Key issues: Financial stability, government cooperation, health

By Dave Kaiser

Obtaining financial stability, maintain cooperation with supportive governments and encourage a healthy lifestyle while fighting communicable diseases were addressed by Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of Kitts and Nevis during Sept. 13 to 26 meetings of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. He discussed the dreams and aspirations of the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and how United Nations member-countries can assist in minimizing the effects of international circumstances.

“These are broad global issues that are of particular concern for our small island developing states of the Caribbean region. Indeed, many of the problems facing our world today are linked and should be addressed holistically and multilaterally,” Prime Minister Dr. Harris explained.

The Prime Minister suggested it is important for international financial institutions, the G7 and G20 should reevaluate the methodologies used to assess how and whether a country qualifies for concessional support or access to certain international funds.

“St. Kitts and Nevis, like so many of the Small Island Developing States remains inherently vulnerable due mainly to our small physical size, open economies, dis-economies of scale and small population,” the Prime Minister explained. “As we have seen time and again, a climatic event of a few hours can wreak havoc on every single aspect of life on our islands.”

He pointed out that the arbitrary classification of certain small countries like St. Kitts and Nevis or Dominica, as middle income countries can never make sense – when one of these countries could grow its economy one year by 4 to 6 percent and then watch nearly 100 percent of its GDP wiped out that very same year by a tropical storm with six hours of rainfall. Any new formula must include vulnerability and resilience indices.

“We have in the past asked that a strategy to promote climate financing be addressed and I once again reiterate that call. It means nothing to say that billions of dollars are available for climate financing, if the mechanisms for accessing them are opaque, prohibitive and extremely difficult to penetrate. Again, I urge common sense cooperation and partnership.”

“We are being further marginalized in the global financial system,” Dr. Harris explained. “Already, in the Caribbean, as of the first half of this year, “some 16 banks, across five countries have lost all or some of their correspondent banking relationships putting the financial lifeline of these countries at great risk. In our tourism-dependent economies, where remittances factor greatly in national development, such actions threaten to derail progress, undermine trade, direct foreign investment and repatriation of business profits.”

Meaningful partnerships a key benefit

The Prime Minister pointed out that despite many difficulties, the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis have been fortunate to have benefitted from some durable and meaningful partnerships.

“These have been integral to our efforts to build resilience, to transform our country, to modernize our economy, upgrade our workforce, educate our people and empower our citizenry,” Dr. Harris explained. “There have been outstanding models of South cooperation worthy of emulation.”

As examples, Dr. Harris said Cuba’s support to the developing world in education and training, health care, agriculture and heritage development dwarfs the assistance of many economically advanced countries.

Venezuela’s Bolivarian energy outreach through PETRO CARIBE is an important model. There must be a greater commitment to shared prosperity.

In the last three decades, the tangible support of the Government and people of Taiwan has been remarkable. Taiwan has stood shoulder to shoulder with the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis and remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting our determination to meet our people-empowerment agenda. He said their help and solidarity touch almost every facet of life in our twin-island Federation.

“These advantages and benefits should not be limited to a few countries,” Dr. Harris said. “I know that Taiwan is eager to share its progress and development successes with the rest of the world. I therefore welcome new opportunities for Taiwan and its people to be warmly welcomed and integrated into the international fraternity of Nations as a global player, whose commitment to the principles of democracy, peace, and people empowerment can touch many more lives.

“The future of our planet and our citizens cannot be outsourced to any one country or group of countries,” the Prime Minister explained. “These are collective commons that – in today’s highly interdependent and integrated world -demand the full participation of all countries and their citizens.

Health, human development

Health and human development issues and emerging CARICOM health concerns were highlighted by the Prime Minister. He asked UN members to join efforts to fight non-communicable diseases; anti-microbial resistance; as well as communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS.

“This fight is consistent with international efforts to meet our SDG targets,” the Prime Minister said. “It serves to promote human security; to improve individual choices; and to empower citizens.

Dr. Harris said St. Kitts and Nevis is proud of the strides made in reducing mother-to-child infection at birth by 97 percent and of our efforts to ensure on-going and more cost-effective access to anti-retroviral drugs, treatment and in reducing, through education, the stigma associated with the disease.  He said this battle is far from won as the Caribbean still features as one of the areas of very high prevalence.

“It is essential that more is invested in education to promote healthier lives and healthier food choices,” the Prime Minister said.  “It is important to make the right lifestyle choices because several of these non-communicable diseases are preventable.”

Nuclear tests of concern

The Prime Minister said that Pyongyang’s actions “constitute a threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and the wider international community.”

“Such nuclear tests violate Security Council Resolution 2270 and the well-established regime on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Dr. Harris said. “St Kitts and Nevis stands resolutely with those who seek to ensure a peaceful world free of the ravages of war and violence.”