some of the developments which residents will see unfolding within the next few months.
But development will serve no purpose if it does not promote the health and welfare of human beings. My government subscribes to an egalitarian policy. We are in the process of creating a society where all can enjoy equality of opportunity.
In some instances, this has been interpreted to mean equality of consumers of services and goods. Egalitarian principles must apply to the private sector as well, and greater scope than is now provided for young aspiring entrepreneurs in this country must be available.
Government will shortly unveil a project in which the entrepreneurial spirit will be given an opportunity to develop in this country. If we are to compete effectively within the global arena, then our best entrepreneurial talent must be available.
The traditional way of identifying this talent by family connections or by accident is not an efficient or acceptable method of determining who will be the best kind of entrepreneur to make this country competitive within a globalized world.
Fellow citizens and residents of St. Kitts and Nevis, most of my foregoing remarks have been directed to ways of satisfying the material needs of our people, but, as the Good Book has said, man cannot live by bread alone, because before one can achieve materially there must be those inner beliefs encapsulated in the Ten Commandments, which should provide guidance for all.
By and large we have remained a society in which economic progress has been matched by a dynamic spiritual quality in our lives. Our democracy has provided for freedom of religion. Even though we are not a totally crime free society, let me say that crime-free societies exist only in the dreams of utopian thinkers.
Notwithstanding this, we cringe and grieve with families and friends of homicide victims, because even one death, especially one violent death in this small, peaceful country of ours, is one death too many.
Our social control policies have made this country of ours one of the least violent and safest in the world. This is the result of the combination of our strong spirituality, our trust and belief in God, which has fortified us in adversity from time immemorial, and our material prosperity.
This combination has made this dear land, which we call Sugar City, one of the most comfortable and beautiful places in which to live.
Day after day visitors to our shores express these sentiments. My fellow citizens, this country is a gift from God; we have been blessed with it.
Let us not, like the foolish virgins, squander our gift from God.
Let us use it, develop it wisely, demonstrate respect for our fellow humans, obey the law, behave morally, practise the fundamental teachings of the 10 Commandments and of our God and apply all of our gifts and ingenuity to our problems… and…we shall succeed.
As I look to the future, as Prime Minister of this country, I feel confident and secure that our people have risen and are rising to the occasion.
Over the past three years I outlined the many challenges that we would have faced. I warned of the likely economic turbulence and the dark economic clouds that surrounded us. I urged you then to fasten your seat belts as we journeyed to the desired altitude.
On this, the occasion of the 19th anniversary of our Independence, I am proud, as well as relieved, to report that as far as we can see, the worse of the stormy economic weather has passed St. Kitts and Nevis.
I wish to warn you, however, that notwithstanding the emerging local and international trends of recovery, it is still too soon to, in the lingo of airline travel, to unbuckle your seat belts and move around the cabin. You can rest assured, however, that the journey immediately ahead, will not be as turbulent as that from which we have just emerged.
I wish to thank and congratulate all Kittitians and Nevisians for the strength and resilience shown in that period of austerity and adversity, caused, in the main, by factors beyond our control. I wish to thank the scores of citizens who have called or written to me to express their support for the programme of fiscal consolidation announced in the December 2001 budget. We are heartened by their expressed confidence in the fiscal policies as outlined by this administration, the success of which is reflected in the continued interest of investors, local and foreign, in our country.
Fellow citizens and residents, though there lie before us yet unknown perils in this dangerous world, I am confident that if we combine our faith and knowledge, we shall overcome.
I call on you once more, on this special day in the history of this country, to renew your commitment to the development of this land of ours. Renew your commitment to eliminate poverty and create wealth…to prevent disease and cure those illnesses which are more difficult to eliminate…to look after the elderly and other vulnerable groups in the society…to enhance the skills of our youths and end their feeling of abandonment and alienation…to work hard and be productive as citizens of this proud nation and to give an equal opportunity to all.
My dear people, these are exciting times for St. Kitts and Nevis. We are a source of inspiration to many. Let us go forward together, hand in hand, Kittitians and Nevisians - regardless of religious beliefs, regardless of political persuasion, colour or race.
Let us aspire to demonstrate to the world that a small country like St. Kitts and Nevis can be as great as any.
Please join with me and the government in congratulating the 2002 recipients of national awards. I speak here of Mr. Frederick Lawrence Lam, OBE, who was awarded the Companion of the Star of Merit in recognition of his yeoman service to the development of industry, particularly tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis. There is also Our Commonwealth Sprint Champion Kim Anderson Collins, who has brought great pride and joy to our hearts.
He along with Miss Suphina Barrett and Mr. John Aston Rollins, two outstanding citizens of our Federation, were recipients of the Medal of Honour. Miss Barrett is a retired nurse and community worker who worked selflessly in the service of others. Mr. Rollins served in the area of public health and also imparted knowledge in the form of music to hundreds of our citizens. He retired Honorary Lieutenant of the St. Kitts and Nevis Defence Force, having served for many years as a volunteer in that organisation.
Fellow citizens, on this the occasion of the celebration of our 19th anniversary of Independence, I salute you all.
I wish you a blessed Independence Day and pray that God will continue to guide our path.
I thank you.
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