NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (November 24, 2022)- The following is an address to the people of Nevis delivered by Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis on November 24, 2022:
My fellow citizens and residents,
On December 18, 2017 you went out in overwhelming numbers and elected the Concerned Citizens Movement to serve the island of Nevis. We were then and are today grateful for the opportunity to serve our people. I am especially grateful that you saw in me the qualities of a servant leader that would serve in your best interest.
In the five years since then, your government has sought to live up to its ethos of putting our people first.
Our accomplishments despite considerable odds have been many. It is a record which we can be proud of and which has benefitted the people of our beloved Nevis significantly.
This government was forced to confront the first global pandemic in 100 years when the Covid-19 pandemic erupted in March of 2020. For two years our island went through lockdowns and curfews and quarantines. No other government in the history of Nevis has ever had to confront such a calamity.
I believe that those two years allowed our people to see the true mettle of the CCM leadership in government. We committed early to do all in our power to keep our people safe, to keep our public servants paid in full and on time, and to innovate and find ways and means to combat the effects of the pandemic. To demonstrate leadership and solidarity with our people, every member of Cabinet took a pay cut for three months, and in my case I took no salary or benefits as Premier for some 20 months.
The pandemic tested our mettle but with God’s grace and guidance we withstood the worst of times and emerged with the best record of Covid management in the region with the lowest deaths, lowest hospitalization rate and among the highest vaccination rates. I am so proud of our Cabinet, our front line workers and the leadership of our own Dr. Judy Nisbett who guided our response.
In health, we have invested in new ambulances, additional diagnostic equipment including a brand new state-of-the-art 128 slice Philips CT Scan machine, hired and trained additional nurses, hired additional doctors, introduced our first ever Ear, Nose and Throat specialist clinics for free, purchased new garbage trucks and other equipment for Solid Waste [Management], introduced a plastic recycling programme, opened the island’s first ever mental health facility at Prospect, and are currently embarked on the largest ever construction project in the history of healthcare in Nevis, our new hospital at Alexandra which is scheduled to be completed next year.
In education, your CCM government has put in place a maintenance team which has ensured regular maintenance and ongoing upgrades to all of our schools. During Covid, our hardworking team undertook considerable work to retrofit our schools and make them safer for our students and teachers. We introduced a blended approach which saw students getting both online and in-person sessions. We provided tablets to students who needed them and internet access for free to homes that had none. Working with the Windsong Foundation, we have secured some six new school buses over the past few years which has allowed us to expand our bus service to our students. This partnership has also seen the delivery of 250 tablets for our students, laptops for teachers and music equipment for our NCDF [Nevis Cultural Development Foundation]. In our ongoing thrust for greater technical training, we have already constructed the TVET center in Gingerland and shall soon construct a larger center in Charlestown. These TVET centers will allow our people to get technical training and certification in a number of areas right here on Nevis.
In Agriculture, we have emphasized food security, offered free feed to our livestock farmers, free fish pot wire to our fishers, free seeds, seedlings, fertilizer, fencing, land preparation, shade houses and water to our crop farmers, expanded our abattoir and the range of products offered there, created a 30-acre fruit orchard at Indian Castle including the planting of 5,000 coconut palms, transformed the former Taiwanese farm at Cades Bay into an Agro-tourism farm, commissioned the Laringston Parry storage depot at Prospect to extend the shelf life of produce, and improved the cattle farm at Maddens including the introduction of new breeds.
In water, we have created some 3,030,000 imperial gallons of water storage, installed a treatment plant at Hamilton which added 216,000 imperial gallons of water per day to the water supply, upgraded the water distribution mains throughout the length and breadth of Nevis and reduced water outages and disruptions to a minimum.
In electricity, we have invested significantly in purchasing two brand-new Wärtsilä engines for our power plant at Prospect, which has allowed us to stabilize the power grid and reduce electricity outages to a bare minimum. Even as the cost of fuel has risen sharply across the world, as a caring government we took steps to provide significant relief to our people. We have simultaneously pursued the development of geothermal energy which has new impetus with the assistance of the Federal Government and the Caribbean Development Bank. Geothermal energy, when harnessed, will free our island home of fossil fuels and make Nevis the greenest place on planet Earth. It will create new industries based on Hydrogen and allow us to manufacture fertilizer from ammonia. It will also permit Nevis to export energy to our sister St. Kitts and other neighboring islands. At the proposed 9 cents per kilowatt-hour, Nevis promises to have the cheapest and cleanest electricity in the region, paving the way for significant savings for our people and the transition to electric cars and scooters as environmentally friendly means of transport.
In housing, we have witnessed a quiet revolution. For the first time in our history we have housing developments happening simultaneously at Maddens, Cherry Garden, Craddock Road, Hamilton, University Heights, and Rices. Our housing programme through the Nevis Housing and Land Development Corporation has afforded scores of young people and especially single mothers an opportunity to own their own home. Throughout this term we are building some 170 affordable and medium income homes and benefitted some 170 families despite the two-year hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In providing social safety nets for our people, I am proud that this government has provided free water, electricity and bus passes to our senior citizens. We have provided food vouchers, rent support and other financial support to those among us needing such support. We have expanded our range of counseling and mental health support to our people. We have invested significantly in programmes to offer our disaffected youths alternative pathways.
On the economy, we have been relentless in creating jobs and diversifying the local economy. I am proud that through a partnership with MSR Media we have now produced 8 feature films on Nevis with the release of Christmas in the Caribbean out now. This fledgling movie industry employs some 90 persons locally in good paying jobs and has resulted in Nevisians gaining valuable experience in all aspects of film making. When many doubted that we could create a film industry here, your CCM government said “Yes we can”.
We recognize the tremendous value of the small and micro business sector. This government provided some $5 million seed funding for women and youth owned businesses, offering low interest loans to persons who could not otherwise access financing of up to $100,000. Thus far we have disbursed some $1,987,690.36 to 54 micro and small businesses on Nevis and continue to invite women and youth entrepreneurs to apply to our Small Enterprise Development Unit for assistance under this initiative.
We waived the 10% alien landholding license real estate fee allowing realtors to sell more villas on the island. This initiative, since extended to December 2022, has thus far seen real estate sales of over EC$100 million. This in turn has led to considerable construction activity as many new owners are now retrofitting and modernizing their homes.
We removed VAT and Customs Duties on all construction material valued at over EC$30,000. The result has been a boom in construction with our Planning Department reporting some 168 active construction sites currently on Nevis.
Our job numbers have been encouraging and show the level of recovery post-Covid. Social Security statistics as at July 2022 show that for the period July 2021 to July 2022 jobs in Nevis increased by 6.4%. Some 7.1% of the workforce held multiple jobs, an increase of a whopping 54.6% over 2021. Of note is that as at December 2020 when the island was closed due to Covid, total jobs in Nevis stood at 4,600. As at July 2022 the total jobs stood at 5,600 an increase of 1000 jobs or 21.7%. While there is still work to be done the economic recovery has thus far been phenomenal.
In public infrastructure, your CCM government has been able to deliver the beautiful Malcolm Guishard Recreational Park, realizing the vision of the late great Malcolm Guishard. This park has had just over 35,000 visitors since it opened less than one year ago. We have now received financing from the Taiwanese government to pursue additional development at Pinney’s Beach and expect that work to start in the next two weeks.
We have undertaken and completed major road projects in Brown Hill, Shaws Road, Braziers, Hamilton, Farms and the Island Main Road. Projects at Butlers, Bath and a second phase of the Island Main Road are ongoing. In each of these projects except the Island Main Road, we have used our local engineers and contractors and the skilled men and women of our Public Works Department. The days of an NRP [Nevis Reformation Party] Premier telling Nevisians they were not competent to deliver major infrastructure in Nevis are over. Using our own people has allowed skills to develop and has kept significant sums circulating in the local economy instead of being repatriated abroad. Our young contractors can now get work. Our truck and heavy equipment operators can now get work. In addition, we have invested in significant equipment to better build our roads such as a brand-new paver and milling machine at an investment of over $1 million. We are truly building Nevis by us and for us.
In sport, your CCM government saw the wisdom in investing in an athletic track facility using the latest technology from Mondo and creating a nine-lane track. This has allowed our athletes the ability to train on a proper IAAF certified surface, which has better prepared them to compete nationally, regionally and internationally. No more will our athletes be forced to run on grass and dirt at the ETW Park. We have refurbished and are in the process of lighting all sporting facilities in Nevis. We have produced a brand-new netball basketball and tennis complex at the Grell Hull/Stevens facility in Charlestown. We have refurbished basketball courts in Gingerland, Church Ground, Bath, Ramsbury, Jessups and Cotton Ground. We have built the VOJN cricket venue and improved the cricket venues at Brown Hill and Swamp. In cricket we have provided financial support to all teams and players representing Nevis and have partnered with our own West Indies great, Keith Arthurton, to inaugurate a training facility at ETW Park.
We saw the wisdom in investing in our water taxi operators and spent roughly $6 million on acquiring waterfront property in Oualie and constructing the water taxi pier. This investment by the Government has allowed the 100% Nevisian-owned water taxi business to flourish and has revolutionized travel between Nevis and St. Kitts. We are even as I speak building out the reception and office area and acquiring lands for parking.
On crime, we have never relented in seeking to tackle this social problem. I am delighted that through a variety of initiatives working with the Federal government, we have dramatically reduced crime, and in particular violent crime, on our beloved island. Our people now move about far more freely and safely than before. Of particular relevance has been our deployment of technology such as CCTV along our Island Main Road and in Charlestown. We have supported that initiative with a sophisticated CCTV Command Center which is manned 24 hours each day. Our security forces now have another critical tool to assist in the fight against crime.
To further support our security forces, we have built a state-of-the-art police and fire station at New Castle to replace the dilapidated structure that used to be there. Our police and fire officers are now far more comfortable living and working in a modern building that is fit for purpose. I am proud to advise that we are also in advanced talks to establish a Coast Guard and military base on Nevis for the first time in our history.
I am so happy that we have been able to fix longstanding sewage issues for the proud homeowners at Cherry Garden and ameliorated a potential health hazard there. We have also assisted homeowners in the Golden Grove community in Brown Hill. We continue to demonstrate that our people matter most.
Given the scarcity of government lands available for development for our people, your CCM government has embarked upon significant land acquisition at Garners Estate, Herbert’s Beach and Oualie, and is currently finalizing a land swap to permit the people of Barnes Ghaut the opportunity to expand their village.
To our valued non-national community, your CCM-led government has not once, not twice, but on three occasions granted amnesty and reduced work permit costs so that you can regularize your status and be comfortable in your new home of Nevis. Unlike the NRP government which used to vilify, harass and deport nonnationals, your CCM government has a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion. Nevis now boasts a multi-cultural and multi-racial society. We cherish you and welcome the contribution you are making to our national development.
Our Non-Established workers have complained for decades that they contribute for sometimes 40 years and then leave empty-handed on retirement. Your CCM-led government has heard the cries, and as of September 01, 2022, has introduced a Retirement Package for Non-Established workers. This is intended to bring great relief and comfort to our NE workers in their retirement years. This is a significant achievement as we continue to put people at the center of our development.
For our public servants, I am proud that your CCM government has delivered the largest pay increase in the history of Nevis at 15%, payable in tranches of 5% per year over three years. We have already paid 5% and another 5% will be paid on January 01, 2023 and a further 5% on January 01, 2024. I am equally humbled that your CCM government has created history by securing not one, not two, not three, but four double salaries for our public sector workers in the past five-year term with the fourth such bonus salary being paid just two days ago. Our frontline workers who fought to keep us safe during Covid can also look forward to the payment of a $2,000 honorarium on or before November 30, 2022. This is our way of saying Thank You.
When our people cried out for the rising fuel surcharge on their electricity bills caused by the war in Ukraine and suppression of oil supply by OPEC, your government listened, consulted and responded. We have now removed the surcharge from domestic users and capped it at 65 cents for commercial users. This move has brought tremendous relief to homeowners all across Nevis and is further testimony to our commitment to put our people first.
Your CCM Party in government has taken its commitment to women and youth seriously. Our record is a proud one. It was the CCM representative the Hon. Jean Harris who was the first woman elected to Parliament in Nevis. Our leader the Hon. Vance Amory of blessed memory reached out in 2013 and positioned the Hon. Hazel Brandy Williams in the Cabinet. When I became Premier in 2017 I again reached out to the Hon. Hazel Brandy and made her a Cabinet member. Following in that rich tradition, your CCM has recently selected a young woman of Barnes Ghaut the Hon. Latoya Jones and created history by making her the first female Senator and Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly from the island of Nevis. Miss Jones has now been declared a candidate for the CCM in constituency number 5, St. Thomas and we have every confidence that she will bring effective representation to the proud people of St. Thomas. Your CCM government has also chosen women in succession to function as Deputy Governor-General and I record my deep appreciation to both Her Honour Marjorie Morton and Her Honour Hyleta Liburd for their exceptional service to Nevis and the wider Federation. The CCM has not just talked about women empowerment, we have done it and will continue to do it.
Brother and sisters the past five years have seen difficulties and unprecedented challenges. Not only did we have to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, but we were all shocked and deeply saddened at the loss of our Premier of 20 years, the Hon. Vance Amory. We continue to remember his family in our payers and pledge to continue to build upon the rich legacy of service and sober, sensible leadership that he bequeathed to this great CCM Party.
Against this backdrop of performance touching every single sector of our society and quality leadership that our island has enjoyed, I have today advised His Excellency the Governor-General [Sir S. Tapley Seaton] after consultation with the Honourable Prime Minister [Dr. Terrance Drew] that the Nevis Island Assembly should be dissolved as of Friday, the 25th day of November, 2022. Nomination Day for the election of representatives to the Nevis Island Assembly shall be Monday, December 05, 2022. Election Day on the island of Nevis shall be Monday, December 12, 2022.
In this election, you will have a clear choice between a solid record of performance of your CCM in government and the promises being made by the other side. I believe that our record has been an exceptional one despite the grave challenges. I commit this CCM Party to waging a campaign of ideas and of hope, rather than a campaign of vilification and vitriol. I urge you brothers and sisters to engage in the process, to listen to the issues, and to make your vote count for the continued development and advancement of this land called Nevis that we are all privileged to call our home.
It is now therefore time for the campaign and I look forward to seeing you and hearing from you in the weeks ahead.
May God continue to guide and guard us all and may His peace and grace be upon you and your household.