Team Unity government’s empowerment strategies bear compassion, comfort in mind
By Valencia Grant, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis
Basseterre, St. Kitts – This week’s official ribbon-cutting and handing-over ceremony that featured 14 home-owning families whose houses have been completed under Phase 1 of the Unity Housing Solutions Program is indicative of the positive trajectory of the country under the Team Unity Government, says the prime minister.
Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris said during Tuesday’s ceremony that “as I came here [to Cunningham Heights in Spooners, Cayon, where the ceremony took place] and saw the beauty – the multicoloured houses, larger and better than they would normally be – I said good things are happening in the country.”
The government’s joint initiative with the National Housing Corporation (NHC) is seeing the NHC supervise the construction of 300 affordable homes in all eight constituencies of St. Kitts for the benefit of people with small to modest incomes. These NHC homes have bigger bedrooms (now 12 by 14 compared with the previous 12 by 9 size) and bigger bathrooms (the toilet and face basin are now placed in an additional space that falls outside of the customary 5-by-9 measurement).
The homes also carry small monthly payments based on a 2-5 percent interest rate, depending on household income. “After an outcry by homeowners, it [the income-based repayment plan] is something that was instituted under the Team Unity government so that we have a fairer system,” the general manager of the National Housing Corporation, Elretha Simpson-Browne, said Nov. 16, 2016. She noted then that “interest was reduced from 8 percent and 7 percent to 6 percent and 5 percent across the board by the previous administration.”
Prime Minister Harris, speaking at the handing-over ceremony Nov. 7, said “our response to the housing challenges in the country includes making good that which was bad. It was bad that smaller houses had become more expensive under the past [administration], and we set out to correct that,” referring to the newly introduced restructured interest rate regime that reflects the earnings of the household.
Harris added that his administration felt it was important not to have a person earning minimum wage paying the same as a high-level civil servant, for instance, saying that such leveling of the playing field is one of the good things happening in the country. “I believe this new community that we are creating here [under Phase 1 of the Unity Housing Solutions Program] is a clear reflection of the signs of progress all over St. Kitts and Nevis at this particular moment in time,” Harris said.
Harris said signs of progress include enhanced healthcare facilities such as the cancer treatment centre that opened last December at the Joseph N. France General Hospital. Back then, Dr. Cameron Wilkinson, chief surgeon and medical chief of staff, said “this centre will add years to the lives of people living with cancer. This centre will ensure that breadwinners in families [do] not simply succumb to their disease, but continue their active lives while they receive the appropriate and timely treatment. This centre will ensure that no one will die because they could not afford to travel overseas for treatment.”
Harris says that “wonderful things are happening. We have to begin more to count our blessings one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis.”