Author: Valencia Grant - Press Secretary to PM Harris | Date: 07 January 2019
I wish to adopt the protocol that has already been established, except to acknowledge His Excellency the Governor General, Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton; Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris; Members of the Cabinet; Members of Parliament; Dr. the Right Excellent and the Right Honourable Sir Kennedy Simmonds, St. Kitts and Nevis’ first Prime Minister and only living National Hero; his wife, Lady Simmonds, and Special Guest Speaker the Right Honourable Sir Dennis Byron.
Tonight, I have the distinct honour and privilege to introduce Prime Minister Harris, with whom I have worked – as his Press Secretary – for two years and 10 months.
It is indeed a high honour for me to have been given the opportunity to serve my country and to work for a leader whom the ages will remember as one of the most skillful and admired politicians in Caribbean history who made his mark on the world with his keen intellect and compassion.
As a student, Dr. Harris’ keen intellect was sharpened at the University of the West Indies, where he graduated from the Cave Hill Campus with a First Class Honours Degree in Accounting and won the coveted Victor Cooke Prize for Best Accounting Student. He went on to graduate from UWI’s St. Augustine Campus with a distinction in the Master’s Degree Management Studies Programme.
His exceptional brilliance prompted UWI to sponsor him in pursuing Ph.D. accounting studies, in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
In 2018, during the University of the West Indies’ 70th anniversary celebrations, Prime Minister Harris was recognized for his Outstanding Leadership and Public Service and as one of UWI’s 70 outstanding graduates in its remarkable 70-year history.
From his strong advocacy on behalf of tens of thousands of people of Caribbean descent known as the Windrush generation who have lived in the United Kingdom for decades, but have had a difficult time proving that they are there legally, to his sounding of the alarm that Small Island Developing States, like St. Kitts and Nevis, are the most vulnerable to the impact of both climate change and non-communicable diseases, Prime Minister Harris drew the world’s attention in 2018 to substantive issues related to social justice and vulnerable communities.
Working closely with Prime Minister Harris for nearly three years, I have come to note that his immense political skill is reflected in his exceptional ability to connect with an audience, with the people, with you and with me.
Simply put, Prime Minister Harris cares for people, and he wants us to care too. He inspires us to unite and work together to write our history and to chart our path forward for the good of our families, our communities, our country and our future.
Notably, by the time he was formally announced as the Team Unity Movement’s leader at Greenlands Park on September 26th, 2013, much of the country had already made up its mind in his favour – there would be no turning back; it would be forward ever with Team Unity.
A little more than five years later, we are sharing in the fruits of change and growth: back-to-back-to-back double salary payments…VAT-free food and medicines…nearly 4,000 families living in households earning less than $3,000 per month in St. Kitts and Nevis now receive a $500-monthly stipend to help meet their basic needs.
Under Prime Minister Harris’ steady leadership, St. Kitts and Nevis paid off the $117 million-dollar debt to the International Monetary Fund that was left by the former administration.
What’s more, St. Kitts and Nevis became the very first independent state in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union to bring its debt-to-GDP ratio in line with the international benchmark of 60 percent – and we did so 12 years ahead of the 2030 target date set by the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
In a nutshell, the fiscal position of the Federal Government under Prime Minister Harris’ Team Unity administration is sound and poised for further expansive growth. For instance, applications to the Citizenship by Investment Programme have increased tremendously over recent years and they continue to rise.
Our country is also noticeably on the rise. We are now a marquee cruise destination, welcoming more than one million passengers each year – and the second cruise pier, when completed in the third quarter of 2019, will enable us to accommodate even more of the world’s largest cruise ships.
That’s more good news for tour operators and other tourism stakeholders who saw total cruise passenger spend in St. Kitts and Nevis register a whopping 77 percent increase in 2017/2018 over 2014/2015.
Indeed, the smallest independent country in the Western Hemisphere is punching above its weight under Prime Minister Harris’ Team Unity administration.
This is to be expected under the leadership of a man who has blazed a decades-long trail of distinction and has faithfully served his Constituency and the people of the Federation for 25 years as a Member of Parliament.
The love and deep connection between him and his constituents remain strong and palpable. The people have come to love and admire him, and in a 2018 CADRES poll he was the man most favoured to lead St. Kitts and Nevis. The highly respected polling firm also found that his Team Unity Government was favoured to win the elections were they to be called right then.
Dr. Harris continues to be a man of, for, and by the people. He is a leader on whom we can depend and a man for all seasons.
I invite you all to stand and give a rousing round of applause to Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, our beloved Prime Minister!