The public and private sectors and civil society convened at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort on Tuesday to discuss the growth and transformation of the digital economy and its positive impact on business and society at the 2019 National Consultation on the Economy.
The government’s programmes, policies and new strategies were discussed along with ways to boost efficiencies, drive innovation, and develop creative solutions across multiple sectors.
“Government’s policies and continuous improvements in the provision of digitally-based services, the right legislative framework, and other elements can be used in combination to create a rich environment for the private sector to drive a vibrant digital economy,” Financial Secretary Hilary Hazel said, highlighting how all have benefited from digitally-based services used by government, banks and other institutions.
“We hope that the presentations today will assist us to think through the challenges and inspire creative solutions and, most importantly, inspire us to take action when we return to our various roles in business and in government,” she added, saying continuous growth in technology requires industry leaders to “update and recalibrate our approach to digital transformation in both the public and private sectors.”
The agenda featured two main presentations: “Government of St. Kitts and Nevis – Digital Strategy” presented by Roger Hennis, Senior Manager/Consulting and Advisory Services, Deloitte, and “Perspectives on the St. Kitts and Nevis Digital Economy.”
Panelists included Timothy Antoine, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank; Patricia Walters, CEO of The Cable; David Lake, General Manager of FLOW; Alex Straun, CEO of Genesis Innovation Management Inc, and Opehlia Blanchard, Coordinator of the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis’ Department of Technology.
“In 2016, the Federation was honoured for outstanding improvements in ICT development at the 14th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium,” Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris said. “The outstanding performance of the Federation is also recorded in the most recent publication of the ICT Development Index compiled in 2017, which ranked St. Kitts and Nevis 37th among one hundred and seventy-six (176) countries, placing the Federation first in Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States and second in the Caribbean to Barbados which ranked 34th. The smallest democratic Country in the world, St. Kitts and Nevis outperformed some 139 countries in the world. Something good is happening in St. Kitts and Nevis. The best is yet to come.”
St. Kitts and Nevis Records Economic Growth and Surpluses for Fifth Straight Year
Prime Minister Harris used forum to inform industry leaders and representatives of civic society that St. Kitts and Nevis’ economy is projected to record robust growth of 3.7 percent for 2019.
“For the 5th year in a row, we are having economic growth. The economic growth for 2019, I am advised, will be driven by construction services, the distributive trade, tourism, transportation and communication, financial services and Government action. I am advised that the Transport, Storage and Communications Services Sector contributes about 15 percent to our GDP, and that sector will grow by 5.3 percent in 2019,” said Prime Minister Harris, who is also the Minister of Finance.
Dr. Harris added the administration had achieved surpluses on the recurrent, overall and primary accounts.
“These three indicators are the main indicators that are used globally to evaluate the performance of a country, and on each of them for the fifth year in a row St. Kitts and Nevis is in surplus. For the period so far, I am advised by the Financial Secretary that our surpluses on the Overall and Primary Balances Account are 40 percent and 35 percent higher than they were this time last year,” he said.
PM: Societal Approach Needed to Sustain Economic Growth
“We acknowledge that the government alone, civil society alone, industry alone will not be able to deliver the stronger, safer and better economy that St. Kitts and Nevis needs to preserve, to protect and to expand upon,” the prime minister said as he addressed the national consultation at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.
“That is why these consultations are important because they allow us to reinforce our commitment to work together. So we hail our government officers, the civic society, our diplomatic allies and our regional and international partners and advisors, and [it is also] why we have continued consultations even after we had the Growth Forum series, which we inaugurated last year coming out of consultations with the Chamber [of Industry and Commerce].”
Mr. Faron Lawrence, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, while delivering his remarks, commented on the strong relationship that exists between the private and public sector, symbolized today by the Chamber’s active participation in the National Consultation, and noted the Chamber appreciates and places “high value on the working relationship that exists between the public and private sectors” and that “this relationship is based on mutual respect, honesty, openness and a strong and genuine desire to see our country prosper.”
“The Chamber and the government appreciates that it is to our mutual benefit and indeed to that of our beloved country that we continue to strengthen that relationship with regular consultations and communication,” the Chamber President said.
ECCB Governor Praises Debt-to-GDP Milestone, Encourages Government to Protect Gains
The Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Mr. Timothy Antoine, used his presentation to commend St. Kitts and Nevis on its strong fiscal measures that led to the Federation becoming the very first independent state in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) to bring its debt-to-GDP ratio in line with the international benchmark of 60 percent.
St. Kitts and Nevis achieved this important milestone in 2018—12 years ahead of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) target date of 2030.
“The ECCU debt-to-GDP ratio dropped to 68.1 percent at the end of last year from 78.2 percent in 2014. I congratulate St. Kitts and Nevis on being the first independent country in the ECCU to reach this target [of 60 percent],” Governor Antoine said.
Mr. Antoine expressed support for the move made by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to explore setting up a Fiscal Responsibility Framework to secure long-term fiscal responsibility and sustainability and support short-term macroeconomic stabilization.
“This framework is not merely about fiscal discipline or fiscal rules, as important as those are. It is more about resilience — the capacity of a country to rebound after a shock or setback. In other words, in the good times you must save for the bad times or the rainy day, as it were. I am aware that the government has begun exploratory work on this issue, and I therefore urge that this work be completed and the requisite framework enacted,” he added.
The ECCB Governor indicated that such a framework would include a fiscal watchdog that reports to the Parliament, as is the case in Grenada and will soon be the case in Jamaica, the Bahamas and Barbados.