By Stanford Conway

Political leader of the twin-island Federation Prime Minister (PM) Dr. Denzil Douglas said Land-owning License and establishment of the Regional Development Fund are some of the important areas that have to be addressed before St. Kitts and Nevis would become compliant with the CARICOM Single Market (CSM).

The PM made this disclosure during a press conference with members of the local media.

Dr. Douglas, who led a four-member delegation to the recently concluded inter-cessional CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Trinidad and Tobago, said one of the important matters discussed at the meeting was the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and where CARICOM members were in the establishment of the CSM.

He reiterated the stand taken by member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) at the Inauguration Ceremony of the CSM, noting that the end of June this year would be more appropriate for a number of countries to become compliant with the CSM.

“St. Kitts and Nevis own position was very clear, in the sense that we are deeply committed to become a member of the CSME and specifically to join within the six months period that is now given unto the Single Market.

“Obviously, there are a few things that we have to do in order to achieve compliance status and we discussed and gave specific commitments to my colleagues in Trinidad as to our own timetable in getting through these areas that are mainly legislative that we need to make amendments to in order to become compliant,” said Dr. Douglas.

He noted Alien Land-holding License as one of the important areas discussed at the conference and stated that the procedure for the acquisition of land by foreigners was already established in the laws of the Federation.

“I indicated to my colleagues that our legislation, as it is, speaks to the access that is being given to those persons who are considered foreigners and who need to own or to access property in order to be able to establish companies and themselves in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“Our land mass is very small. We are in fact the smallest of the independent countries who have signed on to the Caribbean Community, and we therefore were asking for several considerations in the sense that our law, as it stands, speaks to access to land…access to the right of becoming involved as directors or shareholders in a company and not necessarily ownership,” Douglas said.

Douglas pointed out to his colleagues at the conference that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas speaks to access and that the Federation was already compliant.

He also indicated his hopes that the Federation’s land acquisition policy would meet the approval and support of other members of CARICOM, with regards to the establishment of the CSM.

Establishment of the Regional Development Fund (RDF) was another important area Dr. Douglas tabled at the conference.

According to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, Douglas said, the RDF was to be established in order to assist those countries and sectors that would have become disadvantaged in signing on to the CSME.

“Of course you have the situation where we can become disadvantaged as smaller independent territories integrating our economy with those of the larger territories. It is important for us therefore to have the establishment of the Regional Development Fund so that we can access in order to receive technical and financial assistance in areas where our own situation would have been negatively affected in becoming members of the CSME.

“And so, we have taken a firm decision in the meeting last week Thursday and Friday in Trinidad to have that fund established. The fund is going to be a capital fund and each member of the CARICOM Single Market will be making contributions to that fund,” Douglas said.

Dr. Douglas noted that the prevailing conditions and circumstances that would dictate how a country would borrow from the fund and how much it would actually contribute were not outlined, but he explained what the initial amount would be from the amalgamated contributions.

“The fund will start with US120 million with Trinidad and Tobago making the first contribution of US$20 million, which will be taken from the Petroleum Civilisation Fund that is already established by Trinidad and Tobago and which we are able to access in order to meet serious situation that are affecting us in our territories. And that the US$100 million would be as a result from contributions from the other member territories of the Caribbean Community.”

Intimating the position he took at the meeting on contributing towards the fund, Dr. Douglas said before the Federation and other members of the OECS could agree on the amount, they must ensure that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank carry out the necessary analysis to determine how much they could contribute without any negative effect on their already serious indebtedness.

“In other words, I am asking the Central Bank to do the analysis, an impact analysis to determine in what way would our already adverse debt situation become worse if we were to contribute so much dollars to that fund.”

“We are hopefully going to put this forward to the Monetary Council when we meet here in St. Kitts and Nevis on Thursday of this week when the Finance Ministers of the Eastern Caribbean, who have membership in the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, come here. We are going to formally request the Central Ban to do this analysis before we can agree as to what our own contribution would be in the Regional Development Fund.”

Prime Minister Douglas told the media that on behalf of the OECS, he was also asking that they have special and differential arrangements for borrowing from the RDF and that there should be a lowered interest rate paid by the OECS compared to the more developed countries that are members of CARICOM.