“COUNTRY ABOVE SELF”
WHILE the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has fortunately not led to a single fatality in the Federation it sadly did claim one casualty last week: this year’s Labour Day festivities. But not being able to get together as usual to acknowledge the commitment of our workers does not mean we should be any less grateful for them. So it was gratifying to hear Prime Minister Timothy Harris’s Labour Day address pledging convincingly to support all workers through this crisis, as well as singling out health and other front line workers.
The current lock-down and the closure of our places of work, recreation and worship, has forced us all to make sacrifices for our families, communities and country. And yet the lock-down has allowed us at Observer News to take stock of what we can be grateful for. And there is a lot. Compared to many countries around the world and many of our neighbors we are in a very good situation. Thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Harris over the past five years our country is punching far above its weight considering we are the smallest country in the Western Hemisphere. And there are few greater records and facts for us to consider than the state of our country’s economy.
Our economy has seen remarkable growth over these past five years under the stewardship of Team Unity. Our economy is thriving. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak we had the strongest projected national growth rate in the Eastern Caribbean of 3.5% for 2020 according to the United Nations Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The World Bank confirms that we have the highest GDP per capita in the Eastern Caribbean, which translates into more job opportunities, higher standards of living and better public services due the success of our businesses contributing greater amounts to the public coffers.
We also have the lowest ratio of debt to GDP in the Eastern Caribbean according to Eastern Caribbean Central Bank figures which has recognised us as the first country in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union to achieve the 60% debt-to-GDP benchmark. Quite a feat for our small islands. This means that as a country we spend less on paying back money, and interest on that money, that we owe and therefore have more to invest in our infrastructure, the education of our young people and the health of our needy.
The real estate sector has contributed on average 18.3% to GDP from 2015-2018, driven in part by the Citizen by Investment programme’s real estate opportunities. This has enabled the government to invest more money into critical infrastructure such as the 71 million dollars upgrade of the Island’s Main Road, the most comprehensive road improvement project in the past 20 years. As we have previously reported ,it will lead to improvements of the road network, greater ease of travel and safety, and enhancements for pedestrian and vehicular traffic alike.
Today (Friday) marks another significant day for many parts of the world: it is the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (or VE Day) when the US, Britain and Russia formally accepted the surrender of Nazi Germany in the Second World War. Our own War Memorial in Basseterre reminds us of the sacrifice of our ancestors who fell in both World Wars. Their names, listed in perpetuity on the white obelisk, bear testament to their service.
We are not living through a conventional war today and the literal sacrifices of our forebears in the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 cannot be compared to ours today. But we can nonetheless be proud of the way that the country has rallied together for the common good at a time of difficulty and uncertainty. And it is our view that so long as we stick to the path we are on we will emerge united and stronger than ever. “Country Above Self” is our country’s motto. These are not mere words but a beacon for all citizens of St Kitts and Nevis. It has never shone more brightly.