My fellow Citizens and Residents, today we celebrate 38 years as an independent nation, under the theme “Adapt, Diversify, Recreate: Independence 38”. Indeed, we here in Nevis also celebrate the return of home rule after 100 years, giving us the right, through the Nevis Island Administration, to make our own laws (ordinances) for good governance and to chart our path to island development and self-reliance.
No doubt, the theme chosen for this 38th year of our independence is indicative of the challenging times that we are faced with, taking into consideration the global environmental crisis, the covid-19 pandemic and a local economy that is heavily dependent on tourism and other external influences.
Our already struggling tourist dependent economy has essentially been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. High unemployment, struggling businesses, disrupted education, high stress and high taxes are now of grave concern. Stimulus packages, though helpful, have fallen short to curtail the day-to-day struggles of so many.
As an independent nation, we must take definitive steps to rebuild our economy which, at this time, is closely linked to the management of the spread of COVID-19. As a result, our borders have been closed, we have endured lockdowns and quarantines, implemented virtual learning, complied with non-pharmaceutical protocols and rolled out a vaccination program.
As we implement and adapt to new procedures to combat COVID-19, new travel requirements, mask wearing, hand sanitizing, social distancing, vaccinating…..I am reminded of a quote attributed to Charles Darwin which states… it is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. I encourage everyone to accept the changes that are necessary for us to get through this COVID-19 Pandemic together.
We recognize that we are dealing with many changes and many uncertainties about the virus….. how long will it reside with us, how many more variants, approaches to treatment….. but we must take steps, amidst these changes and uncertainties to begin an economic recovery process for the benefit of our people.
In Nevis, we are fortunate to have a unique constitutional framework that gives us the right to make laws and policies, separate and apart from the Federal government……Let us be eager to explore the unknown and be proactive rather than reactive. Let us consider how we can pioneer new research studies to help protect all of our people against COVID-19. We are an independent nation and we must exercise independent thinking, for the benefit of our people. We were the first nation to implement the Citizenship By Investment Program, the first in the OECS to develop a Land Reform Programme, to explore Geothermal Energy ….so let us exercise our independent rights to explore new treatment methods for COVID-19, especially for those who cannot participate in the vaccination program because of medical, religious or other valid reasons.
COVID19 has taught us the importance of being self-reliant and it is imperative that we not only recover from the pandemic, but that we use this experience to build a more resilient economy. Resilient not only to the impacts of COVID-19 and future pandemics, but also resilient to the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and external financial shocks.
The need for a diversified economy has never been so greatly manifested than during this COVID19 Pandemic. As an independent nation, we must take bold steps and explore new frontiers to build a resilient economy and provide a better standard of living for our people. Unfortunately, without the requisite diversity, innovation and new development in recent times, the economy in Nevis has fallen flat
Today, as it was some 50 years ago, self-determination is still one of the hallmarks of the Nevis Reformation Party…. along with Inclusivity and Integrity and Innovation.
Cognizant that the current economic model in Nevis is not sustainable, and cognizant of the limitations imposed by COVID19, we, the people of Nevis must be resolute to pursue a new economic model and move away from the current status quo. We must be innovative and find ways to recreate the prosperity, the self-determination and the sense of pride that we once had.
The agricultural sector provides a wealth of opportunities for repurposing agricultural produce, developing medical treatments and creating new tax revenues from the exportation of goods. The conservation and protection of our natural resources are essential for providing goods and services and can be enhanced to generate more indirect services and job opportunities as well. We must build a new economy in Nevis, capitalizing on the natural, intellectual and cultural resources that we have been blessed with.
As an independent nation, the education of our children is critical to the future development of our country. In the short term we need to implement tutorial programmes and improve internet connectivity and teaching aids to help minimize learning losses during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ultimately, we must build our educational capacity to provide blended models of education. This will help our students become more comfortable operating in the digital era, be able to switch easily between face-to-face and remote learning and face less disruption in the event of future pandemics or adverse weather events such as hurricanes and flooding when schools may be forced to close. Additionally, our school curriculum must reflect the educational frameworks that are required to be successful in the 21st century and beyond.
Our development strategies must be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address poverty and hunger, to achieve inclusivity and equality and to build resilience to the impacts of pandemics, climate change and other natural and manmade disasters.
Our efforts must be purposeful and must provide an innovative platform upon which future generations can build. As we strive for the achievement of Peace, Progress and Prosperity, for our country, we must embrace our diversity, respect each other and have faith in God.
I wish a Happy Independence Day to all who call St. Kitts and Nevis home.
May God continue to bless us all.