St. Kitts and Nevis - Domestic policy



To convince voters that economic conditions would improve under new leadership, Douglas' party promised to provide a boost to the tourism industry, outlining a strategy involving the construction of new hotels and the creation of 1,700 new jobs in the process. The plan was successful, in that the islands did experience strong growth for most of the 1990s. Hurricanes in 1998 and 1999, however, damaged 75% of all the houses in St. Kitts-Nevis as well as other buildings, causing over US $100 million in damages overall and dealing a major blow to tourism. The hurricanes forced the closure of one of the major hotels and heavily damaged the cruise ship pier in Port Zante, one of Douglas' construction projects. The 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the United States, which involved the simultaneous hijacking of four U.S. commercial air flights, hit the tourism industry even harder. In response, the government successfully gained a World Bank approved loan of US $4.4million to support efforts to reconstruct and revitalize the tourism industry of the islands. In March 2002, a few days after the World Bank agreement, Douglas, who also serves as minister of finance, signed an additional US $30 million loan agreement with the Unit Trust Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago, to finance the redesign and reconstruction of the Port Zante pier and allow the administration to move forward on other capital projects.

The Douglas government has continued to work toward improvements in the nation's sugar cane industry. As the major crop grown in the country, the health of the sugar industry has always been vital to the country's economic wellbeing. That well-being has been shaken, however, by a devastating cycle of hurricanes and drought and a dramatic increase in the cost of production. In an effort to keep sugar production moving forward, Douglas created the St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Redevelopment Committee (SRC) in 2001 to research and report on the best course of action for government support of the industry.

In 2001, the Douglas administration also approved the development of a multimillion dollar, Japanese-funded Fisheries Complex located at Newtown. The first phase of the project had been completed by March 2002. Douglas believes the project will have a great impact, not only in large scale exports but in local use. Smaller fishery terminals will be constructed around the island to supply local markets.

Douglas has also proven his party's interest in improving the everyday lives of the citizens. The government worked to revise social security benefits, especially as they relate to the poor and indigent. They introduced a comprehensive program of assistance for the elderly and developed a program through the Ministry of Social Development to aid low-income families with school-aged children as they struggle to cover expenses of school uniforms and supplies. There is no personal income tax in St. Kitts and Nevis.

In 2002, the Douglas administration held its first open-forum session, "Face to Face 2002," a public meeting between government officials and concerned citizens designed to promote public participation in national debates and decisions.

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