Reflections on independence: 24 years and growing stronger

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By Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Ph.D, M.P.

Twenty-four years ago pomp and circumstance heralded in a new nation as Princess Margaret, sister and representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, symbolically handed Prime Minister Simmonds the new Constitution Order of 1983.  This formally symbolized the dawning of a new nation. St Kitts and Nevis was now a sovereign independent country.  It had cut its colonial cord and pledged to be a peace loving member of he international community.

St. Kitts and Nevis moved quickly to do so. Thanks to the United Kingdom that facilitated this matter through the United Nations Security Council, the Security Council approved St. Kitts and Nevis’ application for the United Nations membership. Four (4) days after, the United Nations General Assembly would by acclamation approved St. Kitts and Nevis’ membership. Fifty (50) countries co-sponsored the resolution.

Our first prime minister took the podium at the United Nations and delivered a powerful maiden address. We had arrived on the international scene.

Twenty-four years after 1983, the euphoric zeal for independence may be less intense but the clear sentiments are independence has been good for our country. In spite of many challenges, our country’s thanks to independence is better now than it was in 1983.

We are well respected on the regional and international scene. Our network of friends and allies both at level of nation state and international organization has expanded. Countries lobby for our support and our friends have come to our assistance and contributed well to our national development. Among our most reliable and generous benefactors is Taiwan.  It is also the first country with which we established diplomatic ties on attaining independence.

Today we are seeking membership of the 2nd most important organ of the United Nations – the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). We have the 5th highest per capita in the Caribbean and we are rated 2nd best place to live in the Caribbean. Our nationals are in service to the international community serving in substantive positions at the Organization of America States (OAS), the United Nations (UN), CARICOM and the Organization of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is achieving heights of glory and its citizens likewise are elevating themselves in international service.  We are carving out our place in the world. We are honing a sense of identity and belonging, a shared vision of our capacity for greatness. More and more we are striving for the best for ourselves and our country.

On September 19th we accepted responsibility for our own development and governance.  We did so knowing the task was onerous and the journey full of challenges. We can be thankful that twenty four (24) years later there is much about which we can be proud.  There has been significant economic development and transformation in our country.  We have delinked ourselves of the colonial plantation economy and are working assiduously to create a post colonial economy based on a service economy which is knowledge driven.

Our people can look to the future with confidence and hope. At 24 St. Kitts and Nevis, our beloved country is laying the foundations for a modern progressive society.  We boast state of the art telecommunication services, modern roads and ports. Social services comparable to global standards in health and education. The United Nations Development Programme Human Development index says we are an above average performer on these Indices.

Our economy moved from a Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) of EC$139 million in 1983 to ES$1 billion in 2006. Our employment moved from 13,519 in 1985 to 23,827 in 2006.  Our per capita Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) moved from EC$ 3050 in 1983 to EC$ 21,596 in 2006. Today we are ranked 5th richest country in the Caribbean and we have no known resource except our immensely resilient and competent people. Our registered self-employed population has increased from 335 in 1995 to 662 in 2006.

Average life expectancy moved from 68 years in 1983 to 71 years in 2006 indicating improvement in quality of life.

On the anvil of our 24th anniversary we are strengthening our democratic traditions through a consultative mechanism of electoral reform.

Much painstaking work has gone into taking us where we are. We need to press on with the job of developing our country. Labour pledges to foster the principles of participatory democracy; to provide equal opportunities for our people and give pride of place to our nationals; to encourage entrepreneurship; to promote and protect the economic and social well being of our people, and instil fear and love of God in our people.

May God Bless us in our 24th Anniversary and may our good works bring glory to His name.

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