New initiatives announced by SKN PM Harris to assist needy amid COVID 

The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis - Dr Timothy Harris, during his address in a press conference on July 8th 2021, has informed that the SKN government so far has paid salaries, wages and pensions to nearly 10,000 people who are part of the government establishment, auxiliary government employees, STEP recruits, and pensioners amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Saint Kitts and Nevis: The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis – Dr Timothy Harris, during his address in a press conference on July 8th 2021, has informed that the SKN government so far has paid salaries, wages and pensions to nearly 10,000 people who are part of the government establishment, auxiliary government employees, STEP recruits, and pensioners amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

He added that between January and June 2021, the SKN government had spent around $164.3 million on employee-related benefits and reduced corporation taxes from 33 per cent to 25 per cent. 

Recently, IMF – Indian Monetary Fund stated, “St Kitts and Nevis has entered the COVID-19 pandemic from a position of fiscal strength, and the SKN governments’ immediate actions helped to contain the pandemic’s public health impact.”

He went on and added that the SKN government had launched several initiatives to ease the financial burden brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as – Poverty Alleviation Programm- PAP, payment of examination fees for students, school meals for students, provision of books for students, food vouchers, medical aid, early childhood subsidies, residential services for the elderly and rent assistance for the poor and vulnerable.

Following the statement, the prime minister added that with the efforts of the SKN government, the Construction and Real Estate Sectors have also been benefitted in the following ways – 

  • Reduction in the rate of Stamp Duty from 10% to 2.5% on the sale/transfer of real property until December 2021 for specific developments;
  • Under the initiative of First Time Home Owners, people can receive duty-free concessions on building materials required to construct their first home. For the year so far, 78 persons have received concessions on building materials totalling $12.3 million. Between 2015 and the present, 795 applications were approved.
  • Tax exemptions on building materials and equipment used during the construction phase of significant developments.
  • Government Employees Mortgage Facility administered by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis.
  • Citizens Mortgage Facility also administered by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. Between March to June 2021, some 40 mortgages were approved, totalling $6.4 million.

He added that the government has also supported 795 other people in constructing their homes in response to the hurricane. The prime minister cited that the government had provided an injection of $15 million for the agriculture sector to boost production and ensure food security, allocation of additional lands for farming, and a temporary waiver of water payments by farmers. 

“During the period January to May 2021, the dollar value of crop and livestock production rose by 44 per cent ($3.6m in 2020 to $5.2m in 2021). Crop output increased by 27 per cent. Livestock output increased by 90 per cent over the period,” PM Harris stated. 

The prime minister further outlined the new initiatives taken by the SKN government during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist the vulnerable and needy, which are as follows – 

  • Implementation of an – Income Support Programme in the amount of $15 million to alleviate hardships on our citizens who remain unemployed since March 2020 and are registered with the Social Security Board. A monthly stipend of $1,000 will be paid for the next three months. However, persons who received $15,000 or more in severance payment after March 2020 would not be eligible to access the Programme. 

         b) Persons receiving assistance under the PAP would only be entitled to receive an additional $500 under the Income Support Programme. 

          c) Persons already receiving a Government stipend of $1,000 would not enjoy a further benefit of $1,000. We are attempting to reach the most brutal hit and the most significant number of persons who require support. Our priority must be to support those most in need and to support as many persons as possible.

  • To waive commercial rent for six months (July to December 2021) for – small businesses which lease space from the government through the Ministry of Tourism and Transport. These would include small companies that rent booths at the Ferry and Bus Terminals, the Amina Craft Market and the Pelican Mall.
  • Would reduce the VAT Rate for three months (July to September 2021) from 10% to 5% on commercial rent for small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and a valid business license.
  • Reinstate the annual Import Duty exemption for 16 tyres (4 tyres per quarter), four pairs of brake pads and three pairs of brake shoes for ‘H’ passenger buses. 
  • Provide fuel subsidy of $400 per month to passenger bus operators for three months.
  •  Waive stall fees for vendors using the public market until December 31st.
  • SKELEC has agreed to provide a deferral on the residential electricity bills for the next 3 months.

Despite this, the prime minister informed that the government would assist households with such children with a stipend for the differently-abled children with a stipend to help them over the next six months.