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Chamber representative addresses economic challenges in St.Kitts and Nevis; provides suggestions for recovery

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by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): How long will the economy need to recover pre-pandemic operations in light of the inflation issues and supply issues? 

WINN Media spoke to Mr Kevin Hope Executive Director of the St.Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce who said, “I think it is important to note that prior to the Russia- Ukraine War the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was predicting that St.Kitts and Nevis should return to its economic output levels as at 2019, around 2024-2025; so any protracted war or crisis in Europe can derail global economic recovery and by extension, this can have implications in the duration of which we’re likely to recover, so given we’re in 2022, one anticipates if conditions were to continue apace we should be back at the level we were.”

As it relates to goods availability and pricing, Hope said, consumers should expect an increase in the cost of goods and services in the following weeks and months.

“We are still working through the post-COVID-19 Pandemic in terms of the implications and we’ve seen the implications it already has had on inflation and also on supply constraints, especially given that the United States is our major trading partner; so we can anticipate that if both the post-COVID-19 impact and the implication of the Russia- Ukraine war, especially the effects it may have on higher prices, especially at the pump, because to date, I think the price of energy, the price of oil, in particular, has [gone] pass the hundred dollars per barrel since 2014; so if this continues, we anticipate high inflation and obviously that will [translate] to higher prices at the pump, in addition to the increase in the cost of imported goods for households and consumers in St. Kitts and Nevis and equally for private sector entities that will also sell those goods to consumers.”

The Executive Director of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce suggested that people seek alternative import markets within Latin America and the Caribbean or increase local production of goods and services. Mr Hope said that St. Kitts and Nevis has a number of trade agreements with Belize, Columbia and Mexico and suggested that the Federation deepen its trade relations with Guyana and the Dominican Republic. He explained that a number of these territories supply goods to the US markets, so tapping into these markets nearby before goods are shipped to the United States will help to cut costs.

In addition, Mr Hope emphasised the importance of Domestic Production, saying that the opportunities in Agriculture are great for the local economy.

“We have the opportunity of actually increasing our Domestic Production and I attended the Agriculture Annual Review and I am really confident that with an increased effort and support to the women and men in Agriculture and even the fisherfolk, we can potentially double our production and help to mitigate some of that impact of food prices at home.”

Over the course of the Pandemic which began in 2020, Hope said the economy of St. Kitts, Nevis fell by about 14.4 percent, and while going through the recovery stage, it is important for us to find ways and means to strengthen the economic sectors and industries in the Federation. He said, Agriculture is important and suggested a return of backyard gardening to assist with the issues of Food Security and high prices. 

Hope also suggested that we take advantage of the opportunities in the Manufacturing Sector.

“There are opportunities for us also in St. Kitts and Nevis, both in partnership with the Government and Private Sector to aggressively start to target the US and other countries to try to near-shore some of those industries, so there’s re-potential in us deepening our investment and opportunities in manufacturing.”

Hope also addressed the issue as it relates to the cost of finance and access to finance. He said this will take a collaborative effort between financial services, the banking sector and the Central Bank to keep costs of finance at a low level, so that an increase in credit to the small and micro enterprises, farmers and fisherfolk, with proper planning and support would generate more jobs in St. Kitts and Nevis and by extension, a greater impact on economic activity.

MAKANA FERRY SCHEDULE

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