Nestled among a cluster of volcanic islands in the Eastern Caribbean region, Saint Kitts and Nevis is the smallest independent country in the hemisphere. This tranquil two-island nation located in the Leeward Islands extends only 101 square miles and has an estimated population of 43,000.
Thousands of visitors from across the world flock to this tropical destination year-round to experience its unique culture. But the draw to this country's well-known musical celebrations and to the beauty of its picturesque jungle-covered mountains and beaches may prove to be even more significant in the coming years than it has throughout its entire history.
In 2005, as declining sugar prices slashed profits for this export, the government headed by Prime Minister Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, abandoned its principal national industry. Since then, it has launched an innovative strategy that is leading Saint Kitts and Nevis on a new course of economic transformation.
During a recent visit to the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, Prime Minister Douglas shared with Americas magazine some of his administration's achievements, as well as the challenges that lie ahead as it embarks on a program to diversify this traditional agricultural sector and stimulate the development of new Industries such as tourism, financial services, and information and communication technology.
* St. Kitts and Nevis is a relatively small nation, but you have recently said that "what the country lacks in geographical expanse is compensated for by the immense talents and capabilities of the people."
I think that it is well known that St. Kitts and Nevis is the smallest independent country In the hemisphere. But we have consistently had Indices that speak to the tremendous educational ability of our people. For example, we have a literacy rate of 98%. [The recently released] ... United Nations Human Development Index places St. Kitts and Nevis at second only to Barbados In the entire Caribbean region and about 37th, I believe, in the entire world. In other words, even though we are a country with a relatively small population, there's no question about our own capacity and our ability to impact the global economy ...
* As Chair of CARICOM, you have actively supported the Caribbean Community's Single Market and Economy (CSME). Have the major obstacles for complete regional integration been surpassed?
Yes, most of them have been surpassed. In fact, all of the relevant members of the Caribbean community are now members of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The smaller territories had been looking at the Treaty of Chaguaramas, the revised treaty which spoke to the implementation of the CSME. They indicated that there should be a regional development fund that could be accessed by any country, any trading company that may have become disadvantaged in moving towards the Single Market and Economy. We have been insistent since last year that we need to have this fund established. [This] fund has now been established, it has been capitalized, [and] it will have funding not only from members of the Caribbean community ... but also [through] ... the assistance of a number of international financial institutions and certain countries.
* You have also said, in that regard, that there must be a commitment to ensuring that no countries are given a "Cinderella status" within the CSME.
Well, we feel very strongly that all of the member territories involved in the CSME must work assiduously to make this happen ... [We can't have only] some countries being successful from the establishment of this institution, ... receiving all of the benefits and advantages while others continue to slip further and further into poverty.
It must be equitable--equitable sharing of the resources, equitable sharing of the rewards that come from the establishment of the CSME ... [Our] people must be able to move more freely; their skills must be able to have an impact on the overall development of the region and thus [help the region to become] more competitive in dealing with the global economy. …