BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — West Independence Square, Basseterre, was a sea of humanity Monday Dec, 24 as the Team Unity Administration fulfilled a major election manifesto commitment, which signalled the country’s march towards attaining three of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Today I as the Prime Minister, and my entire team, come with love and compassion in our hearts to deliver glad tidings and good share on the eve of Christmas,” announced the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, at the launch of the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) at a ceremony chaired by Deputy Prime Minister the Hon Shawn Richards.
“We come not with mere words or a promissory note, but with thousands of cheques to deliver to all of the people who have qualified,” Dr. Harris said. “The commitment that we made in our inaugural manifesto was so important to us. As you flip [through] our manifesto document ‘Prosperity for All’ one of the things we highlight on the inner cover was this commitment to make $500 more available to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.”
Prime Minister Harris, supported by his Cabinet colleagues, Hon Eugene Hamilton, Hon Lindsay Grant, Hon Ian Patches Liburd, and Hon Wendy Phipps, said his government came to deliver cheques to qualifying persons. A similar event took place simultaneously at Memorial Square in Charlestown, Nevis, led by Premier the Hon Mark Brantley. Remarks in Nevis were also given by Minister of Social Development Hon Eric Evelyn, and Federal Senior Minister Hon Vance Amory.
“They like to talk about transparency,” Prime Minister Harris said. “What could be more transparent than what we are doing today, bringing thousands of people in the Square – distribute the cheques, let everybody see who is getting. The process has been a very good one and today what is happening here in Basseterre is also happening in Charlestown in Nevis to hundreds of people everywhere.”
Prime Minister Harris quoted scripture that is a favourite of his Cabinet colleague the Hon Eugene Hamilton, from John 3:17-18. The passage in New International Version says: ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?’
Prime Minister Harris posed how the love of God could be in a person who will only talk and do nothing. He said: “Today Team Unity comes to do something about poverty in St. Kitts and Nevis. The scripture goes on to say, ‘Dear children, let us not love with words of speech but with actions and in truth’.”
Over 4,000 persons in St. Kitts and Nevis, from households earning less than EC $3,000 per month, have qualified for the monthly payment of EC $500. The first payment was paid by cheque, but debit cards will be issued to all beneficiates and the money will be uploaded every month from January 2019 for use at designated vendors in the country, including paying electricity and water bills.
“This government has been fair to all of you,” Prime Minister Harris told the hundreds who had gathered at the West Independence Square. “So, we come today to fulfil our mandate. We have come today in keeping with the ‘fair share’ philosophy. Yes, we have come in keeping with goals outlined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals number one, number two and number 10. The goals say we must aim for ‘No Poverty’, ‘Zero Hunger’, and ‘Reduced Inequalities’.”
Opening remarks were given by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Service, et al, Mrs. Janelle Lewis-Tafari. The vote of thanks was delivered by Deputy Speaker, Senator Hon Akilah Byron-Nisbett. Demonstrative distribution of initial cheque payments were made to five beneficiaries from each of the eight constituencies on St. Kitts, after which general payments were made to all present according to their constituencies.
Cheque recipients were excited and appreciated when they received their $500 stipend.
“Everything is excellent and I feel good,” said retiree Cephas Manners, who said he planned to use the money to pay bills.
“I am very excited and thankful. I am going to shop for my family,” said Carlene Caines, another programme beneficiary. “I think it is something very good that they [the government] are doing for the country to help out everybody.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Beatrice Rose Greenaway, who said “this is wonderful. I have been supporting this thing for years.”
Another beneficiary Dion Hon, thanked Dr. Harris for the leadership he has shown and said, “The prime minister is ‘good people’ and I thank them [the government] very much.”
Mrs. Lewis-Tafari, said the funds were “not a hand-out but a hand-up.”
“Many of us here will know about how poverty affects us. For the older person who cannot afford medication, instead of taking medication every day, they decide I will take on Monday, skip Tuesday, take Wednesday, and so forth. In the poor household where the children don’t get enough to eat, they have to decide, well I can’t go to school because I have a hungry tummy.”