January 21, 2021

St K-N: PM Harris’ opening remarks on Leadership Matters for August 18th, 2020 – cruise ships will be allowed to visit

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Leadership Matters Opening Remarks by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis – Tuesday August 18th, 2020

As Prepared for Delivery
My fellow citizens and residents, thank you for tuning in to our
Federation’s most popular programme. I use this interactive
programme to account to you, the wonderful people of St. Kitts and
Nevis, on our progress in creating a stronger, safer future for you,
the people.

Over the past five (5) years, my Government worked hard to deliver
the best ever performance in fiscal management. We paid off the
$117 million IMF debt left behind by our predecessors. We
generated economic growth year on year. We had the highest per
capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the O.E.C.S and the 3rd
highest in the region. We had more persons contributing to Social
Security and more businesses created than ever before. Annual
wages and salaries reached the $1 billion mark for the first time in
history and tourist arrivals reached the one (1) million benchmark
two (2) years in a row. We were the magnet to which everyone
came.

Then on March 25th, we paused to deal with the reality that COVID-
19 was with us. No other leader in St. Kitts and Nevis or the region
or the world for that matter has ever dealt with a global pandemic
of the type we are now confronting. This pandemic has been
destabilizing the world, disrupting family lives and economies, and
overwhelming health systems with consequential loss of lives
everywhere.

The global situation regarding the pandemic is instructive. On
Monday, August 17th, 2020 at our meeting of CARICOM Heads,
CARPHA presented the following:

Comparison of confirmed COVID-19 Cases in the Caribbean
Including CARICOM Members as at August 14, 2020

St. Kitts and Nevis has been fortunate to have a competent, strong
and prudent leader for such a time like this. God has been with us.
We have the lowest number of COVID-19 cases among independent
states in the Caribbean, no active cases, no hospitalizations and no
deaths at this time. We thank God for this.

We continue the careful, thoughtful approach to reopen our
economy in a stepwise fashion, careful to move one step at a time
and learning from the experiences of others. We also learn from our
own experiences. We are implementing the largest and best
stimulus response in the region to contain the economic fallout of
the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.

We put more money into the hands of our people, ensuring that
they could keep their heads above water. We gave help to our
farmers, fishers, taximen, hotel workers, and businesses. Both
corporate and unincorporated businesses received significant tax
relief (24% and 50% tax reduction, respectively). We at the
Monetary Council encouraged the moratorium or suspension of
interest and principal payments on mortgages totaling $408 million,
and one thousand, nine hundred and nineteen (1,919) borrowers
benefited.

We have done all of this to date without borrowing one cent from
anyone — a stark contrast to 2011 when the bygone regime
mismanaged our country and borrowed $224 million from the IMF.

We are working hard to contain the recession — the worst in the
world in over one hundred (100) years — and we are doing
reasonably well.

One of our most challenging situations is what to do with our
borders. We have kept them closed since March, with special
permission required for anyone to enter or exit. This was done for
health reasons to prevent COVID-19 from overwhelming us, as well
as from killing our elder folks and our citizens and residents with
underlying conditions.

The Protocols

We have accepted that COVID-19 will be with us until a viable
vaccine is found. We have to learn to live with it. Hence, we have
stressed the following based on the science and experiences around
the world:

  1. Wearing of masks. No business or office should provide service
    to anyone not wearing a mask, and their employees too
    should wear masks while serving the public. The virus not only
    makes you ill, it can kill you.
  2. Observe social distancing.
  3. Practice hand hygiene – Frequently wash your hands
    thoroughly and practice good hygiene generally.

I thank our people for remembering to do these things all of the
time. I understand it is difficult and inconvenient, but we must
continue to try. Practice makes perfect.

Hotel and Tourism Sector

This week, we will continue the conversation on tourism and the
hotel industry and any other subjects relating to the economy, and
the herculean efforts of my Government to reopen St. Kitts and
Nevis carefully, avoiding the unnecessary health risk to you, my
beloved fellow citizens, residents and well-wishers, but at the same
time doing the delicate balance, because while man must not live by
bread alone, we recognize that he needs to earn his daily bread and
the state can only do so much for so long. What I can assure you is
that in making any decision to reopen any area of our country, I will
rely on the advice of our health experts on how we can do this with
minimal risk.

Lives come first. We need you to be healthy to pursue livelihoods.
Lives are indeed precious and without life there is no future.
You are aware that we plan to open our borders in October this
year. In the meantime, we are training over 5,000 workers in that
industry, reorganizing our airport, purchasing additional equipment,
developing apps to assist with contact tracing and preparing private
security firms to help with monitoring and surveillance of those in
quarantine, and allowing pre-approved private residences to be
used as quarantine sites following strict health protocols. In
summary, we are doing all we must do to prepare for that opening.

Truth is, we cannot keep the country on permanent lockdown.
Generating economic activity is critical to our survival, as is the
continuing fight against COVID-19. The Director-General of the
World Heath Organization (WHO) said in his latest address this
week, and I quote, “We live in a globalized economy and countries
are dependent on each other for goods and services, transportation
and supply. If we don’t get rid of the virus everywhere, we can’t
rebuild economies anywhere. The sooner we stop the pandemic,
the sooner we can ensure internationally inter-linked sectors like
travel, trade and tourism can truly recover.”

Docking of Cruise Ships

The visit of two (2) cruise ships to our shores originally planned for
Wednesday was carefully considered by the Cabinet over a two week
period. We looked at the pros and cons, and we sought the
input of the Task Force. They advised that it would be safe once
certain protocols were put in place. Our Task Force has never given
us any bad advice. They have been right on everything, for
example:
• the lockdown
• the opening of our beaches
• the wearing of masks
• the reopening of our factories and our early childhood centres
• reducing the curfew

I know we can and should trust their judgment and have faith that
God is with us.


Rationale for Allowing the Two Ships

My Government will continue to look at ways to generate economic
activities in a safe way with minimal risk of importation of the virus,
and we will continue to heed the advice of the health experts who
have guided us well thus far as we slowly open back up our
economy.

The Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the Ministry of Tourism
shared a great relationship prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which
resulted in record cruise passenger arrivals to the Federation from
2015 to 2019. Taxi operators, restaurants and craft vendors, to
name a few, enjoyed benefits. We will continue this great
relationship and see a revitalization of our cruise industry post
COVID-19.

They have reached out to us requesting safe harbouring of two (2)
vessels, the Rhapsody of the Seas and Vision of the Seas. Their
arrival will not make a significant impact now, but in the medium
term we will benefit.

The Rhapsody of the Seas was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday,
August 19th at 8:00am with 79 crew members, and the Vision of the
Seas on August 24th.

The arrival of the Rhapsody of the Seas on Wednesday 19th has
been delayed as the health team continues to ensure that all the
requirements are fulfilled before permission for entry is granted.

We have repeatedly said that we cannot keep the country on
lockdown forever and any attempt at reopening will come with some
risks, but we will attempt always to open safely with the least
amount of risk of importation of the virus.

These vessels have been at sea for some time with only crew
members.

I am advised by our experts that the risk associated with the
granting of this request is very low for the following reasons:

The crews of these vessels were all required to have a
negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test before boarding from their
home countries.

They were quarantined on the ship under the supervision of
the ship’s doctor for fourteen (14) days before assuming duties
and physically interacting with the rest of the crew.


All the health records of all crew members will be reviewed by
our health officials before they are allowed into our shores.They will be tested with the gold standard RT-PCR COVID-19
test upon docking in our port. This is compulsory.

They will all be quarantined onboard the ship for a minimum of
fourteen (14) days after arriving in our port. Again, this is a
standard safeguard to protect you, my people. I mean it when

I said from the very beginning that your safety and security
and that of our beloved country of St. Kitts and Nevis is my
main priority. Your welfare, your progress and your concerns
are always on my mind.

They will all be re-tested at the end of fourteen (14) days and
only released from quarantine if they all test negative –
another standard protocol.

Security will be in place at the port to enforce quarantine.

It is only after the return of a negative RT-PCR test on both
day one (1) and day fourteen (14) that they will be allowed to
disembark the vessels for shore excursions.

After they receive a negative test on day fourteen (14), it will
be safe for them to move around. This is similar to the
protocols used for the safe repatriation of one hundred and
twenty-four (124) international students studying at Ross
University School of Veterinary Medicine
and all of our
nationals and residents who returned home thus far.

The 14-day compulsory quarantine and testing is the protocol with
the least risk of importation of the virus and the one that has kept
us safe thus far. We will continue to seek the advice of our health
experts in our quest to reopen our economy and plan for a life with
the new norms of COVID-19.

Let us not be consumed by fear or misinformation, and let us
continue to trust our health experts whose advice is based on
science, the knowledge of COVID-19 and the recommendations of
reputable institutions like the World Health Organization, the Pan
American Health Organization and the Caribbean Public Health
Agency.

Leadership matters, and as your leader I pledge to continue to
guide us safely through these turbulent times. Together with the
support of all of society we will continue to see success.

Congratulations

I am delighted tonight to congratulate a young, talented student
from Main Street, Tabernacle for producing the winning theme for
our 2020 Independence. Her name is Destiny Morris and her
winning entry reads: “Resilience, Innovation and Security for
Independence 2020”.

While I am congratulating Destiny Morris, I am reminded to
congratulate a number of young and mature students who are
starting or continuing tertiary level studies, undergraduate and
post-graduate studies at various universities around the world. A
preliminary assessment by the Government’s Human Resource
Department revealed that nearly two hundred (200) nationals are to
benefit from Government’s sponsorship, financial grants and other
supports for the financial year 2020/2021. These students will
pursue studies on campus or online in a range of areas of national
interest.

An estimated cost of around $3.5 million will be borne by the
Government Treasury. This is a substantial amount and it is in
addition to significant unbudgeted expenditure to provide a stipend
to our students abroad and to return many of them home from
Cuba and Jamaica.

The Panelists

Speaking about Nation building, I could not have excelled without
the helpfulness and support of our Deputy Prime Minister, Hon.
Shawn Richards.

As part of its 2020 Budget allocation, my Government committed to
the buildout of significant capital projects including roads,
multipurpose community centres, traffic lights, the second cruise
pier, etc.

Between the Government and SCASPA, approximately $276 million
worth of projects are at various stages of implementation. H. E.
Ambassador Ian Liburd presided over the most expansive and
expensive public sector project in history.

I thank Deputy Prime Minister Richards for joining me, and he will
no doubt update you on our capital projects, which are creating jobs
and incomes for many people, improving our social and economic
infrastructure and making life better for us all.

One of our career Civil Servants, Mr. Edward Gift, Comptroller of
Inland Revenue is here with us. Last year, his Department collected
over $266 million in revenue, which helped us to pay our bills,
improve the delivery of services, pay double salary and much more
without borrowing one cent. I thank Mr. Gift and his staff for their
work.

Working Together in Unity, St. Kitts and Nevis will always do better.

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