Prime Minister Dr. The Hon. Timothy Sylvester Harris
A consortium of entities have sponsored the naming of Prime Minister Dr. The Hon. Timothy Sylvester Harris as the Country’s Person of the Year 2021.
The group comprises civil servants, parliamentarians past and present, private entrepreneurs and private individuals.
They cited Dr. Harris’s skillful handling of the economy since becoming Prime Minister in 2015, but especially during the perilous past 19 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“His care and concern for every resident of this twin-island Federation, his efforts in convincing his colleagues to lessons the tax burden on citizens, and also delivering a double salary for civil servants when they needed it the most – as cushions to their families that experienced layoffs or reduced work hours,” have seen 57-year-old Prime Minister Harris being described as, “our perfect leader for these perilous times”.
HANDLING OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS
The Prime Minister’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, in particular, has come in for high praise, and he has stepped forward at the highest level to make representation for not only his country but the entire region.
In May, for example, at the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council Meeting, as the CARICOM Head with responsibility for Health, he called for a greater response from world leaders and stakeholders to the global vaccine shortage.
“The approved vaccines are not available through COVAX and they are not available for purchase at prices we can afford. This is not right, that in a world where millions of doses of vaccine lie untouched in warehouses of some countries, so many of us around the world, including my CARICOM region, just cannot get enough vaccines to reach herd immunity from this terrible disease,” the Prime Minister asserted.
He also used the opportunity to highlight the rearrangement of allocation to countries and redistribution of excess vaccines and vaccines for children.
“This is my short-term solution: the reallocation of excess vaccines to countries needing them…The children are suffering from this disease. The cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) are alarmingly high in CARICOM as we have been tracking this across our countries.”
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognized the high Covid-19 vaccination coverage rate in St. Kitts and Nevis, and credited it to very robust implementation strategies.
Dr. Harris’ role was duly noted.
According to PAHO, “The Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Hon Dr. Timothy Harris played a very important role in the rollout and success of the program. This was a key strategy in terms of people seeing the leader of the Federation coming on board.
“He led, advocated, pleaded and he urged. He was always there to provide the necessary support, financial investment, and human resources, he was there at all times, he must be commended for the astute and excellent leadership provided. One looks toward their leaders in terms of decision making, he has advanced the benefits of the vaccination.”
TWO STIMULUS PACKAGES
And of course, there were the two stimulus packages.
The first stimulus package in total was approximately US$44 million, and included increased benefits in social safety nets to buttress the effects of the pandemic. The Poverty Alleviation Programme was further funded and benefits were extended to more citizens.
The second stimulus package, announced in July, was also designed to help the less fortunate better cope with the financial hardship caused by COVID-19, and to further stimulate the Federation’s economy.
Under the initiative, persons who remain unemployed since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were provided $1,000 per month, for three months. The stimulus measures also included a fuel subsidy of $400 per month to passenger bus operators for a period of three months and a stipend for households with children living with disabilities.
Among other measures in the second stimulus were the waiving of commercial rent for 6 months (July to December 2021) for small businesses which lease space from the Government, through the Ministry of Tourism and Transport; Reduction in the VAT rate for 3 months (July to September 2021) from 10% to 5% on commercial rent for small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and a valid business license; Reinstatement of the annual Import Duty exemption for 16 tyres (4 tyres per quarter), 4 pairs of brake pads and 3 pairs of brake shoes for ‘H’ passenger buses; fuel subsidy of $400 per month to passenger bus operators for 3 months, and the waiving of stall fees for vendors using the public market until December 31st.
RECOGNIZING THE EFFORTS OF ALL CIVIL SERVANTS
Dr. Harris’s Team Unity Administration maintained its record of being a good steward of the Government’s finances, and this was demonstrated in the outturn of the Government’s fiscal operations for the 2020 fiscal year when a Recurrent Account Surplus of $40.8 million was achieved.
And he recently concluded in his Budget speech that “as a result of our comprehensive stimulus packages, we are already seeing a rebound in economic activity and this will bring a further positive realignment of our Debt-to-GDP ratio”.
Encouraged by the favourable fiscal performance projected for 2021, PM Harris recognized the efforts of all Civil Servants on both islands in spite of the difficulties encountered during the past 21 months, and rewarded them with a double salary payment in time for Christmas.
Several of the stimulus measures that were slated to expire on 31st December 2021 (as indicated above) were extended until June 2022, such as:
- Removal of VAT and Import Duty on additional hygiene items such as hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, rubbing alcohol and latex gloves.
- Removal of Import Duty and Customs Service Charge on selected items including vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, cough and cold preparations and vitamin supplements.
- Waiver of payments for consumption of water for individuals who have been laid off or experience a reduction in earnings due to COVID-19.
- Waiver of payments for the consumption of water by farmers.
- Reduction of the Corporate Income Tax Rate from 33 percent to 25 percent for businesses that retain at least 75 percent of their employees.
- Reduction of the Unincorporated Tax Rate to 2 percent down from 4 percent.
A STELLAR CAREER
Dr. Harris has had a stellar career to this point. It cannot be forgotten that he is the first political leader to have led a tripartite movement to power, and also that he has shown skill and competence in keeping a unity government together without any scandals.
He led Team Unity to a second victory in June 2020, with an overwhelming majority of nine out of the Federation’s 11 constituencies.
Under his leadership, Team Unity has seen the resetting of relations with America and Canada, while expanding the Federation’s footprint in Africa and Europe.
Over 130 countries provide visa-free access to holders of St. Kitts and Nevis passports.
This humble son of the soil grew up in the rural village of Tabernacle, and during his working career rose from being a clerk in Social Security’s Records and Accounting Department to positions with Wellington Ltd. and S.L. Horsford & Company Limited, before becoming the first person to change political parties and win the most powerful government position in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Dr. Harris, who comes from a large family and has two daughters, worked for Wellington Ltd., a garment manufacturing firm on Industrial Estate, where he was a Clerk in an export manufacturing company.
He got to know his fellow workers well and moved on to S.L. Horsford & Co. Ltd, one of the Federation’s largest private sector firms, where he served in the head office as a Clerk in the accounting department.
After completing his first degree, he returned to Horsford’s to work in the wholesale business at Ocean Cold Storage. From there he was promoted to manage the former Eskimo Foods (now Valu Mart).
He received a Master of Arts and Doctor Of Philosophy Degree from The University Of the West Indies St. Augustine Campus and Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.
In an interview with a reporter from The Observer, Prime Minister Harris said that friends persuaded him to enter politics.
‘They apparently saw something in me that I did not see in myself.’
Dr. Harris served as almost every minister in the previous Labour administration between 1995 and 2013.
EMPOWERING AND ENABLING CITIZENS TO LIVE FULL LIVES
After being elected Prime Minister, he formulated his policy toward governing.
He articulated in the interview what he believes a government should do for its citizens and what the future holds for the Federation.
“Government in a democracy is an instrument to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. I believe that government should empower and enable citizens to live full lives.”
Dr. Harris spends every day working tirelessly on that concept.
During the six-and-a-half years Team Unity has been in power, his government has done the following:
- Removed the Value Added Tax from food, medicine, and educational supplies.
- Sped up the payment of gratuities to the former sugar cane workers who lost their jobs when the sugar industry collapsed in St. Kitts and Nevis.
- Rescued and improved the Citizen by Investment (CBI) Programme.
- Rebuilt Mary Charles Hospital, built an oncology centre, and constructed a mental health day care centre.
- Named Dr. Kennedy Simmonds a national hero and inaugurated the site of the National Heroes Park.
Dr Harris is particularly pleased with the continued success of the CBI programme, which has maintained its ranking as one of the best in the industry. The programme, he said, received the highest score in the citizenship timeline pillar as a result of its accelerated application process.
“We have transformed our CBI. We have come a long way from the difficult period in 2014. The robust procedures that are embedded in the programme have enabled us to maintain our platinum brand, and have ensured we take a significant share in the major markets around the world.”
Dr. Harris is especially proud that his government has been able to deliver universal health care to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, as he has always been an advocate of serving the poor and the vulnerable and making health care more accessible and affordable to the public.
He also envisages that as the economy rebounds, the government will be able to provide better paying jobs.
Having recently delivered a nearly one billion-dollar “people-centered” budget that caters for “significant investments in our people’s safety, health, education and a range of social safety nets”, Dr. Harris is confident that the wheels in motion to “advance our plans for putting St Kitts and Nevis back on track”.
Knowing the capabilities of this exemplary and outstanding son of the soil, there are few among us that would doubt his will and ability to do so.
Congratulations to Dr. The Hon. Timothy Sylvester Harris. Person of the Year 2021!