Fellow citizens, residents, and visitors,
As we lower the curtains on 2020, I bring warmest greetings and good wishes for 2021. 2020 is behind us with all of its memories and challenges its successes and failures.
At this time of the year, many of us adopt New Year resolutions in anticipation of the challenges that lie ahead. Equally, the genesis of the year affords us the opportunity to recalibrate and recommit ourselves to working for a brighter and better future for ourselves, our families, our community and our nation.
The year gone by can be summed up in one expression – COVID-19. It can be defined as challenging, unpredictable and unique. Indeed, it was the winter of our discontent. The virus proved to be, not only a pandemic and public health crisis, but also an economic crisis on a global scale. Due to the restrictions imposed in March of 2020, when the virus began to spread around the world, international travel came to a screeching halt. This resulted in massive hotel booking cancellations and temporary closure of hotels and restaurants. We were not spared the resulting horrors. Economies such ours, with tourism as their mainstay, were ravaged. No country was spared the onslaught of COVID-19; regardless of its size and might, it was brought to its knees by the coronavirus.
Throughout 2020, the virus challenged families, communities, health care systems and governments in an extraordinary way. Our vulnerabilities as a nation were exposed when the planes stopped landing, supply chains slowed down and the possibility of an outbreak loomed at our shores. Equally troubling was the anxiety about unemployment and the ability of our health care system to respond to an outbreak. Our people were faced with the harsh realities of unemployment and overdue mortgage, rent and vehicle payments.
Your government did not sit idly by but, with a sense of urgency and swiftness, responded meaningfully, in that:
– Through Social Security, we offered a stimulus package of $1,000.00 per month for those hardest hit with unemployment
– The Nevis Island Administration offered a stimulus package of $1,000.00 to all students studying abroad and unable to return home
– An amnesty on all work permits and residencies was offered to ease the burden experienced by employers and non-nationals
– The unincorporated business tax was reduced
– Payments of electricity and water bills were waived, and
– A waiver of fees on alien holding licences was offered
– Unprecedented assistance was given to our farmers and fishers
– We provided masks to every household, church and school on Nevis.
Fellow citizens, the virus is still with us. I therefore urge all of our citizens to have faith in God, who has proven His faithfulness time and again. I call our nation to an unprecedented period of prayer to match this unprecedented state of affairs. Let us pray that the Spirit of Almighty God will continue to saturate every rank of Government and all of those in authority so that the rein of wisdom will bridle every compulsion to abandon integrity in the face of adversity, and that a steadfast spirit will harness every action towards greater good.
I can assure you, on this first day of the new year, that your government will leave no stones unturned or any chapters unread in our efforts to assist our citizens through this daunting period.
We must applaud and commend our people for the way in which they responded to the COVID crisis. When called upon, they acted with courage, discipline, poise and understanding. Responding to adversities is one of our strongest virtues – our national character. We have weathered many storms in the past and have always displayed extraordinary resilience and the ability to rebound.
We may have been knocked down and bruised on many occasions, but we have never tasted defeat and have always emerged victorious.
In spite of the seismic economic shock we experienced in 2020, we saw numerous gains on many fronts, as we continue to work together for the consolidation of a united, peaceful and prosperous Nevis.
In 2020 much to our delight, our island experienced a 37 percent decrease in our overall crime rate. We acquired two new ambulances at the same time at the Alexandra Hospital – a first in our island’s history. We witnessed the completion of the Brown Hill and Craddock roads, along with other secondary roads throughout the island. We saw the commissioning of the water treatment and filtration plant at Hamilton, which now provides us with an additional 300,000 gallons of water per day. We saw the commencement of the Technical and [Vocational] Education [and] Training (TVET) building at the Gingerland Secondary School. We witnessed the opening of the brand new state of the art $5.5 million Newcastle Police Station and Fire Unit. We saw the construction of 20 new affordable homes, including at the University Heights project. We experienced the unparalleled increase in farm and livestock produce by the Department of Agriculture. We witnessed the opening of the Yes to Success (YTS) Success Skills Training and Diversion Center at Pinney’s; and we saw the commencement of work at the $5.5 million Pinney’s Park Project.
Fellow citizens, when faced with the grim reality of the pandemic, your government remained steadfast and undaunted by the challenges imposed. Had it not been for our fiscal prudence and sensible common-sense approach to our economic affairs, we would have fared far worse. It was only through the strategic implementation of our sound economic policies that we were able to weather this terrible storm.
Equally, our achievements in 2020, in spite of our battered and ravaged economy, must also be attributed to the discipline, commitment and diligence of our people. I wish to congratulate all on your selfless efforts and sacrifices, both individually and collectively. The spirit of solidarity and self-sacrifice shown, when tested, was commendable and heartening.
On this New Year’s Day, I would like to thank everyone in our country – those in the villages and communities, government and civil society – for the work done in the past year, in ensuring that our country remained the success that it is. Special mention must be made of our front line workers, who provided hope in our moment of despair and, in our darkest hour, lit a candle. Our Covid-19 Task Force on Nevis led by Dr. Judy Nisbett will long be remembered for their sacrifice on behalf of us all.
Today, I also think of Nevisians who live abroad and of the many in the Diaspora who have their roots in Nevis. I am deeply moved by their loyalty and love of country. The Nevisian spirit is alive in them and continues to be part of their everyday life.
Last year, we would have learnt many lessons, chief among which was that our health is only as good as that of the person next to us. We were reminded of our shared efforts, our common humanity and our interdependence. Therefore, in the year ahead, let there be a renewed confidence in our collectiveness. Let the spirit of solidarity and self-sacrifice reign supreme. Let our “they” become “we” and our “them” become “us”. Let us continue to stand guard over the values which are dear to us and which remain the foundation of our society – values such as respect, compassion, kindness and love, which define us as Nevisians.
May 2021 be a transformative year for all of us. May it be a year in which we fan the flames of love, peace and harmony and put aside all animosity and acrimony. May we elevate our political discourse and interaction, and cast aside all political discord and gamesmanship. May we, in all of our doings, strive for common ground, mutual understanding and the narrowing of our differences.
In the new year and beyond, may we continue to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s helper.
I wish you a healthy and happy New Year and God’s continued grace, mercy and protection.