Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris proclaimed the two-day 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which wrapped up in Bridgetown, Barbados Wednesday a success upon his return to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“I think it was a very productive meeting, and certainly the Heads of Government succeeded in advancing the agenda of deepening the integration among our people and countries making up CARICOM,” he said, noting in relation to their discussions surrounding a CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), “We saw efforts being made to accelerate the free movement of people, to broaden the prospects for more investments between Member States.”
“While, in principle, St. Kitts and Nevis is supportive of the free movement of the factors of production, such as labour, capital and technology, we would wish that as it pertains to the free movement of people that that be a managed process,” he added. “St. Kitts and Nevis already accommodates a large number of nationals of CARICOM Member States, and we want to ensure that efforts at accelerating the pace of the integration process would not be to the disadvantage of our people.”
The prime minister said he would like to see the deepening of functional cooperation among Member States, as well as preferential arrangements being made to ensure greater access to health and education support services.
Prime Minister Harris also spoke on the conversation about health and education support services.
“This is an area that I believe can bring tremendous benefit to our people, given that the flow of persons in the context of free movement comes largely from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana,” he said. “These countries tend to have a more developed education infrastructure, meaning universities and accredited bodies, and can produce more graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and other high-demand areas of study. Giving our people preferred access to those Member States would allow us to garner some benefit.”
The CARICOM Heads of Government welcomed the offer from Jamaica to provide scholarships to assist Member States in building their Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) capacity.
The Heads of Government further agreed to establish a Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee led by the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and including the Heads of Government of Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago, to review the work of a previous group as it relates to issues of implementation, financing, and institutional arrangements for governance.
The Sub-Committee is expected to submit recommendations to the 41st Regular Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government, which will take place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines July 2-3.
PM Welcomes Efforts to Strengthen CARICOM Development Fund
Prime Minister Harris of St. Kitts and Nevis says he welcomes efforts advanced at the meeting to strengthen the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), mandated to provide financial and/or technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors in the Caribbean Community and headquartered in St. Michael, Barbados.
The CDF is widely viewed as being central to mitigating disparities among the Member States, which may result from the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis has received support for projects both on Nevis and on St. Kitts,” Prime Minister Harris said.
The Prime Minister pointed to the ongoing development of the Frigate Bay Strip, which has received funding assistance – in furtherance of the South Frigate Bay Enhancement Project — through the CARICOM Development Fund’s Country Assistance Programme (CAP) for St. Kitts and Nevis as an example of such support.
The South Frigate Bay Enhancement Project was commissioned Nov. 2016 and has resulted in the completion of roads, sidewalks and wheelchair access and ramps, among other improvements.
Last February, Prime Minister Harris and the CEO of the CARICOM Development Fund, Mr. Rodinald Soomer signed a loan agreement to provide US$3 million in concessional resources to the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis for on-lending to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
The business support to SMEs under this agreement includes improved access to direct financial and technical assistance, which is expected to facilitate further growth and job creation in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis will be observing its first annual Small Business Tuesday Feb. 25 and the public is encouraged to shop small and make a big impact. There will be a Pop-Up & Farmers’ Market in Independence Square from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m, and attendees will get a chance to win product samples.
St. Kitts and Nevis’ first annual Small Business Tuesday is powered by the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC St. Kitts) in the Ministry of International Trade, Industry, Commerce & Consumer Affairs.