Fellow citizens, residents and visitors,
I greet you today with all of the promise and hope of the New Year. A new day has now dawned, a new year is upon us and a new chapter now begins.
This new year, like all others, brings with it renewed possibilities for ourselves, our family and friends, and our nation. Some may welcome it with religious solemnity and observances while others may choose to do so with family gatherings and merriment.
Each New Year provides a time for reflection and self-evaluation. We reflect on our successes and failures, on our mistakes and our achievements. We evaluate our performances, strengths and weaknesses over the past year. Equally, it is also a time when we open a blank page and take the opportunity to write a new chapter for ourselves, family and our country.
As Premier of our beautiful island paradise, it is my fervent hope that individually you will realize all of your dreams and aspirations in the year ahead. As a nation and as a people, I pray that 2022 will be the year of our recovery and resurgence. I trust that it will be filled with peace and prosperity, and that we will remain a united people with the common purpose of our national development.
Sadly, our protracted battle against COVID-19 is yet to end, our lives and livelihoods are still under threat, our daily routine and our way of life continue to be disrupted. The virus is constantly mutating, thus making it difficult to defeat.
For the better part of 2021, the world was beset with the Delta variant. Today it has again mutated and the Omicron variant is galloping around the world. If we are to prevail, as I am sure we will, all of the protocols, along with vaccination, must be brought to bear against this dreaded enemy.
This virus is relentless as it mutates, therefore we must be nimble and willing to quickly adjust if we are to stave off its effects.
We know that the development of our thriving nation has been built on the health, education and security of our people. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken these foundational building blocks at their core. Our health care and other frontline workers have been stretched to incredible limits, our healthcare system has been threatened and limitations on teacher-student time has resulted in what some experts are calling learning loss. If we are to regain the momentum of pre-COVID progress, we must all play our part.
I want to thank all who made significant sacrifices in the interest of our country over the past year of this COVID-19 pandemic – our frontline workers, security forces, teachers, farmers, fisher folk, public and private sector – whose collective efforts ensured that our country registered growth and is moving towards a sustained path of recovery and resurgence during this challenging period. We can all agree that 2021 was a remarkably challenging year. Each and every one of us has endured and sacrificed much.
I go further to make the clarion call for our young aspiring professionals to make healthcare a priority career choice. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that our health care system must be robust – equipped with the best human and technical resources in order to keep up with the ever-changing challenges of public health.
My government is committed to providing the necessary support to enhance the capacity of our healthcare resources. We need doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides, bio technicians, physical therapists, public health educators, emergency response personnel, mental health practitioners to be trained at the highest levels and to build on the stellar example set by our current health care providers, having the patriotic will to provide the quality care that our island and our nation deserves.
I encourage our leaders in education to persevere, to continue to be innovative and proactive in their field. The response to the unchartered challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarkable – from getting technology into the hands of students in need to enforcing health and safety protocols at schools.
Teachers, continue to avail yourselves of every opportunity to improve your methods, especially as it pertains to using technology as one of the most valuable teaching tools in these very uncertain times. Maximize classroom time and be sure to establish strong lines of communication with parents and guardians as you work together to secure quality education for our children.
Parents, please, now, more than ever, invest that time with your children advising, counselling and reinforcing material taught in school. Filling learning gaps is not just the responsibility of teachers, it is the responsibility of everyone.
On this day, I am thankful and proud of my government’s achievements over the past year. Though beset by a dreadful pandemic, we were able to keep all of our public servants gainfully employed, paid on time and in full, with an extra month’s salary in December.
We were able to limit the growth of the public debt – even in the face of declining revenue – while at the same time, servicing all of our debts and providing incentives to stimulate other sectors of the economy.
The approval of 266 new business licences and the incorporating of 46 local companies in 2021 gave clear evidence that there was confidence in the investment climate in Nevis and that local and international investors have taken notice.
We were able to attract yet another international bank to our shores, taking our number to three. These three banks have not only expanded and bolstered our financial industry, but they have also created much needed jobs for our people.
We started a film industry here in Nevis which has thus far seen the production of four feature films and even now is benefitting both Nevis and St. Kitts.
The year 2021 was the year of grand opening ceremonies and unprecedented infrastructural projects. 2022 promises to be just as exciting and perhaps even more.
– In 2021 we had the opening of the CCTV Command Centre and the Malcolm Guishard Recreational Park. In 2022, we will witness the opening of the Gingerland Secondary School TVET Centre and the new Alexandra Hospital Wing.
– In 2021, we acquired two PCR testing machines. In 2022, we will unveil a brand new CT scan machine.
– In 2021, we installed a water tank at Hamilton along with a water filtration system boasting our water supply. In 2022, we will commission a 250,000-gallon glass fused steel coat storage tank at the Pond Hill Reservoir.
– In 2021, we completed the TVET centre at the Gingerland Secondary School. In 2022 we will commence work at the Charlestown Secondary School with a much bigger TVET project.
– In 2021, we had ground breaking ceremonies at Mountain View Crescent, Sugar Mill Residence, Chimney View Residences, Bay View Residences and Cedar View Housing Phase 3. In 2022, we will commence construction of over 100 homes.
– In 2021 we purchased a brand new 3.6MW Wӓrtsilӓ
engine to stabilize our electricity supply. In 2022 we shall see our long-awaited dreams of geothermal energy realized.
Today, I give the commitment that my government will continue to be faithful to the prudent and transparent management of the affairs of Nevis. We will continue to give focused attention to the island’s physical and economic infrastructure including road repairs and the improvement and expansion of our water and electricity supply.
We will intensify our efforts in providing an education and health care system unequalled and unmatched in the region. We will encourage and create private capital investment in order to increase our citizenship by investment engagements and other construction activities. Enhanced efforts and commitment will be put into our housing projects, because we do understand that land and house ownership is a powerful pathway to the prosperity of our people. As part of our recovery, we will redouble our efforts in restoring our people’s livelihoods and expanding our safety nets.
I pledge to you today that in the year ahead, we will bring about a recognisable change in every part of our island. We will harness all of our efforts, talents and creativity in bringing about a new Nevis. We will engage all sectors of society – government, private, resident and civil – society in bringing about our recovery and resurgence. We will continue to listen attentively to your demands and, where we have fallen short, we will make up for our shortcomings by augmenting and, when necessary, amending our policies, programmes and projects.
As your humble servants, we will work with you in 2022 in making it a year of opportunity and prosperity.
We are cognisant that it will take some time for employment to rebound and business to fully recover. We are under no illusion that our economy will recover overnight. However, we are heartened that our restaurants and hotels have reopened, the cruise industry has returned and our flagship hotel, the Four Seasons Resort, is reporting a considerable uptick in reservations. Indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The sands of time have quickly fallen through the hour glass of 2021 and we recognize that brighter days now lie ahead. Regardless of the challenges we shall face in the future, each of us has the courage and fortitude to prevail. Each of us has the ability and capacity to be the change that we wish to see.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, let us recognize that every challenge is an opportunity for self-growth and development. Let our thoughts and actions be shared – cohesive and united. Let us invest, not only in ourselves – but also in the potential of others. Let us seek to assist those who are less fortunate – the sick, the infirm, the elderly, the indigent and the vulnerable. Let us in all that we do, consult with our omniscient God and ask Him to be our guide and protector through this untried year of 2022.
Brothers and sisters, we are not yet past this COVID-19 pandemic and we must remain vigilant. Even as a I speak we see numbers again rising. We must encourage each other to get vaccinated against this deadly virus. For those already vaccinated and who are eligible, we must encourage you to get boosted. In Nevis our vaccination rate remains lower than our sister St. Kitts and we must collectively put our shoulder to the wheel to correct this. I urge you to get to your nearest health centre and get vaccinated and to ensure that your children over 12 years old get vaccinated as well.
I urge us all to let 2022 be our year of hope. After the long dark night of COVID-19, let 2022 be a new beginning for us. Let this new year be our renaissance, our rebirth, our regaining of lost momentum.
The government that I am privileged to lead is committed to you and will continue to stand with you. Our job is to serve you and to create an environment to make your lives easier and more meaningful.
But no government anywhere can achieve development on its own. Each and every member of our little island and country has to play his or her part. We must stamp out crime in high and low places, continue our steady march to better and more open governance, protect our natural environment and ensure that every boy and girl in this island and nation has the capacity to dream and the tools to realize those dreams.
I ask you today to join hand and hearts with me as we fight together to ensure that Nevis remains the Queen of the Caribes, and that St Kitts and Nevis remains a land of beauty where peace and prosperity abound.
As we start to write on this new page of 2022 therefore, I wish you God’s grace His mercy, His wisdom. May each and every one of you have a New Year that is filled with happiness, good health and success, and may God’s face continue to shine upon our beloved island and country.
Thank you and God bless you.