IMF Meets Kittitian Public and Private Sector & Government

The recently concluded Growth Forum of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis was an ideal opportunity to deliberate on the importance of the private sector to the local economy in general and, more specifically, the manufacturing sector.

At a private dinner meeting held on Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at the St. Kitts Marriott, the visiting IMF delegation had the rare opportunity to interface with approximately 36 local private and public sector leaders on a number of pertinent issues.

These matters include, but were not limited to the following:

1) The economic performance of St. Kitts and Nevis and, in particular, key sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
2) An assessment of public sector finances;
3) The challenges and opportunities to private sector-led growth in the medium to long terms; and
4) The imperatives for safeguards and reforms needed for the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme.

The discussion on manufacturing centered on (a) the significant employment provided by the sector, which averages 1900 jobs per annum; (b) the fact that a National Manufacturing Strategy has already been launched and now awaits implementation over the next five years; (c) the reality that manufacturing jobs, primarily provided to single mothers contribute, in large measure, to social stability; and (d) the undeniable statistic that manufacturing consistently accounts for an average of 8% of the Nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and is responsible for weekly injections of foreign exchange earnings into the Country.

In commenting on the role of manufacturing after the IMF/ Government/ Private Sector Dinner Meeting, the Federation's Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris underscored the critical need to safeguard the local manufacturing sector - which is comprised of indigenous manufacturing operators and US-owned electronic assembly plants.

Prime Minister Harris emphasized the following:

“Unlike other sectors, such as tourism, there is no extended or prolonged slow season in manufacturing. The manufacturing sector continues uninterrupted throughout the year, even in the face of external shocks that occur in global markets. We are particularly fortunate in St. Kitts and Nevis to be counted among the few CARICOM Member States that still have a solid enclave sector that operates under the Caribbean Basin Initiative established in 1983. Plants such as Kajola Kristada, Jaro Electronics, Lutron Liamuiga, and API Harowe Servo Controls have remained committed to St. Kitts and Nevis, and for that our Government is indeed grateful for their partnership in development,” the Prime Minister noted.

Prime Minister Harris also made reference to the recent, seasonal lay-off of 25 workers from Kajola Kristada in July. He commended the company for ensuring that all 25 workers were provided employment by neighbouring plant, Jaro Electronics – an offer that was taken up by most of the displaced workers. The Prime Minister also stated that manufacturing lay-offs during the summer months are fairly common, given that consumer spending in export markets such as the USA and Europe would generally be directed away from the purchase of consumer goods such as electronics.

The private dinner meeting with the IMF was deemed by both the public and private sector leaders as a rare opportunity to informally interface with one of the most globally influential Bretton Woods Institutions with oversight of the global economic and fiscal systems.

It should be noted that the local manufacturing base is populated by operators in sub- sectors such as electronic assembly, food and beverage, garment production, craft manufacturing, building materials and agro-processing. St. Kitts and Nevis is also expected to achieve the highest level of growth in CARICOM for 2015.

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