My fellow Citizens and Residents, today we celebrate our 39th year as an independent nation, under the theme “Refocus, Re-create, Redesign: Independence 39”. To me this means that now is the time for us to reassess, develop new ideas and chart a new course for the development of our country.
Independence is a desired status, after a certain level of maturity is attained. Closely aligned with independence are words such as self-determination, self-reliance, responsibility and freedom. Countries across the globe, therefore, including St. Kitts and Nevis, celebrate their independence in grand style each year.
In November 2021, Barbados took the final step to full independence when it became the Republic of Barbados; on that date the role of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as head of state was transferred to President Sandra Mason of Barbados.
I take a moment here to express my deepest condolences to the royal family, on the passing of Queen Elizabeth the second who died on September 08, 2022. At the time of her passing she was still the head of state of St. Kitts and Nevis and as we mourn the passing of our queen. She will be remembered by many as soft spoken, compassionate and caring. Notably, the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth the second takes place today, September 19, the anniversary date of our country’s independence.
On September 19, 1983, when our country became independent, the people of Nevis rejoiced, because, enshrined in our constitution, is Section 102 that returned home rule to Nevis after 100 years. The Nevis Island Administration and the Nevis Island Assembly were established, and the newly established NRP-led NIA did not hesitate to exercise its exclusive powers to set Nevis on a path of self-determination, self -reliance and of course on a path to Peace, Progress and Prosperity.
We are aware that our constitution is not flawless. We have seen, in recent times, the Charlestown Accord being developed as an attempt to address concerns regarding unfair allocation of revenues and resources. Most recently, we are aware of a court ruling that has created much ambiguity and debate surrounding the legal status, and the level of independence that the NIA can enjoy under Section 102 of our constitution. Sentiments of mistrust, unfair treatment and devolution of powers should not be overlooked. We must refocus our efforts, both at the federal level and the NIA level, to strengthen our constitution in the interest of financial equity, political stability and harmonious relations among our people. Of course constitutional reform is not a new issue but it must be given priority attention at this time.
As we start our 39th year of independence with a new labour administration at the helm in the federal government, King Charles the third is our new head of state, marking the first change in our head of state since St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation. As changes occur around us, we must adjust ourselves so that we benefit from change rather than be consumed by it. During this, our 39th year of independence, the people of Nevis will have the opportunity to go to the polls to usher in a refreshing change to the NIA. Your NRP-led NIA, devoid of distractions and shenanigans, will bring into focus a clear path to achieve our goal of a more self-reliant and sustainable Nevis. We clearly understand that no man is an island and that there is a fundamental need to build and maintain progressive partnerships, especially with our sister island of St. Kitts and further afield to advance mutually beneficial objectives,
Today, we stand proud to celebrate our independence. Based on some global indicators, our country’s economy is performing well. We recognize however, that with very little Foreign Direct Investment into Nevis, and with heavy reliance on the federal government for budgetary support, Nevis has lost ground in its quest to be self-reliant. We recognize also that the CCM administration’s poor performance in creating employment opportunities, along with a high cost of living, with indiscriminate taxation schemes, is eroding the quality of life that our people once enjoyed.
We have witnessed the impacts that external shocks such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war has had on our economy. Nevis needs a new appeal for investors and new opportunities to provide a vibrant future for our youths. It is critically important at this juncture, that we begin to recreate our economy, especially around our natural resources such as mango, cannabis, hot springs, and heritage sites, with a focus to create employment opportunities for our people. We must invest in our people and in our small businesses to strengthen the economy and carefully manage our athletes and our ecosystems as natural resources upon which to expand and diversify our tourism product. Our social programs must be more responsive to struggling families and our health care services must be more resilient to weather conditions, meaning enhanced services must be available on Nevis rather than traveling across the waters to St. Kitts. Our education and training programs must be structured to support the industries that are being developed on island, whether it be technology related, climate related, sports related or food related, so that high level skills do not have to be routinely imported. We are resolute to develop a new economic model for Nevis on a sustainability framework.
As we strive to achieve a sustainable and self-reliant Nevis, may we respect and appreciate one another, may we respect and appreciate our natural resources and may we continue to have faith in God. As Nevis prospers and our country prospers, we can extend a hand to help others achieve their goal of sustainability and self-reliance.
I wish a Happy Independence Day to all who call St. Kitts and Nevis home.
May God continue to bless us all.