The essence of politics is to seek an improvement in what we found. It is a peaceful process of seeking to make change. Politics should not be consumed with the fighting of wars as there are never winners but all losers.
Today, our world is facing serious political challenges. In France, President Macron, young and bright, was the great one who would turn France around. Recently, security forces of that country fired tear gas and flash-balls after a march through a picturesque central Paris. The country’s national landscape went from peaceful to provocative, as several thousand protesters staged the yellow vest movement’s first action of 2019 to keep up pressure on President Emmanuel Macron.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada is facing a deepening political crisis over allegations his government tried to interfere in a criminal court case.
In Britain, since the vote to leave the European Union in 2016, Brexit has set the vague but justified grievances of millions of voters who voted Leave against the unfeeling reality of international law and frictionless supply chains. The government, led by Prime Minister May and the 650 members of the House of Commons, has had the miserable task of mediating between those forces.
I look around my country St Kitts and Nevis from my vantage point. I notice how as a people, though small, we too face big island issues.
Our region struggles with the metrics of GDP, foreign exchange demands, feeding our children, housing our families and dispensing needed healthcare for our elderly. Any living and breathing organisation must have leadership. Our country and region faced and continues to face serious development challenges. Despite this reality, St Kitts and Nevis is forging ahead.
The twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago offers an ideal comparison. They are both members of CARICOM. Trinidad and Tobago’s population of over 1.2 million makes it 24 times larger than our own. The twin island republic has produced world class academics, is home of the regional university, and was among the first to become independent in the region. It would have earned a lot of foreign exchange during the period of the oil boom while its neighbours paid a premium price for fossil fuels.
Despite this advantage, they faced mounting pressures following weak growth in 2018 and two years of recession before that. Growth in Trinidad and Tobago will be modest in 2019 due to growth in the energy sector. St Kitts and Nevis, on the other hand, has recorded successive years of growth without an energy sector.
What is it about St Kitts and Nevis’ recent success that sets it apart from Trinidad, an oil rich country with a wealth of human capital? The reality of the difference lies in the fact that while Trinidad was blessed with a natural resource, St Kitts and Nevis has no store of oil, no natural gas, no pitch lake, no abundance of human capital. However, St Kitts and Nevis has an ambitious population and an amazing leadership. Hence, St Kitts and Nevis, when located on the spectrum of development options, must therefore be innovative and its leadership bold.
Why would a small country like St Kitts and Nevis with a small population face such challenges and overcome them so successfully? Since 2015, St Kitts and Nevis negotiated the landmines of the financial crisis and managed to pay off the IMF loan of some $117 million dollars, thereby affording the IMF leave of the twin island federation. The country managed to restore the GDP debt ratio to international standards and place the country on a growth path while investing in the tourism sector. The country is recording growth rates which are above those of its regional counterparts.
St Kitts and Nevis has delivered on reducing cost to consumers via the removal of VAT and has still met its revenue targets. The ability to reduce the cost of living is quite an achievement.
It should be noted the country’s unfortunate ‘visa revoke’ with the Canadians brought shame on our small island. But I am happy to see that all is not lost with the Canadian authorities. The ability to attract the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) to invest in the tourism infrastructure is laudable.
The efforts of my country are NOT touted enough. St Kitts and Nevis is not used as a model country where correct choices by a determined government and a committed people can cause the country to emerge from the ashes.
Equally important was the effort to restore the Citizens by Investment Programme (CIP) where the image of the entire nation came under the microscope. The attention and investment through the upgrade of hospitals and the opening of additional dental facilities augur well for our twin nation. St Kitts and Nevis’ emphasis on the improvement in infrastructure development demonstrates an understanding of the important role access means to the future agenda of small island states.
The Harris–led Team Unity must have a formula that is working; why not share it with the rest of the region? I want to implore the government to find a way to share the formula for steering and managing a people through times of turbulence. St Kitts and Nevis has done well, let’s not keep it a secret.
V. Harris is a Caribbean citizen passionate about the region’s development.