PM Harris give update on Land for debt

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PM the Hon. Timothy Harris

By Loshaun Dixon

Basseterre, St. Kitts —  Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister, has given an update pertaining to the land for debt act that they promised to get rid of before taking office

Dr. Harris spoke at a government held town hall on Tuesday evening, one week before his Party celebrates its second anniversary of taking over the reins of Government. He said 1,200 acres were used in the first instance in the land for debt swap before a further 400 and 96 acres were taken for a total of 1,700 acres. In Nevis, a further 240 acres were added as part of the debt swap.

The Prime Minister said the federal government and the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) believed that the land for debt swap was a bad deal and that they will act to bring alteration and adjustments to the law passed by the former administration.

He said because it involves several banks and  other entities they are currently involved in negotiations with them to ensure the stability of the country is preserved.

“We don’t want to do anything that could significantly undermine the banks’ ability to continue by changing the profile of the bank,” he declared.

Dr. Harris described the deal passed in 2012 as “a bad act” and said the government is currently in discussions with the IMF, the National Bank and the ECCB about how they can move forward“to redeem some of the lands back to the people while preserving the stability of the national bank.”

“Because we are a careful government and because we believe in good governance we have not been hasty, but we are working intelligently on your behalf,” he added.

He said thousands of people in the Federation have a stake in the National Bank and would not want to disadvantage those individual accounts.

“Thousands of persons here have deposits in the bank that is why we have to ensure whatever we do that is not compromised. We are working for you and you can have faith we are doing the right thing for the country,”he stated.

In 2012 The St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank (Vesting in Certain Lands) Act, was passed in September of that year amid strong opposition and controversy.

It was brought before the parliament by then Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas and was the subject of unending debate by members of the National Assembly.

The act came as parts of the Dr. Douglas’s administration efforts to reduce the federation’s burdensome debt by swapping the land to the National bank to wipe off $900M in debt.

The Opposition made up of PAM and CCM members wholly opposed the bill and accused Dr. Douglas of reversing what his own party had fought for.

The controversial bill also tore a rift in Douglas’ own Cabinet and two of his most senior ministers, Dr. Timothy Harris and his Deputy Prime Minister opposed the legislation. The bill also received stern opposition from within Douglas’ own Cabinet as his own deputy the Hon. Sam Condor and Dr. Harris who were part of the govermnet at the time gave presentations in the parliament opposing the legislation.

Both Mr. Condor and Mr. Harris later deflected and joined the opposition which now forms the Team Unity Government.