My fellow citizens and residents, with the launch of the National Carnival last night, the advent of the Christmas and Carnival season comes to mind. In this regard, our citizens and residents including businesses have been inquiring about any gratuities and special concessions, which my government may deliver in December.
We appreciate that 2016 so far has been a very good one for us. We have been an above average performer not just in the OECS, CARICOM, ECLAC, but in the wide world. All three of our fiscal accounts: the recurrent, overall and primary accounts have been in surplus from January to October. We are gratified by this excellent performance of our fiscal house, and we credit this to the satisfaction of economic actors in the policies of the people’s Team Unity Government. We are committed to ensure that all share in the economic fortunes of our beloved country.
Cabinet in its deliberation on Friday determined that the following will be offered to government employees in December this year: an extra month’s salary to all civil servants, auxiliary workers and pensioners on the government’s payroll.
This represents a thirteen-month salary or an 8.3% bonus to government employees and pensioners. This payout will benefit not only federal employees and pensioners but also those on the payroll of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA).
My government encourages all entities in the public and private sectors to make a very special effort to deliver a gratuitous payment to their employees in December. The Ministry of Finance will work with the CFBC and other governmental agencies to make this happen. We estimate that potentially EC$30 million will be pumped into the economy as a consequence of this bonus by the government. The multiplier effect of this sum will be significant at this time of the year.
As the principal beneficiaries of consumer expenditure, we hope that our private sector firms will do more than the normal pay for their employees. We urge those who are receiving extra to show a little more kindness during the Yuletide season, and we caution all to spend wisely and avoid waste. The generosity of my government extends beyond the payment of the extra month’s salary. Further assistance to boost economic activity and make life easier for the lower and middle income families include:
1. VAT DAY
Vat Day was announced last week. Cabinet, in its collaboration with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, has designated Friday, December 16th, 2016 as VAT Reduction Day in the Federation. This discounted shopping day is an opportunity for our people to enjoy a boost for the purchase of essential goods and services during the month of December.
My fellow citizens and residents, you may recall that this government took the bold and progressive decision to remove VAT from the price of food, medicine and educational supplies early in 2015. This has brought relief to all citizens and residents, particularly the poor who have experienced a significant drop in the cost of food items, medicines, and educational supplies. Our cost of living index is at the lowest in its history.
The Cabinet wishes to remind all citizens of the need to play an active role in their own security and safety, especially during the upcoming Christmas and Carnival seasons. The general public is reminded of Government’s offer of duty-free concessions on the purchase of safety and surveillance equipment for your homes and for your businesses. Please be assured that our security forces will continue to do all in their power to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens and residents. The Security Forces will beef up their presence on VAT Day and every effort will be made to ensure the safety of our streets as people go about their legitimate business. Your ongoing partnership with the Police and Defence Force will be greatly appreciated.
2. GIFT PACKAGES
Gift packages of foodstuff will be allowed free of duties and taxes for the first 400lbs, starting from the 9th and going to the 31st of December 2016.
3. Another important concession which we make is that travelers will receive a duty-free allowance of EC$540.00 (US$200.00) off the CIF value. This, too, will run from the 9th of December to the 31st of December 2016.
4. CONCESSIONS TO STAND-ALONE RESTAURANTS
I am pleased to announce to all of our stand-alone restaurant operators that the government has approved an extension of duty-free concessions, which are applicable every five years. These concessions apply to the following purchases:
· The purchase of food and wine, restaurant equipment, cutlery, and glassware
I should note that the normal VAT rate of 17% and Customs Service Charge at 6% are payable on the importation of equipment, cutlery, crockery, and glassware. Interested restaurant operators are asked to contact SKIPA on the 3rd Floor of the Cable Building on Cayon Street, Basseterre.
5. BUDGET DAY
My government believes that the concessions outlined above will yield benefit to our people. We are taking good care to balance our books. However, we appreciate that we are not just a successful economy. We must also be a most caring society. In this regard, my government wants our people to balance their lives.
In our upcoming budget for 2017 we shall outline a number of initiatives to foster the growth and resilience of our economy and our beloved people.
I am pleased to advise that The 2017 Budget will be presented in Parliament on Wednesday, December 7th, 2016. I look forward to unveiling the plans and programmes which our Team Unity Administration intends to deliver to the people of St. Kitts and the people of Nevis in the next 12 months, in our quest to improve the standard and quality of life of everyone.
6. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
I now draw your attention to the fact that in keeping with section 2 of the Public Holidays Act Cap 23.23, December 26th and 27th, 2016 will be consecutive public holidays. The relevant section of the Act notes that: “…if Christmas Day falls on a Sunday [as is the case this year], then the next following Monday (Boxing Day) and Tuesday shall be public holidays.”
7. SUPPORT TO HAITI AND THE BAHAMAS
The Cabinet also took note of a report from the CARICOM Chairman on the damage caused to Haiti and the Bahamas by Hurricane Matthew. In this regard, Cabinet noted its regrets at the devastation occasioned on Haiti and the significant damage to the Bahamas. Cabinet pledges its support to these islands totaling just over one million dollars. This amount will be shared between the two countries on an equitable basis, taking into account the damage and economic health of each member state. We have been fortunate so far to be spared the ravages of a hurricane for the 2016 season. We are prepared as a people not only to sympathize with those who suffer, but also to extend a helping hand. We are happy to be in this position, to experience the satisfaction of giving to others.
For all of God’s mercies and our accomplishments and successes to date we are minded to say, “To God be the glory, great things He hath done.”
I thank you for listening, and pray that God will continue to bless our people and to bless our beautiful country.