Prime Minister the Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris’
Post-Hurricane Maria Address
Sept. 23, 2017
My fellow citizens and residents:
With courage and resilience, our federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has braved two powerful Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, within a span of two weeks, and we have come out of them without sustaining either catastrophic damage or loss of life. For this, we give every praise, honour and glory to Almighty God.
My government and I express our gratitude to the public for your heightened level of preparedness and cooperation. These undoubtedly helped to mitigate the damage caused by both hurricanes Irma and Maria. For this, we again give thanks to God, whose Divine Providence brought us through.
On “National Clean-Up Day” we saw the resilience of our people at work. Kittitians and Nevisians from all age groups and sectors of the population demonstrated our capacity to recover quickly as we coalesced around the common goal of returning our country to normalcy by participating in cleanup efforts on both individual and collective levels in our various communities. This was an excellent example of patriotism at work – especially at a time when our usual independence celebrations would have been overshadowed by the passage of Hurricane Maria.
My government commends all those patriotic and involved citizens and residents who contributed to the National Clean-Up Day, including our security forces and other essential service employees. Our police and defence force officers continue to render yeoman’s service, as well as our fire and rescue officers who work tirelessly to clear roads and assist homeowners. I also commend the rapid response of our Ministry of Public Infrastructure, Utilities, et al. for their efforts to bring us back to a state of normalcy. Commendations are also in order for our medical and health personnel, in particular those working in institutions such as our hospitals and The Cardin Home, who remained on the job from Monday through Wednesday to ensure that our sick, elderly and indigent citizens received the humanitarian care they so consistently need. These workers would have sacrificed personal time with their families at a time when most of us were in our homes. To all of these essential service employees, we say a hearty “Thank You.” We commend that wonderful civic mindedness displayed by the numerous volunteers across St. Kitts and Nevis, including the hurricane shelter managers.
We have decided to incentivize and to provide a monetary reward for our essential services workers who went beyond the call of duty during and immediately after the hurricane. Those workers to benefit are employed with [the following]:
- The police, defence force, fire and rescue services
- National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)
- Health Department
- Public Works Department
- Water Department
- St. Kitts Electricity Company Ltd. (SKELEC)
- St. Christopher Air and Sea Ports Authority (SCASPA)
- ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation
As I drove and walked the length and breadth of our beautiful country, I was cognizant of the fact that although St. Kitts and Nevis was battered by the protracted storm, we were spared the tragedy that too often accompanies natural disasters. It was indeed a privilege for me to have visited a number of sites and assist with the clean-up efforts. Doing so just one day after what was to be the highlight of our 34th Independence Anniversary celebrations was of particular symbolic importance to me.
As I reflected upon God’s never-ceasing grace and assisted in the rehabilitation of our Bay Road and Frigate Bay Strip by helping to shovel up debris along with the minister of public infrastructure and employees of public works, the following did not escape me:
- Born out of our nation’s struggle for Independence was our majestic National Anthem, which recognizes God’s omnipresence, especially during our moments of struggle.
- A product of our independence, too, is our visually appealing National Flag: with the green triangle at the top that pays homage to our fertile and verdant land – of which our forebears bequeathed stewardship to us as proud citizens and residents of this federation.
- Upon attaining independence, we adopted “Country Above Self” as the motto of our Coat of Arms out of the recognition that vested in the future and fortunes of our great country is the willingness of its people to place it above their own hopes, dreams and ambitions. For it is through successful nation building and patriotism that our collective and individual desires and aspirations can attain self-actualization.
- There is no Mother Britain to which we can turn for help and consideration even in the face of adversity and disaster.
- All we have is us, and it is to our own ingenuity, industry and discipline to which we must look to ameliorate our conditions and advance our agenda of progress and development.
Given the significance of independence, the cabinet – after consultation with H.E. S W Tapley Seaton, our esteemed governor-general – has decided to hold the commemorative Independence Parade, Toast to the Nation and the Independence Cocktail Reception on Saturday, Oct. 7. More information will be provided. Suffice it to say that the 7th of October 2017 will be proclaimed a national holiday.
Damage Assessment For Maria – EC $88.5 million and counting
The preliminary damage assessment reports for St. Kitts and Nevis are currently being finalized post-Hurricane Maria. Public sector infrastructure suffered significant damages. Some critical infrastructure such as our electricity and waters services, our road network at Old Road, our fisheries complex and the Irish Town Bay Road, the agricultural sector, our coastline and environment sustained serious damages. Our sporting facilities at Challengers and the Kim Collins Stadium also sustained damages. The housing stock also suffered, as did several schools. Preliminary estimates put damage to the federal public sector at around EC$38.5 million and counting. That on Nevis has been put by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) at EC$50 million for a total preliminary assessment of EC$88.5 million in public sector damages as a consequence of Hurricane Maria.
ThepPublic sector received damages then of over $140 million (preliminary estimates) as a consequence of the two hurricanes. It should be noted that so far, apart from insurance claims approved by CCRIF of US$2.29 million, we are faced to carry this burden of recovery alone.
Assistance To Our Neighbours
Notwithstanding our own fiscal challenges of treating with our recovery efforts, cabinet on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, approved some measure of monetary support to our neighbours:
- Dominica: $1 million – additionally, we have declined EC$0.5m pledged by Dominica to us after Hurricane Irma. This sum was never received; we nonetheless thank Prime Minister Skerrit for his kind consideration.
- British Virgin Islands: $0.5 million
- Anguilla: $0.4 million
- Antigua & Barbuda: $0.4 million
- St. Maarten: $0.2 million
I take this opportunity to pledge the support of the government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis to the Commonwealth of Dominica. My cabinet and I have reached out to Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his government, and – as was extended to Anguilla and other islands that were previously impacted by Hurricane Irma – we have offered the use of the RLB International Airport as a staging platform for relief efforts into Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria. In addition to this, all four hospitals on St. Kitts and Nevis will be made available should the need for health services be required. Places will also be made available to accommodate displaced students in Dominica who are registered for upcoming CXC exams. They will be offered free enrollment into our schools until their own high schools are ready to accommodate them. Furthermore, our federation will assist in the restoration of electricity supply to Dominica, and our Coast Guard vessels will assist with transportation where possible.
The Lord God has given the people and the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis His boundless mercy and grace, and in return for His protection we offer ours, as well as compassion, to the least fortunate and the most vulnerable of our neighbours. My fellow citizens and residents, today it is they who are in grave need. Tomorrow it could be us. Let us not take our good fortune for granted. We are able to help because our fiscal situation is strong. My cabinet renews its pledge to manage the economic and fiscal affairs well.
Concessions At Home
We understand that while we help those abroad we must help those at home who suffered, too. In this regard, my government, in an effort to help our citizens and residents deal with their damages in an expedited manner, has offered the following:
- Duty-free concessions on the purchase or importation of building materials to repair damages to residential properties.
The programme will be initiated immediately and will continue for a period of six months until the end of March 2018. Applications should be made via the Ministry of Finance. Application forms will be available early next week and can be collected at the Ministry of Finance (Golden Rock), Treasury Department, Inland Revenue Department, NEMA or the Ministry of Finance website at www.mof.gov.kn.
For verification of the damage claimed by each applicant, the Ministry of Finance will rely on the list prepared by NEMA. In cases where the damage was not reported to NEMA, building inspectors at the Ministry of Sustainable Development or the Public Works Department [will] be consulted to verify the information provided by the applicant.
Residents who suffered damages to their property are therefore asked to contact their construction professionals to assist with preparing estimates of the materials to repair their property. The government is intent on helping to restore normalcy to the lives of all [people] in the quickest time possible. We also hope that the repairs would result in a much stronger and more resilient housing stock in the federation.
In closing, I must remind our citizens and residents that we are still in the hurricane season. Please continue to heed the public advisories issued by the National Disaster Mitigation Council, the National Emergency Management Agency, the Met Office, the Ministry of Health and our other government agencies during this very active 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
May God continue to protect and bless our people. May He continue to watch over us all.
I Thank You!