February 23, 2007
St. Kitts-Nevis has received EC$9 million (US $3.5 million) as the first installment in promised European Union (EU) assistance to support the closure of its 350-year-old sugar industry.
The first trance of money under the sugar adaptation strategy represented the roll out of the EU eight-year assistance programme for former sugar producing countries in the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas, in signing the grant agreement with Amos Tincani, European Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, said the funds would primarily be used to assist government with building capacity in the post-sugar environment.“Secondly, it is to provide financing for social protection and for community empowerment of our people, especially those who have been infected by the closure of the sugar industry.”
“It is also to ensure that there is put in place an effective land management programme that is to be pursued aggressively by this government,” Dr. Douglas said.
The Prime Minister said the assistance would also be used for skills development and also to build a statistical database that would be essential as the country moved on in transition programmes.
Dr. Douglas emphasised that the EC$9 million was for 2006 as the programme of assistance would continue until 2013.
“Of course we would hope that the amount over each year of the seven years would be about $9 million, but this needs to be negotiated,” he added.
The Prime Minister said it was a brave and bold decision to close the sugar industry in July 1995.
“We indicated very clearly that it was going to be a most trying time for us, as we transit out of sugar and prepare to diversify the economy and attempt to become much more competitive in dealing with the rest of the world,” he added.
Tincani said the EU hoped the handing over of the first instalment would be the start of a good relationship under the sugar adaptation strategy programme.
CARICOM countries are part of an overall Euro 40 million (US$50 million) allocation for the 18 African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar protocol countries for 2006.