Firstly, let me thank God for guiding us through the troubled waters of 2012. In spite of many challenges it is clear to all of us that the major problems in the priority list of our people were JOBS and CRIME.
We all accept that the growth of our economy depends primarily on Tourism and Foreign Investment. We also agree that neither visitors nor investors would view any crime ridden country with a favourable eye. For the past 6 years your Government adopted a two-pronged approach to reducing crime on the island. Firstly, we supported our Police in every way with the delivery of barracks at Bath and Butlers with very comfortable accommodations. We repaired the main police station in Charlestown and provided a new facility at Cotton Ground.
We accepted and worked with the new Commissioner and welcomed for the first time, an Assistant Commissioner of Police resident on Nevis.
Through the Ministry of Social Affairs your Government launched a battery of programmes in the form of training at all levels, parenting, community based efforts and awareness demonstration which have been absolutely successful in resurrecting a consciousness of community around Nevis. This spirit of unity, of oneness and caring is an essential component in any formula for community development and eventual growth – socially and economically. This, the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) in Government has achieved in six (6) short years. In applauding the Government and the police let me hasten to congratulate all those volunteers who responded to the clarion call for help. I must mention Mr.Daniel Mac Mullin a former Canadian police officer whose efforts to fight crime was a shining example to all of us. I commend as well the persons in every community who worked with our disillusioned young men. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly in our Outreach Programmes to them was a repeated statement, “Nobody showed any interest in us before”.
Let us take heed, from now on. Let us give as much attention to our young men as we give to our young daughters. Let us embrace all young people and appreciate them for that, every day ushers in new experiences, new challenges and we the older ones need to assist, not direct them to navigate and surmount these difficulties as they reach for maturity.
The job situation is no less than spectacular. In the face of the worst recession in 100 years, Nevis stands in the vanguard of Caribbean countries with the lowest level of unemployment for 2012. It is with a sense of pride that I state this, and, of course, I remember the many challenges on radio to my earlier assertions that we were close to full employment on Nevis.
To reinforce and underline this position, I refer to the recent Federal drive through 4 programmes identified by the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF) to reach unemployed persons on St Kitts and Nevis. Less than 200 Nevisians registered, and many of these persons were already working.
On a lighter note, I refer to one politician, alarmed at this programme, rushed into Bath Village and spent 4 hours with a group of young men offering tools for the construction industry and training programmes for those who are interested without identifying where jobs are available or where the young men would be trained. I am pleased to state here and now that we know where the jobs are and we as a Government have the training programmes that are tested, tried and proven when it comes to successful implementation strategies.
I am to thank people like Deon Daniel, Greg Hardtman and other local investors for taking the strain at this time. I quickly add the Four Seasons Resort Estates who started their new Villa construction phase late in the old year and all those potential home owners who have seized the opportunity offered by SIDF and the Government to access loans at a very low rate of interest and who have made use of the concession regime offered by Government in 2012.
The New Year calls for consolidation. We must continue our efforts against criminal activity. We must continue our work with juveniles and the great work in our communities. We must use the services of the SIDF to reach out to every community to ensure every young man and woman has a fair opportunity to train and to work. We know how to do it. We can and we will do it.
The New Year calls for a special focus. Even as we stabilize the economy, we continue to grapple with debt reduction and the need to position our country to raise enough revenue to pay its way and to build surpluses to construct more roads, invest in water and electricity development, build schools and other institutions and continue that great drive in training our people.
We will not raise taxes. We will not send home our people. It means therefore we must focus on growth. We have to grow our economy.
The intention of your Government is to approach growth in the following sequence:
1. In the short term
2. The medium term
3. The long term
This is necessary to support the following:
1. The debt reduction measures taken
2. To maintain and grow employment levels
3. To boost revenue returns
4. To stabilize prices and rates
The Government is already in serious dialogue to modify and grow the Re-Insurance Industry. 2012 saw growth in revenue from the Financial Services Industry and we are quite optimistic that we can boost further growth in a very short time. Right now the Legal Department has prepared Draft Legislation for the House of Assembly to create the right environment and Law to enable expansion to take place.
I also have already organized a trip to the Bahamas in February again with the objective of attracting investors in the Financial Services Industry to Nevis. Secondly, the Government is already invested in Cruise Tourism. We have already begun to witness the impact of the investment and promotion from last year. The taxi-men and restaurants are testimony to this and for this we are all grateful.
Thirdly, the Government is working closely with a local bank that has been able to give the necessary support to propel the Cosmetology Centre at New River forward. By December 2013, it is anticipated that 100 new jobs will be created there and additional revenues will be created in the form of fees and accommodation charges.
Fourthly, the present investment in construction continues. Early in February, the Four Seasons Resort Estates will be employing an additional 100 persons, Hardtman’s Project will be expanding and the Water Services $30 million project of reservoirs will be on stream.
Construction and pipe laying will be fully operational. We also anticipate that the Fisheries and the Social Security Projects will follow shortly.
5. Later in 2013 the Brown Hill road, roads in Butlers, Jessups and Charlestown will be repaired or re-constructed and the Housing Corporation will continue its home development around Nevis.
In the medium term, or during the next two (2) years, the Geothermal Project will be completed. After several hiccups, my Government is confident that we will take it forward. In December, EX-IM Bank initiated a call with me to confirm its interest. The Fuel Storage Project creating some 300 jobs during the construction phase and some 200 permanent jobs will move forward.
In the third phase of growth we shall focus on developing or completing hotels at Indian Castle, Herbert’s Beach and Pinney’s Estate.
What I have outlined to you is a plan of growth via the route of Diversification.
For too long we have depended only on the Four Seasons Hotel. It is obvious that the time for change is now. We must delay no longer. What is clear here is that this NRP Government has thought out the concept, has held discussions in many forums, has developed the plan and is engaged, and supportive of investors local and foreign to implement this plan in the next 5 years.
If we speak with confidence, it is because we believe we have earned your trust with our performance. For the past 6 years we have delivered a steady supply of electricity, good roads, an outstanding water supply, the expansion of the Tourism Sector and the Brown Hill Communications Center.
If we speak with confidence it is because you have worked with us to reduce crime and to ensure Nevisians are working.
If we speak with confidence, it is because through community programmes and the construction of strategically placed community centres, we have brought back to our people, the sense of ownership and community.
If we speak with confidence it is because we in this Government ensured that there is one set of laws for all workers at the Four Seasons and that our people for the first time are assured serious consideration for training and promotion at the Four Seasons.
If we speak with confidence, you know that under the NRP, your child will be trained for work, your child will get the opportunity to be trained at the University of the West Indies, the University of the Virgin Islands, the USA, Cuba, Canada or the United Kingdom. What a great opportunity it is for our young people, when people who care for them and our community are in Government.
If we speak with confidence, we do so for many of our young people will soon return home trained in the field of Education, Medicine, Technology, Geothermal, Electricity, Law, Architecture, Finance and management, every field that is required by a developing country.
If we speak with confidence, we know that every man and woman on Nevis know that this Government has saved so many lives in spite of its financial challenges. So many persons would not have been with us today if we had not made those arrangements with Cuba and Panama.
If we speak with confidence we do so knowing that every Nevisian knows that we have paid for the Dialysis Unit. May I state that Unit will be capable of treating patients simultaneously and for the first time Nevisians by the end of March, can come home with the assurance that service is in place. That additionally, early in the New Year we will have our own Urological centre.
We have made tremendous strides in 6 years. The face of Nevis is changing for the better. We know it. Our visitors and returning nationals express it. Let us thank God for it. And as we move into the New Year, let us remember how these things happened and when they happened. A book must have an Author, a poem must have a Poet and to grow a progressive island, Nevis has the Nevis Reformation Party.
We approach the New Year with hope and confidence. We are aware of the challenges and we know what we must do. Today, I present to you the outline of a plan. A plan that is practical and do-able, a plan that is already in its early stages of implementation. The successes of the last 6 years must be secured. Must be consolidated. We can do this only by ensuring continuity in Government. We are aware of the unsettling controversies of 2012. Let us put that behind us, however, before we continue the development of Nevis we must attend to some business. We must come to you for a renewed mandate. We ask you to judge us on our performance, judge us on the basis that we care and we love our people.
We have little time to waste for there is much work to do. Be ready, for the Nevis Election is upon us and we must do what we have to do in order for Nevis to stay safe in the hands of those who call Nevis home.
It is with a sense of pride in our beloved Nevis and especially you the people of Nevis that on behalf of the Cabinet of Nevis, the Government of Nevis, my wife and family, I wish all Nevisians a Happy New Year and may we together as a people continue the hard work of developing our country in peace and harmony for 2013 and beyond.
Thank you and may God bless us all.