National Economic Growth Forum aimed at identifying roadmap for sustainable growth and development
BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, FEBRUARY 24TH 2011 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis has made great strides towards the growth and development of the domestic economy and the records show that prior to 2009, the twin-island Federation experienced positive growth rates for five consecutive years, with an average growth of 4.8 percent.
But Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas although the official growth performance numbers are not yet out for 2010, it is anticipated that the real GDP growth rate would be in the region of -1.2 percent.
“Although it is a clear improvement over the 2009 performance, this is still not satisfactory for propelling this great nation forward and upward to reach our goal,” Prime Minister Douglas told nearly 300 participants drawn from the private and public sectors at a one day National Economic Growth Forum at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and Royal Beach Casino.
“The main drivers of growth were identified as tourism, construction, wholesale and retail, manufacturing, and banking and insurance. He noted that a new opportunity was forged with the closure of the sugar industry which dominated the landscape of the Federation physically, economically and socially for over three hundred (300) years.
“The closure of this important industry ignited an intense and comprehensive national response. At the very heart of the National Adaptation Strategy the issues of accelerating and sustaining growth was identified as vital to our survival in an ever changing global environment. Recognizing the importance of all sectors to the continued advancement of our country a multi-sectoral approach has been adopted in the implementation of the National Adaptation Strategy,” said Dr. Douglas, pointing out that his Government is actively pursuing initiatives to support developments in the areas of Agricultural, Tourism, Manufacturing, Financial Services and, Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
“We believe that these five pillars can contribute to the transformation of the economy through the creation of new business opportunities, job creation, increasing competitiveness, increasing foreign exchange earnings, increasing savings, and wealth creation,” Dr. Douglas told participants.
He pointed out that the years preceding and following the closure of the sugar industry has been marked by substantial investment to ensure the improvement of institutional and human capacity, and the upgrade of economic infrastructure to smooth the progress of future growth and development.
“With the assistance of our development partners numerous initiatives have been undertaken over the past four years to strengthen the macroeconomic framework, update the legal and regulatory framework and modernize the public sector. For example, my Government has been supported by the European Union with the implementation of the Institutional Strengthening for Social and Economic Development (ISSED) Programme which focused on the enhancement of capacity to guide social and economic transformation by undertaking assessments in the areas of social protection, community empowerment, skills development and training, capacity building and private sector development which are all crucial in this post sugar era,” he said.
He added that significant work has been accomplished in respect of Public Financial Management and Fiscal Reforms. “The tax reform aspects such as moving to a market base for property tax valuations and the introduction of the Value Added Tax in November 2010 represents only a part of the wider body of work undertaken by the Ministry of Finance in recent past,” said the Prime Minister.
He noted that as part of his Government’s commitment to put the fiscal house in order “we have been working consistently on improving the management of the public debt through the establishment of a dedicated Debt Management Unit and a credible Debt Management Strategy which is currently being refined with the assistance of international experts.”
“Further, over the past year staff from the Statistics Department worked diligently with the ECCB to complete an important exercise to rebase the series of national accounts from 1999 to 2009. As you are aware Gross National Product is the main indicator used to measure economic growth in the Federation. The national accounts therefore constitute an important element of the overall macroeconomic framework of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Dr. Douglas, who added that it provides critical information to guide policy formulation and analysis of the performance of the various sectors that make up the economy.
The new base year increases the accuracy, reliability and relevance of the GDP estimates. Copies of the publication “2009 National Accounts Statistics” is now being circulated by the Statistics Department, Ministry of Sustainable Development. “The quality of our statistics such as GDP estimates are in large measure due to the willingness of the private entities to provide accurate data when requested,” said the Prime Minister.
He said the Forum is a good sign and a good place to start to build consensus that dialogue is a part of the process of building a strong economy, an essential ingredient in successfully identifying, designing, implementing and managing the roadmap for sustainable growth and development.
“Some may say that an event like this is overdue and although I am tempted to agree with that statement, I prefer to dwell on the rich opportunities this event can yield in terms of consolidating, deepening and exploiting the untapped potential for growth and development of this twin island Federation, St. Kitts and Nevis,” said the Prime Minister, who share his viewpoint that while the focus of the deliberations is economic growth “we must not lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal in all of our endeavours is really economic development.
“Development which results in greater choices, improved self esteem and increased living standards for all citizens of this fair land. By extension, maintaining freedom and civil liberties, the creation of more opportunities for education, healthcare and environmental conservation are important markers of true development. My esteemed colleagues, development partners, young people, business leaders, public servants, these are the reasons why we must have this dialogue. I can assure you that this Administration shares the perspective that the private sector must be the primary source of growth,” said Dr. Douglas as he expressed his Government commitment to performing the role of facilitation, regulation and protection.
“The only way we can accomplish our goal is by working together,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.