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St Kitts And Nevis hold Joint Cabinet Meeting

by Leroy Baker,, New York

31 July 2007

Last Friday, the cabinets of the St Kitts and Nevis Federal Government and the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) held their first joint Cabinet meeting in Nevis, under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Nevis, Joseph Parry.

After the Mr Parry's Reformation Party regained power last year, he told an audience including the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas: 'I can definitely say that the Nevis Island Government is working very closely with the Federal Government to make sure the people of Nevis and the people of St Kitts have mutual benefit.' Nevis came close to seceding in a 1998 referendum, falling just short of the required two-thirds majority.

The opening of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is pushing the two islands towards a more cooperative arrangement. Under the CSME regional firms will have the right of establishment in both St Kitts and Nevis. Dr Douglas called for consultation and collaboration between the Federal Government of St Kitts and Nevis and the Nevis Island Administration on the issue of business licences, which he said ought to apply on both islands.

Last week's meeting was held in keeping with a commitment by both Cabinets to meet on a regular basis. It was the second of its kind since the Nevis Reformation Party took up office one year ago. The first meeting was held in October 2006 in Basseterre.

In a post-meeting communiqué, Nevis Cabinet Secretary Ashley Farrell described the meeting as frank, cordial and one which sought to advance good working relations between the Federal Government and the NIA and by extension the people on both islands. The communiqué noted that the Cabinets received reports from the Committees responsible for Devolution, national security and Ministries of Finance. The Ministries of Finance reaffirmed their commitment to working closely together to harmonise their economic policies with particular regard to fiscal stabilisation and debt management issues.

Despite the protestations by Nevis's governing Reformation Party that it seeks closer ties with federation partner St Kitts, government legal advisor Patrice Nisbett recently called on members of the legal fraternity to assist the administration in its efforts to move towards greater autonomy.

He made the call during a press briefing on Thursday June 28, 2007, and claimed that the initiative - the devolution of power - was in keeping with a campaign promise by the NRP one year ago. "We are encouraging the lawyers to write papers, do whatever so that they can be made available to us in our deliberations and assist us so that we can achieve a more reasonable and equitable solution to the situation that exists between St. Kitts and Nevis.

Mr Nisbett said that that a committee set up by the Administration had already met and arrived at a plan of action as to how best the desired objectives could be achieved. "For example we would want to give the Nevis Island Legislature legislative competence over matters such as education. We would want to be in a position to vote in our local Parliament and be in a position to pass laws governing our education system in Nevis and at present you cannot do that. This is a matter that can be achieved by a two thirds majority in the Federal Parliament all you will be doing is adding to the specified matters," he explained.

Mr Nisbett said that there were other sensitive areas which included immigration, the police and taxation on which the administration hoped to negotiate a different arrangement with the Federal Government.

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