Past Labour leaders praised for laying the foundation for social, political and economic development of St Kitts-Nevis

Basseterre, St Kitts, June 4, 2019 – Social Security, the reconstruction of terminal and lengthening of the then Golden Rock International Airport, the construction of the Deep Water Port at Bird Rock and the development of the hotel and light manufacturing industries were among the institutions established for the social, political and economic development of the people of St Kitts and Nevis in the march towards self-government by the departed leaders of the Labour Movement.
In his keynote address to the congregation at Sunday’s annual Requiem Mass at the Ebenezer Methodist Church in Old Road, former St Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Steve Wrensford noted that the development of St Kitts and Nevis “was heavily opposed by political entities (like the Democratic Party, which in now the Peoples Action Movement), which never had the best of intentions for the masses of this country.”
“Up until the 1960s there was no reliable social security safety net for most Kittitians and Nevisians. The only people who had pensions were colonial government workers, including police officers and teachers and a few privileged individuals who held positions in larger private companies and organizations. Others were not so lucky – those on poor relief, the sugar estate workers unable to work because of old age or infirmity, people who fell on hard times and were now destitute and were being supported by social welfare, and the vast majority of the working poor who lived by their wits and who had no physical or material means of support, ” said Wrensford, who added that to address this serious social inequity the National Provident Fund Act was passed in 1968.
“Forerunner of the Social Security Act 1977, the new legislation was designed to encourage regular savings by individuals which could later draw upon in retirement. The programme was welcomed enthusiastically by the Federation’s workers but was vehemently opposed by the opposition (PAM). It became and remains their constant theme. If an idea is grand, bold, next generation and for the benefit of the masses they will give serious opposition to it without reason.”
He said the Labour leaders of that era, recognized that diversification of the local economy was necessary and efforts turned to creating a modern tourism product fit for the times with the construction of a modern international airport.
“Despite a new airport, our leaders knew that tourists would not be coming to the islands without adequate places to stay. Chief Minister Paul Southwell was the leading advocate for purchasing and designating the land at Frigate Bay for hotel and tourist development. In addition, the Labour Government assisted in the construction and operational expenses of the Fort Thomas Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn). The government also set in motion the Royal St. Kitts Hotel (later Jack Tar Resort) and implemented several favourable tax and customs duties regulations that provided financial relief for hoteliers,” Wrensford told the congregation.
The Labour government also sought to spearhead industrial production to create a more mixed economy and legislation designed to encourage such development was passed including the Pioneer Industries Act 1960, the Income Tax Act 1966 and the Special Development (Additional Incentives) Act 1968.
“These facilitated the creation of several businesses which together employed about 400 people. Calypso Clothes was the first factory to be opened in what is now aptly called the C A Paul Southwell Industrial Park and by 1980 there were nine factories operating in St. Kitts,” said Wrensford, a former deputy director of the St Kitts and Nevis Social Security.
He also mentioned the construction of the deep-water harbour at Bird Rock, designed to accommodate this growth through trans-shipment capability, cost stabilization and the increased mobility of goods.

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