By Everson W. Hull
St. Kitts and Nevis is solidifying its place as an economic and financial leader in the CARICOM region and is well poised for advancing to the next higher stage of its development. Despite the protracted recent economic slowdown, St. Kitts and Nevis stands close to the head of the regional class with respect to overall economic growth, exports and net inflows of foreign direct investment. The country suffered a major setback because of the mis-management and abuse of its Citizens by Investment (CBI) program and the associated black-listing by the European Commission as an “Uncooperative” tax jurisdiction.
As an Associate Member of CARICOM, Bermuda is unique among the regional body’s members and affiliates. Central Intelligence Agency data shows that, at (U.S.) $86,000, its per capita income is ranked as the fifth highest in the world. Its per capita income is 62 percent higher than that of the U.S.A., which stands at (U.S.) $52,980. The only countries with a higher per capita income are Qatar, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Macau.
More than 70,000 persons dwell on its 19 square miles. In part because of its small size and high income earning capacity, Bermudians travel extensively. Being British, they are passionate about the games of cricket and football. Each year, large groups travel abroad and unload a portion of their surplus income and wealth, in places like the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Because it remains a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom, there are no embassies on the Island of Bermuda. Instead, there are a number of diplomatic consulates which handle minor diplomatic issues, facilitate trading and commercial relationships, and provide assistance to migrants, tourists, and expatriates. Only one CARICOM country — Jamaica — is listed among Bermuda’s 19 consulates. The countries which now have consulates in Bermuda are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Luxemburg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S.A.
As in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, the fiscal difficulties of its own coalition government have been compounded by the inclusion of Bermuda among the list of 30 countries that are deemed, by the European Commission (the “EC”), to be “uncooperative” jurisdictions. As the Unity government has done, Bermuda has strongly denounced the wrongful EC claims and has taken deliberate steps to reverse the decision and restore the country’s good name.
Beginning in the late 1890s, there was a shortage of Bermudians willing to engage in manual labor; and many laborers were imported from St. Kitts and Nevis to work in building the Naval Dockyard. The Dockyard served as an important staging area for trans-Atlantic convoys in World Wars I and II. It is estimated that the descendants of those who emigrated from St. Kitts and Nevis to work in the dockyard account today for an estimated 60 percent of all Bermudians.
Today, there is no organized attempt to welcome SKN Bermudians to visit and participate in our social, cultural, and sporting events including the St. Kitts Music Festival, the Nevis Blues Festival and Culturama events. There is no St. Kitts-Nevis Bermuda Association that is dedicated to bridging the gap between Kittitian and Nevisian residents in Bermuda and those at home that is similar in construct and purpose to our Hearts and Hands Association of New York and St. Kitts and Nevis DC Associations, both deeply committed to giving back to our places of origin and strengthening the ties that bind us.
Notwithstanding, there are a few Kittitian and Nevisian residents in Bermuda who have tried in their own individual ways to sustain and motivate efforts to strengthen these ties. One leading advocate is a Kittitian Bermudian journalist, Christopher Famous, who writes a column for the Bermuda Sun. In his February 5, 2014 article titled,
“…. My [Kittitian] Family has invested in Bermuda for 120 years”,
In making a very persuasive case as to why persons of St. Kitts – Nevis ancestry should also invest in their place of origin, he wrote that,
“…My great grandfather had multiple farms and properties in Devonshire and Pembroke. Most of Parsons Road belongs to persons who originated from St Kitts…”
The proposed strengthening of our economic and financial ties to Bermuda signals our commitment to bridging the gap between Kittitians and Nevisians at home and abroad, while fostering the growth and development of stronger partnerships in the pursuit of the Nation’s Prosperity Agenda. Central to this mission objective is the establishment of diplomatic relations through the establishment of a Consulate for St. Kitts and Nevis in Bermuda. The proposed consulate provides an historic opportunity for advancing the cause of UNITY by fully embracing our brothers and sisters in Bermuda, for the first time, as partners in the development of St. Kitts and Nevis.