BASSETERRE: Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis and Minister of Finance, Dr. Timothy Harris, says that despite the dual-island nation’s relatively small size compared to other countries, it is poised to be among the best performing economies in the region.
“For 2016, St. Kitts & Nevis is projected again to be among the best performing countries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) member states,” said Dr. Harris last week at the National Consultation on the Economy. “While we are projecting a growth rate of 3 per cent, countries such as the USA and Canada are recording growth rates in 2016 of 2.2 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively. The ECCU as a whole is projecting a growth rate well under 3 per cent. There is no doubt that St. Kitts & Nevis is moving in the right direction.”
However, Harris said there is more to be done in order to bring about a better quality of life, higher paying jobs and more entrepreneurial opportunities for young people in St. Kitts & Nevis who want to see progress in their lives.
“We know there are many young people who want to make it on the straight and narrow way, and who want to make it by fair and honest means,” he said. “That is why we introduced the FRESH Start loan program to provide affordable financing to SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises). During the course of this quarter, we expect that a further $30 million will be raised by the Development Bank to continue the program. This will be the largest tranche of support ever targeted to SMEs at any period.”
Harris said it is imperative to develop a buffer that gives resilience and sustainability. Equally important, he said, is the ability to invest in “key sectors that have a transformative impact on the quality of lives of residents, citizens and businesses”.
This year’s National Consultation on the Economy of St. Kitts & Nevis, focused on listening to input from several social and economic partners from the public and private sector and civil society. Harris cited the need for inclusiveness while discussing the format of this year’s discussions which were held under the theme “Working Together – Accelerating Growth and Building Resilience”.
“We are doing things differently this year in order to reflect our belief in participatory government,” he said. “We want to increase the level of input that our key stakeholders have in driving the prosperity of the Federation. We value your views and we are also keen to hear about how, through partnership and innovation, we can make the best of our limited financial resources in order to achieve the greatest impact.”