By Dave Kaiser
Embracing past achievements, while preparing for future changes were key topics emphasized by Hon. Vance Amory, Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance in the Nevis Island Administration in his 2017 budget address to the Nevis Island Assembly. The Premier presented budget details today to the Nevis Island Assembly meeting chaired by President Hon. Farrell Smithen in the chambers at Hamilton House in Charlestown.
The 2017 budget, Appropriation Ordinance (2017) 2016 “A revitalization of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship for Economic Success,” summarizes recurrent and capital expenditures in 2017.
“Over the past three-and-a-half years significant strides have been made to transform the economy,” Hon. Vance Amroy said in his opening remarks. “It is quite noticeable that we continue to witness increases in the number of persons engaged in gainful employment. “I want to emphasize that we were able to achieve these objectives without the need to impose any new taxes on the citizens of this country.”
The Premier pointed out significant advances the Federation has made in education, in the development of expanded health services, in activities for youth and in the care of elderly and senior citizens, tourism development and financial services.
“In the area of infrastructure we have invested substantially in our port facilities, both air and seaports to enhance trade,” Mr. Amory said. “Significant investments have been made in our road network, enhancing our water supply system and revolutionizing our housing program to improve the quality of life of our people.”
The Premier pointed out that one of the most important topics in the budget is the creation of jobs.
“There is no doubt that the progress of our economy must be led by the progress of our people,” Mr. Amory explained. “At the forefront of this new era must be job creation. The annual employment data as released by the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board showed that the average number of persons employed on Nevis up to June 2016 stood at 5,456 as compared to the 5,382 persons employed for the same period in 2015. This indicates that there was a 1.4% growth in the average number of employed persons in 2016 relative to 2015.
The Premier gave details about domestic economic performance, including fiscal performance during 2015 and 2016, performance of the Value Added Tax and the status of the public debt.
He described new programs and initiatives emphasizing entrepreneurship through skills development. These include development of information technology capabilities including development of information technology capabilities; tourism; agriculture; financial services; small business development; private sector foreign direct investment; infrastructure development; renewable energy development; and crime fighting and security.
“As we embrace the past we must also project the future,” he said. “This new 2017 budget period presents an excellent opportunity for my party and government to continue to shape the destiny of our people. We must prepare ourselves to embrace change, to craft a new direction and to face the future with renewed confidence. We must work toward repositioning ourselves as we seek to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities while confronting the challenges that lie ahead of us. It is through our vision, our policies and the subsequent program through entrepreneurship, coupled with harnessing and developing of the skills of our people that we will reposition our island’s economy over the short term and into the future.”
Mr. Amory said these goals are achievable by achieving economic success in the medium term. He said a structural reform agenda will focus on economic diversification, improved business environment and contingency planning in a manner that will enhance resilience to external shocks and bolster long-run growth potential. In improving the business environment, we will seek to address the skills gap which is critical to providing the enabling environment for private sector development and help attract foreign investment into our local economy. We will also invest in targeted transformative projects, including broadening the options under the CBI program to include business investment in renewable energy, education and health, as we seek to improve competitiveness, diversification and resilience of the economy.
The Minister of Finance outlined fiscal measures for the ensuing year. An adjournment was called to allow Opposition members to review the budget and respond on Thursday, when the debate will commence.