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(CMC) – The St. Kitts-Nevis government says the economy grew by 2.1 per cent last year as the twin island Federation continues to demonstrate resilience amidst prevailing downside risks in the international and regional economic environment.
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris, presenting the EC$749.3 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) to Parliament on Wednesday, said that gross domestic product (GDP) had increased eased by 2.1 per cent which is on par with the growth rate of 2.3 per cent recorded by the advanced economies.
He said this outturn also surpassed the economic output of the member states of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) of 1.3 per cent for the same period.
Harris said that the growth in the local economy was underpinned by expansions of 11.4 per cent in the agriculture sector; six per cent in the transport, storage and communication sector and 4.7 per cent in the construction Sector.
“The growth trend in the economy continued in 2018 resulting in a positive outturn during the first half of the year. I am advised that the growth we are currently witnessing is attributed mainly to activities in the tourism Sector which grew by 8.5 per cent,” said Harris, who is also the Finance Minister.
He told legislators that the manufacturing sector also rebounded during the first six months of 2018 recording an expansion in economic activity of 3.7 per cent after declining by 10 per cent during the same period in 2017.
He said the upturn in the sector had been influenced by a five per cent increase in the production of electronic components and positive growth within the agricultural, real estate, renting and business activity sectors.
Harris said that the average rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) deflated by 0.6 per cent in the first half of 2018 in line with the deceleration in prices in the non-food and seven service indices of 1.6 and 1.2 per cent respectively.
“Price levels in the food and beverages Index however, increased by 2.6 per cent over the period under review as a result of the steady increase in international food prices. My administration will continue to monitor this situation and work to improve food security in the Federation so that we could limit the negative impacts of these international trends.”
Harris told the National Assembly that there had been a transformation of the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CBI) resulting in more professional management systems as well as increased cooperation with partners.
Under the CBI, St. Kitts-Nevis provides citizenship to foreign investors who make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of the twin island Federation.
Harris said that every challenge in the industry was confronted “responsibly with a view to maintain the integrity of the programme and consolidate the socio-economic development of our country.
“Mr Speaker, wherever evidence has been provided regarding unacceptable behaviour we have acted appropriately. When persons sought to sell below programme statutory thresholds, we have taken quick action to dissuade and to have them cease and desist. When persons maliciously generated letters purporting to come from our Citizenship by Investment Unit bearing false information, we have acted, including to seek the support of the relevant law enforcement authorities.
“We welcome those service providers who were implicated in any way in these spurious letters to come forward, so advise the Unit and be prepared to bring full, definitive and factual evidence of such malpractice and fraud so that such matters can be fully addressed and corrective action taken,” he said, noting that offers of assistance have come from at least two international organisations.
Harris said that his administration would continue to act in the best interest of the country as it relates to the CBI, which he said had been the catalyst for the government improved economic success.
“As we move forward, we will work even more closely with developers, service providers and agents to ensure the highest standards of integrity pervade all areas. The programme is too important to allow the mischief and despicable agenda of anyone to destroy the good things which the programme has brought or discourage the participation of reputable entities.”
He said in 2019, a further set of policies and legislative developments will further bolster the CBI programme.
“There have been recent efforts to scandalize the programme by aggrieved parties with personal vendettas. Truth be told, it is the incredible success of our CBI programme that has provided the fiscal space for us to pay a double salary and introduce our poverty alleviation programme. These good developments are what the bitter-elements of the Opposition are hoping to undermine in their unfounded and malicious attacks on the CBI programme,” Harris told legislators, adding “.we acknowledge there is more work to be done.
“As a responsible member of the international community we are working with our international partners to achieve efficacious outcomes.”