Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris discusses his expectations for the Poverty Alleviation Programme.

The goal of the Team Unity Administration’s Poverty Alleviation Programme is an attempt to change poverty statistics in the CDB-funded Country Poverty Assessment information released in 2008 that provided a quantitative and qualitative analysis of living conditions in the Federation.

“It is important to state clearly that this initiative [Poverty Alleviation Programme] is intended to help our people improve the quality of their lives,” Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris said. “We inherited a situation where too many people were among the working poor, unable to pay their electricity bills, and to keep up with the 600 percent increase in water charges imposed by the bygone Labour administration.”

“We are a people-centred government and their wish is our command,” Dr. Harris said. “It was the people’s recommendation as to how we could better their lives, which we adopted in our Manifesto. The people in their constituencies voted overwhelmingly for this initiative.”

“If they were to give an honest assessment of the poverty situation in St. Kitts and Nevis, the detractors would have to acknowledge that something should have been done to improve the lot of thousands of people in the Federation,” he explained.

“An alarming takeaway from the National Survey of Living Conditions conducted under the former regime revealed a national poverty rate of 21.8 percent of individuals across St. Kitts and Nevis,” Dr. Harris said. “That survey advised the Douglas administration that, “Some of those without jobs resorted to informal and underground-type activities.”

The study alerted the past administration that, “There has been a persistence of the phenomenon of the working poor,” Dr. Harris said. “With 20 years in Government, the last administration should have done better to protect the poor, but their insensitive policies – such as the introduction of a prohibitive 17% value-added tax (VAT) on food and medicines, an 85% increase in electricity tariff and over 600 percent increase in our water bills – only added insult to injury and exemplified the indignity of persistent and pervasive poverty.”

“The sad truth is that more should have also been done to help the women in this country, who constitute more than 50% of our Nation’s households,” Dr. Harris explained. “More, too, should have been done to help our civil servants, but the Douglas Administration imposed a wage freeze on them and took away their increments for three years in a row. However, under my Team Unity administration, civil servants have been paid a 13-month (double) salary for the past two consecutive years, and they can now benefit from a $30-million housing programme that enables Government employees to access financing at 5%, the lowest rate in the Federation.”

Dr. Harris pointed out, “Team Unity believes that we are compelled to lift each other up regardless of colour, creed, age, ideology, gender or socio-economic status. When one of us succeeds, then all of us succeed.”

“Today, tomorrow, and for as long as you entrust in us this very important mandate to govern, we will do just that,” Dr. Harris said. “This Team Unity Government has committed to creating a better society and to reshaping the society where we each become our brother’s keeper and our sister’s helper.”

Dr. Harris said the Aug. 2 inauguration of the Poverty Alleviation Programme “marks a giant leap forward in achieving that kinder, gentler and better society that my Government campaigned on and is now proud to deliver to our people. Today we take a giant step in service to the poor and indigent. Today we go further than any other administration in the last 25 years to improve the condition of the poor and allow them to benefit from our shared prosperity.