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St. Kitts and Nevis

Higher Cost of Living Demands Competent Governments

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Saunders Portrait 2022
File photo: Sir Ronald Saunders.

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By Sir Ronald Sanders  

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America and the Organization of American States.   He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto)  

Throughout the world, people and their governments and Central Banks are worrying about inflation, or the rate of increase in the cost of living.  In many countries, this concern about the cost of living has become a prime consideration in general elections because electorates want competent governments in whose hands they commit their expectations.

Two questions arise: what is responsible for the cost of living, and can governments in small, developing countries, such as those in the Caribbean, take actions that would address the issue satisfactorily?

In the mid-term elections in the United States of America (U.S.) last month, inflation (roughly translated as ‘the Economy’) was an issue that surfaced in early campaigning, although it waned toward the end.   The main concern in the U.S. was the high cost of oil that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the consequent efforts in Europe and North America to boycott Russian oil, or at least to minimize dependence on it.

The refusal of the big oil producing countries to increase their output to compensate for shortages created by the isolation of Russia, increased oil prices globally.  In turn, this caused the Biden administration in the U.S. to release oil supplies from its strategic stock, reducing gasoline and diesel prices.  Because of Biden’s action, by the time the mid-term elections were held, the value of this issue, in political terms, dropped to 38% amongst the electorate.

However, the oil issue persisted in Europe which had developed a dependence on Russian oil and gas.  Europe will barely manage to keep prices down this winter only because European nations will utilize Russian supplies that they had stockpiled prior to the Russian war on Ukraine.

Both for the US and Europe, heating and its attendant costs to consumers will be a problem this winter.  But next year will be worse if the isolation of Russian oil and gas from the world market continues.  Stocks will be depleted if not exhausted, causing prices to soar.

All this could cause serious social unrest in Europe.  There have already been protests in Greece, Belgium, Germany,  France, Spain, Austria and the Czech Republic – the latter of which has seen household energy bills surge tenfold.

The world is also still experiencing the residual impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that severely disrupted supply chains for food, medicines, and commodities for construction and agriculture.  Costs of construction material increased by as much as 90% since the start of the pandemic.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, particularly the six smaller nations that comprise the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), have little control over the cost of living being experienced in their respective countries.   As the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Timothy Antoine, put it in July, “We import inflation, principally from the US and also from Europe our major trading partners”.

In the specific case of The Bahamas, largely because of geographic proximity, it conducts 85% of its trade with the U.S., importing almost $3 billion in goods in 2021 and giving the U.S. a balance of trade surplus of $2.5 billion.   Therefore, the Bahamas is very vulnerable to the impact of inflation in the U.S.

As small states, with limited capacity for the production of goods, Caribbean countries import from the U.S. and Europe, bringing to their shores the high costs in those countries.  Belize, Guyana and Suriname have some capacity to dull the impact of importing agricultural products because they are less reliant on such imports due to their relatively larger agricultural sectors.  But even these three states still confront both the shortages and high prices for agricultural inputs, such as urea and ammonia.

In a sentence, the current rise in the cost of living is not due to policies of Caribbean governments; it is caused by external factors beyond the control of governments.

To be fair, all Caribbean governments, to one extent or another, have taken steps to cushion the effects of inflation on their populations, especially the poor and vulnerable.   Many governments have introduced measures to subsidise the prices of basic foods.  In the case of Antigua and Barbuda and St Lucia, for instance, the governments subsidise the costs of oil and gas.  Furthermore, in Antigua and Barbuda, the government has written off arrears owed for electricity, water and property taxes, as further measures to ease the impact of imported inflation  on the population.

A major consequence of these actions is that government revenues are diminishing, and their ability to service the demands of every sector of their society is considerably strained.

As is presently happening in Antigua and Barbuda and in Guyana, Caribbean governments will also have to increase wages and salaries, including the minimum wage, so that the general population can cope with increased prices.  Overall, this will lead to higher per capita incomes, resulting in disqualification by international financial institutions from access to low-cost borrowing, precisely when Caribbean countries need it most.

In Antigua and Barbuda, the Government and the private sector managed to agree on an increased minimum wage, recognizing that cost of living increases had to be met to maintain social and economic stability.

The big question that remains for the region is: when will the global economic disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and consequent retaliation by the US, Canada and the European Union end?  Right now, it looks set to drag on into next year.

Caribbean countries, therefore, should be working feverishly to implement the many plans, which they have agreed to increase trade in goods and services among themselves; to establish joint ventures for the manufacturing and agricultural production; and for air and sea transportation.   They also have to enhance the Caribbean Development Bank and consider new ways of investing Caribbean savings and profits by investing them within the region, rather than abroad.

In other words, the Caribbean has to become more self-sufficient and less vulnerable to external factors.

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com  

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St. Kitts and Nevis

Firearm, Ammunition Found Following Search at New Pond Site – NevisPages.com

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Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 04, 2023 (RSCNPF): A third firearm for the year has been taken into Police custody.

On February 02, 2023, acting on information while investigating a shooting incident at New Pond Site the Police conducted a search in the wider area. As a result, one (1) Sig Sauer 223 pistol with one .380 round of ammunition were found. The firearm and round were taken into Police custody.

Investigations into the matter are ongoing.



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St. Kitts and Nevis

PM Terrance Drew Talks About National Security In Special Interview

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PM Terrance Drew talks about National Security in Special interview< Image Courtesy: Facebook
PM Terrance Drew talks about National Security in Special interview< Image Courtesy: Facebook

The prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Terrance Drew, was a part of a special interview hosted on February 3, 2023. During the interview, Prime Minister interacted with the media on several matters of national importance. This media interaction differed from all the other interactions the Drew-led administration has faced in their tenure. 

According to the prime minister, this was the first time he was sitting in front of a panel of media professionals and opened the floor for questions. One of the most critical issues of national importance is national security. Concerning this, the Prime Minister and Minister of Social Security expressed that he felt disheartened upon hearing about the growing incidents of crime and violence in the federation. 

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Meanwhile, he assured the media that St Kitts and Nevis’s law enforcement agencies are working diligently to remedy the situation. He urged the public to understand that the government is doing everything that they need to do to deal with the situation. Prime Minister Terrance Drew noted that loss of life is a “special loss of life.”

Further, the Prime Minister shifted to the issue of healthcare and the development of the sector. According to Dr Terrance Drew, the minister of health, the essential prerequisite to the healthcare sector’s growth is that top-level management is in place. Accordingly, the Prime Minister noted that the healthcare sector had made several new appointments under his governance. These appointments include New Permanent Secretary for Health, Principal Nursing Officer. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Terrance Drew elaborated on the other developments. He stated that the government seeks to ensure that the JNF General Hospital will have at least two doctors working per shift. He noted that from Saturday, February 4, 2023, the hospitals would have nurses in triage to decrease the wait time. 

Meanwhile, he mentioned that he received an independent forensic audit which detailed that the management of the development bank is troubling. He also told the media about the installation ceremony of the first female governor-general while noting that St Kitts and Nevis Labour Party remains at the forefront of the revolution in the country. 

He further took questions from the media, reiterating his commitment to deal with violence and crime in the federation. Elaborating on the measures that the government is taking up in this regard, Prime Minister Dr Terrance Drew noted that:

  • The police commission is undergoing a major change
  • The government will appoint a new commissioner
  • The government is installing a deputy commissioner of police
  • The government will put in the Assistant Commissioner of Police
  • They will strengthen the police command by establishing a chain of command.

Prime Minister Terrance Drew noted that with these changes, the government is seeking to protect the people of the country

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St. Kitts and Nevis

BONI Launches Anti-Money Laundering Tech

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Bank of Nevis International (BONI), a top provider of comprehensive wealth management and portfolio management services, has partnered with Singapore-based Tookitaki to introduce the latter’s award-winning Anti-Money Laundering Suite (AMLS). With this move, BONI becomes the first Caribbean bank to adopt the innovative technology, aimed at combating financial crime and enhancing compliance programs.

May be an image of 5 people and text that says 'BONI :I Our holistic wealth management solutions help you to protect, grow, and enjoy your capital.'

The AMLS offers a more comprehensive approach to risk coverage, providing sharper detection of money laundering activities, and minimizing false alerts, compared to legacy financial crime detection systems. Using AMLS allows BONI to join a community of leading banks and FinTech companies from around the world that are using cutting-edge technology, including AI, to tackle increasingly complex compliance challenges.

BONI Vice President of Fintech and Security, Deji F. Akadiri, said: “Tookitaki AMLS enables us to keep pace with evolving compliance requirements and provide our customers with a streamlined experience, reduced false positives, quicker onboarding, and the peace of mind that we are using proven and evolving technology.”

Tookitaki is known for its innovative Anti-Financial Crime (AFC) Ecosystem, which provides a platform for financial crime experts from across the world to pool their knowledge, data, and skills to tackle complex financial crimes. The AFC ecosystem removes the barriers created by siloed operations and allows the sharing of financial crime scenarios in a secure and privacy-protected manner.

BONI operates as a financial gateway to the world, connecting clients with international financial centers and markets. It is an independent financial center, offering a diverse and inclusive approach to help clients achieve their global ambitions and safeguard their future.

The AMLS solution from Tookitaki, designed with the principles of being comprehensive, convenient, and compliant, empowers financial institutions to strengthen their risk coverage and mitigate risks in a rapidly changing regulatory landscape. The suite covers the entire customer onboarding and ongoing processes, including transaction monitoring, smart screening, customer risk scoring, and case management.

PAN FINANCE



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