One of the key issues on which the August 2022 general elections in St. Kitts and Nevis were fought is the COVID-19 policy which the Harris-led administration had in place. The COVID-19 pandemic emerged in the first half of 2020, and governments the world over had to adopt critical health policies in an attempt to stem the impact of the deadly flu-like disease on lives and livelihoods.
Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, as in many parts of the world, there were statutory and policy stipulations requiring the wearing of masks in the public, social distancing, and the banning of large social gatherings. For residents identified to have the disease and for visitors to our shores, there was mandatory isolation or quarantining. In addition, travelers to the country were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test taken no earlier than 72 hours before their time of arrival in St. Kitts and Nevis.
COVID-19 negatively impacted the local and global economies in a significant way.
Despite the recognition that many of these policies were necessary, vociferous accusations of politicization, victimization and profiteering were leveled at the administration. There was the view that the Harris-led administration was using the COVID-19 vaccination policy in a draconian manner. In many government-controlled and private institutions, COVID-19 vaccinations were practically mandatory, and persons refusing to take the vaccination were dismissed, even if constructively. At other institutions, the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank, for example, the unvaccinated were required to submit a negative COVID-19 test every couple of weeks at huge costs to themselves.
What seemed to generate greatest concern for the then-opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party under the leadership of Dr. Terrance Drew was that the policies remained in place for much longer than was necessary. In particular, Dr. Drew charged that the Harris administration was maintaining the restrictive policies in place so as to disadvantage the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party in the upcoming elections. It was the view of the St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party Leader that the restrictive policies needed to be relaxed to allow for economic recovery, thereby restoring the quality of life our citizens had become accustomed to.
In an IMF Article IV consultation report published earlier today, the IMF confirmed that the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions in the latter part of 2022 led to a rebound in the St. Kitts-Nevis economy. The IMF reported:
Economic growth rebounded strongly in 2022 despite global headwinds. GDP is estimated to have grown by 9 percent in 2022 after contracting 14.5 percent in 2020 and 0.9 percent in 2021. The lifting of all COVID-related travel restrictions in August sparked a strong rebound in the tourism sector and across the economy. …… The authorities’ proactive policy response, facilitated by the fiscal buffers accumulated from a decade of prudent fiscal policy, helped shelter domestic prices from high global energy and food prices. ….. Large CBI inflows in 2022 helped finance this [economic] expansion, keeping public debt below the ECCU regional target of 60 percent of GDP. The current account deficit is estimated to have narrowed in 2022, supported by tourism recovery.
Since the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions, the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis has emerged from recession and, at the same time, there has been no increase in the incidence of COVID-19 cases in the Federation.