Charlestown, NEVIS (December 21, 2020)- In the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has decimated the island’s revenue streams, Premier Mark Brantley’s vision and foresight handling the health and economic crises has ensured Nevis’ survival during this difficult period.
“I think this pandemic has tested leaders throughout the world in a very serious way. Nevis is no different” Brantley says.
“Nine months on, Nevis is still standing; I think this is testimony to the strength of the leadership that we’ve had in Nevis at all levels, not just from my office, but also members of Cabinet and the various government and related agencies and those in the private sector as well.”
Before the pandemic struck in March 2020, Nevis’ main economic driver Tourism, was poised to outperform previous years with a record number of tourist arrivals projected.
However when St. Kitts and Nevis closed its borders at the end of March, and like nations worldwide went on lockdown, tourism activity came to a screeching halt. Hundreds of Nevisians were left on the breadline when the flights disappeared from the skies and hotels, restaurants, tours and attractions were forced to close their doors.
The Premier proved his leadership mettle, leading the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) through unchartered waters of having to ensure the economic survival of not just the government, but every citizen and resident on Nevis.
In a show of solidarity with the many persons left jobless due to the pandemic, Premier Brantley, in an unprecedented act of self-sacrifice, gave up his entire salary and all allowances since March, 2020 and even now continues to forgo that salary. He says he shall do so until Nevis is past the worst.
The entire NIA Cabinet also made personal sacrifices, giving up 10% of their salaries for three months, and contributing $13,500 of personal funds each month to assist families during the COVID-19 pandemic. This, with other contributions from concerned citizens and residents, was used to finance food vouchers for some 623 families over a three-month period.
Premier Brantley’s administration quickly launched several stimulus initiatives and wide sweeping concessions to ease the financial pressure of affected households.
On December 8 the Premier revealed a budget for fiscal year 2021, devoid of new or increased taxes, as a post COVID-19 incentive to stimulate economic expansion and encourage growth.
COVID relief fiscal incentives for several sectors implemented in 2020 have also been extended into the new year to help spur economic activity.
Brantley, Finance Minister in the NIA, said against the backdrop of a $20.46 million or 17.84% decrease in recurrent revenue as at 31 October 2020, the Nevis government successfully contained the increase in its total debt during 2020 to 4.35 %.
“I wish to report that despite the significant decline in revenue collections in 2020, your Government was ever prudent in its expenditure management and was able to limit the extent of any new borrowings.
“We will always endeavour to keep our indebtedness in check and seek out low cost or concessionary financing whenever there is a need to incur new debt.
“This Government seeks to be fiscally conservative and therefore any increase in debt at any level is unwelcome. However, given the twin problems of upward pressure on unbudgeted expenditure caused by high expenditure in healthcare and education and the downward pressure on revenue caused by the closure of our tourism and allied industries, I believe that we can be proud that we kept the increase in total debt to less than 4.4%,” he said via his Budget Address.
Premier Brantley says with the country’s border now re-opened to regional and international travellers, and the approval of COVID-19 vaccines, the focus is now on rebuilding Nevis’ economy in the post COVID-19 era.
“My Government pledges to work steadfastly and diligently to ensure that Nevis is set firmly on a path to recovery that is both sustainable and inclusive.
“We will continue to implement timely, targeted, and balanced fiscal policies to support our recovery in our quest to build resilience, stimulate sustainable growth and ensure an entrenched culture of inclusion.
“We all look forward to the end of this crisis and a return to some level of normalcy. As your people-centred Government, we ask you our people to keep the faith, to continue to support your Government as together we will work hand in hand to overcome these difficulties. Together we will work to build a better and brighter Nevis for ourselves and the future generations.”