St. Kitts gets new cabinet

Former St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas
Associated Press / Richard Drew

St. Kitts and Nevis’ brand new cabinet begins its first full week of work having been named and sworn in at a public ceremony in Basseterre on Saturday, eight days the main opposition swept to power in general elections held in the twin-island federation.

New Prime Minister Terrance Drew, a medical doctor, said his administration is ready to deliver on promises to improve the economy, reduce fossil use and offer a better standard of living to the more than 50,000 residents in the federation.

 “Believe me when I tell you that the cabinet selection process was done carefully and systematically. Governance is serious business and your government must be responsive, effective and efficient because that is what you voted for. Their selection was not a popularity contest. Rather, I have to ensure that each ministry and each statutory corporation has ministers who are competent, empathetic, respectful, compassionate, accountable and energetic. I believe we have such ministers,” he told the crowd.

Appearing to vote for stability after the spectacular and embarrassing break up of the previous Team Unity coalition administration, voters gave the St. Kitts-Nevis Labor Party (SKNLP) six of the nine seats on mainland St. Kitts. Previous PM Timothy Harris who had run as leader of his People’s Labor Party (PLP) retained his seat as the PLP was swept from office, making way for a return of the SKNLP. The SKNLP had run the federation near Antigua and St. Maarten for 20 consecutive years before it was booted out in 2015 by Team Unity.

But Team Unity, comprising three parties collapsed in May, with other party leaders and cabinet ministers accusing Harris, 56 of ignoring their advice and tending to becoming dictatorial in management style.

The internal row then became public, with Harris firing six of his colleagues, asking the governor to dissolve parliament and setting Aug. 5 for general elections which he lost, signaling the end of a 25-year career. Team Unity won again two years ago but its dissolution meant that voters had to go to the polls with a full three years left in the five-year term. Dr. Drew now joins Attorney Dickon Mitchell as the news leaders in the 15-nation Caribbean Community having won general elections in Grenada in late June.

 Among those in the new federation cabinet is former PM Denzil Douglas who will serve as minister of foreign afffairs, economic development, international trade, investment and commerce. Geoffrey Hanley is the deputy prime minister.

Dr. Drew touched on the controversial Citizenship by Investment Scheme (CIP) under which foreigners could obtain local citizenship and a passport by simply investing in real estate and other development projects and by also contributing a fixed sum to government coffers.

Established to fill the revenue vacuum from the shuttered sugar sector and fluctuating fortunes from tourism, the CIP has in recent decades been a leading source of state revenue for the federation even as western nations say that suspected money launderers and other shady figures have taken advantage of such a facility there and in neighboring Caribbean nations with similar outlets.

“Your government will work to restore the reputation of the CIP program. That is a top priority. Your team will seek to strengthen the tourism and hospitality sector to make it more resilient to external shocks,” the PM said, noting the need to improve food production, get more out of the fishing sector and the need for the government to better support small businesses.