BASSETERRE: St. Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has called for a review of economic and financial policies.
Dr. Douglas called for the review while giving an address in his capacity as Minister of Finance at the 14th Annual National Consultation on the Economy, themed, “The Challenge of Fostering Growth Given the Conditions in the Global and Domestic Environments”. He said economic and financial policies that have not worked must be changed and new ones have to be introduced.
Douglas addressed the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to changes in the global economic and financial markets given the limited diversification of these economies, underdevelopment of capital markets, large current account deficits and high public sector debt.
“However, we must have faith that the solid economic and fiscal performance that we observed before the current (global economic) crises can be regained and the region must use this opportunity to build economies that are more resilient and competitive,” he said.
Douglas said it is imperative for St. Kitts & Nevis to examine its past and current economic status in order to develop a solid fiscal strategy for its future.
“It is therefore a backward gaze for the purpose of moving forward with purpose and alacrity,” he said. “When we look at how far we have travelled in our efforts at diversifying the economy away from dependence upon sugar, in improving compliance with our financial services regulations, tax reform, border security, fiscal consolidation and debt restructuring, we can conclude that it is truly amazing how much we are able to do with so little.”
Douglas said his government is examining the role that renewable energy will play in dealing with the high cost of energy.
“As you are aware, the geothermal project in Nevis is very much alive and that is expected to bring enormous relief in terms of cost for doing business and sustaining livelihoods,” he said. “We are also partnering with the Republic of China on Taiwan in the area of solar energy where the manufacturing of solar panels would be undertaken in our country. Again, this should have a positive impact on the cost of energy and will provide a great opportunity for our citizens to become trained and skilled in the area of green energy services.”
Douglas also stressed the importance of education in order to compete in the global economy.
“We must look at our ability to compete in the global environment as this is one of the fundamental considerations in seeking to enhance our growth potential. It is for this reason that the education of our youth and, indeed, the entire working population, will be centre stage in our budget deliberations.
“We must focus on the technical and vocational capacity in our education system, as well as our capability to build managers who can operate at the highest level in large corporations. I would also like to use this opportunity to encourage the private sector to invest in the youth of our country, to invest in your employees because your businesses stand to benefit greatly as productive employees make more profitable businesses,” he said.
Douglas said the status of the financial sector and the ability of the people to access financing is also critical to growth and development.
“We hear of excess liquidity in the banking system yet our people seem not to be able to access funding to construct homes and to finance new businesses,” said Douglas. “I would like to encourage financial institutions to be creative and innovative at this time in order that we can work together to take us past this hurdle of low growth.”