PM Harris’ Address Re: Team Unity Government’s Promised Household Support to Alleviate Poverty
Thursday, August 2nd, 2018
My Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis
In February 2015, your Team Unity Administration made a solemn commitment to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis that we would leave no one behind as we progressed towards the sustainable development of our Nation. We gave a pledge to provide financial support in the amount of EC$500 per month to those households whose total gross monthly income falls below EC$3,000. Some dismissed our pledge as mere gimmickry. Some said it could never be done.
My Team Unity Administration is however grateful to you the majority of the citizenry who recognized and believed in our ability to deliver on our commitments to you.
Today, therefore, as your Prime Minister, I am pleased to announce the start of the data gathering exercise to deliver on my Government’s commitment to you to provide this crucial financial support. It is necessary for your Team Unity Administration to continue on the journey of delivering to our people continuous improvement in their overall standard of living and quality of life. For this blessing, I say to God be the Glory.
Our Poverty Alleviation Programme
Yesterday, Wednesday, August 1st, to be exact, we launched the data gathering exercise that will be collecting important information from persons who are applying for this $500 monthly support.
At the heart of this Poverty Alleviation Programme is our desire to help disadvantaged households to meet some of their essential living expenses and, in so doing, be able to have a standard of living that does not compromise their health or their dignity.
This exercise will run for two weeks, and is expected to conclude on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018. We expect that the exercise will commence in Nevis after the Culturama celebrations.
The application process is very simple and is as follows:
– Only one person per household (that is, the head of the household) will be required to apply by completing the questionnaire.
– Courteous, professional and helpful data collectors at the designated centres will gladly assist you in filling out the questionnaire.
– Go to your nearest assigned application centre. The full list of assigned application centres will be broadcast on ZIZ’s Bulletin Board and on social media, and will also be published in newspapers.
– In addition, the full list of centres will be posted at Government Headquarters at the front of the Passport Office.
– The application centres will operate on weekdays from 10:00am to 6:00pm, allowing you to complete the questionnaire after work.
– We intend to fully utilize the time allotted to the data gathering exercise to accommodate applications from all parties who are qualified.
– It is important for those wishing to apply to this Poverty Alleviation Programme to know that all persons collecting data have taken and are bound by oaths of confidentiality to safeguard the information collected.
Your information will be protected and be treated in the strictest confidence.
– We ask that all applicants be honest and forthright in their responses.
Phase 2 of this Poverty Alleviation Programme will consist of an investigative and assessment stage during which the data collected will be verified to determine whether individuals who have applied for the assistance are genuinely eligible. My Government is a fiscally responsible one and we will not tolerate abuse within the programme.
In Phase 3, the payments to qualifying households will start as soon as practicable after phase 2 would have ended.
Our Thanks Go To
The Government wishes to thank the hardworking and dedicated employees of various Government Ministries who are engaged in this process, in particular the Ministries of Sustainable Development, Social Services, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Finance, and various community volunteers, as well as the relevant State agencies for their invaluable support and service over the duration of this entire poverty alleviation project.
The Poverty Situation in St. Kitts and Nevis
It is important for me to state clearly that this initiative is intended to help our people improve the quality of their lives. We inherited a situation where too many people were among the working poor, unable to pay their electricity bills, and to keep up with the 600 percent increase in water charges imposed by the bygone Labour administration. We are a people centred government and their wish is our command. It was the people’s recommendation as to how we could better their lives, which we adopted in our Manifesto. The people in their constituencies voted overwhelmingly for this initiative.
If they were to give an honest assessment of the poverty situation in St. Kitts and Nevis, the detractors would have to acknowledge that something should have been done to improve the lot of thousands of people in the Federation.
St. Kitts and Nevis last completed the CDB-funded Country Poverty Assessment in 2008. Importantly, it provided a quantitative and qualitative analysis of living conditions in the Federation.
An alarming takeaway from the National Survey of Living Conditions conducted under the former regime revealed a national poverty rate of 21.8 percent of individuals across St. Kitts and Nevis.
That survey advised the Douglas administration that, “Some of those without jobs resorted to informal and underground type activities.”
The study alerted the past administration that, “There has been a persistence of the phenomenon of the working poor.”
With 20 years in Government the last administration should have done better to protect the poor, but their insensitive policies – such as the introduction of a prohibitive 17% value-added tax (VAT) on food and medicines, an 85% increase in electricity tariff and over 600 percent increase in our water bills – only added insult to injury and exemplified the indignity of persistent and pervasive poverty.
The sad truth is that more should have also been done to help the women in this country, who constitute more than 50% of our Nation’s households.
More, too, should have been done to help our civil servants, but the Douglas Administration imposed a wage freeze on them and took away their increments for 3 years in a row.
However, under my Team Unity administration, civil servants have been paid a 13-month (double) salary for the past two consecutive years, and they can now benefit from a $30-million housing programme that enables Government employees to access financing at 5%, the lowest rate in the Federation.
Team Unity’s Important Mandate – A Break from the Dark Past
Team Unity believes that we are compelled to lift each other up regardless of colour, creed, age, ideology, gender or socio-economic status. When one of us succeeds, then all of us succeed.
Today, tomorrow, and for as long as you entrust in us this very important mandate to govern, we will do just that.
This Team Unity Government has committed to creating a better society and to reshaping the society where we each become our brother’s keeper and our sister’s helper.
Today marks a giant leap forward in achieving that kinder, gentler and better society that my Government campaigned on and is now proud to deliver to our people. Today we take a giant step in service to the poor and indigent. Today we go further than any other administration in the last 25 years to improve the condition of the poor and allow them to benefit from our shared prosperity.
Let me again thank the people for choosing Team Unity.
May God Bless our beloved people and beautiful Country.
I Thank You.