By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
” (Frigate Bay, St. Kitts)””We are a small nation that continues to be extremely vulnerable.” These are the words of the Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, delivered at the National Consultation on the Economy held recently at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort. The theme of the symposium was “External Shocks and Changes in the International Environment – Our Analysis and Response.” The theme was timely because of the current global situation with respect to the rising price of oil and its cascading impact on the prices of other commodities; the rising cost of food because of the use of grain for alternative sources of energy; global credit crises and pressures on fiscal systems to cope with rising prices, Dr. Douglas said. Wednesday Online Code for Issue # 721 is SCB The Prime Minister said that as a small nation, the Federation has to find ways and means to respond to these challenges brought about by exogenous factors. “Today we will focus on how we can use all our resources especially the abundance of human and social capital which we possess to treat with the circumstances with which we are confronted,” Dr. Douglas said. He said that rising crime in the Federation continues to pose a challenge not only domestically but regionally. “We must step up the fight against crime with a view to dramatically reducing criminal activity and preventing any further erosion in our excellent image among tourists and potential tourists or any disruption in the steady flow of investment to our Federation,” Dr. Douglas stated. “As Minister of National Security, I welcome the ideas and suggestions which have been put forward and expect that at the appropriate forum, we will have opportunities for a meeting of the minds,” Dr. Douglas continued.” In order to counteract the rising cost of food and fuel, ways must be sought to expand domestic agricultural production and find alternative sources of energy to protect electricity consumers, he said. In making reference to his recent Cabinet reshuffle, he said it was designed to bring about a fresh perspective on the critical issues of public finance, national security, labour, information and technology, foreign affairs and social development.” Despite the many challenges the economy faces, including having one of the highest national debts in the world and the escalating crime rate, the Prime Minister said the economy is growing. “In the midst of all the global upheavals that make the news headlines every day, our country continues to grow steadily, our financial institutions remain strong, and investors ” local and foreign ” continue to place great confidence in the growth prospects of our Federation,” Dr. Douglas said. He stated that the St. Kitts Marriott Hotel is continuing with its expansion of 300 additional rooms and the Kiawah group is working steadfastly to commence construction on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which will be built on the Southeast Peninsula. “We must identify the major sources of our vulnerability and devise means of enhancing our capacity to cope with the risks associated with such vulnerabilities.” In particular, we must continue to strengthen the public finances with a view to bringing down debt and thereby enhancing the capacity of the Government to promote growth, accelerate social development and cope with natural disasters,” the Prime Minister stated.