Singing, dancing, music and colourful processions all feature significantly in any Independence Day merriments across the world. Add a splash of colour and a group of high-spirited revellers, and you have the makings of a righteous nationwide party, and no one does it better than the Caribbean country of St Kitts and Nevis.
The dual-island nation, a firm favourite among travellers and foreign investors alike, is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and is known for its cloud-shrouded mountains and beaches, green vervet monkeys, rainforests and spectacular hiking trails.
Every September 19, the population of St Kitts and Nevis gather together to commemorate their independence from Great Britain a mere 37 years ago and to celebrate the bright future it has carved for itself in the Caribbean.
The islands were discovered in 1523 by Christopher Columbus. However, St Kitts and Nevis had long been inhabited by indigenous people when he spotted the island on his voyage to the New World, with another two centuries passing before Europeans established their first settlements. The British arrived first, in 1623; the French followed in 1625 with many battles between the two superpowers raging, ultimately leaving the British as the sole rulers of the island. Over time, St Kitts came into its own: At one point, it was Britain’s most prosperous colony, thanks to its sugar production.
The island has always been known for its centuries-old sugar cane plantations. In 2005, Europe imposed a cut in sugar cane prices, rendering the export of sugar cane no longer viable, and thus forcing the country to abandon its beloved sugar cane trade reluctantly. This, coupled with a series of devastating natural disasters, forced the hand of the country’s leaders to look at alternative sources of income and funding – enter St Kitts and Nevis’ Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme.
“When the CBI Programme was first formulated, it was intended to provide our country a new pathway for economic development,” Prime Minister Harris explains. “We have seen the benefits of that vision being realised, with significant job creation opportunities, high earnings for persons involved in the construction sector with the addition of some top-class hotel facilities. We are looking at new areas of engagement for the CBI Programme and new areas in which we can target to invest CBI flows, and agriculture diversification would certainly be one of these,” the Prime Minister added.
As the country with the oldest CBI Programme in the world, St Kitts and Nevis is generally known as the ‘Platinum Standard’. It offers foreign investors the fastest route to second citizenship through the fund option. To qualify, applicants must pass due diligence checks, complete the necessary documentation and contribute at least US$150,000 to the Sustainable Growth Fund.
Today, St Kitts and Nevis remains part of the British Commonwealth. However, the sister islands have their own lively culture, and at no time is it more evident than on Independence Day.
With the arrival of the novel Coronavirus in 2020, the Independence Day celebrations will be taken on a different course, observing social distance guidelines to ensure the safety of its citizen. But what will this look like as the nation celebrates its 37th year of independence?
Prime Minister Harris has reluctantly decided to cut back on many of the events, with some cancelled entirely, while others will be celebrated virtually.
Most significantly, the much-loved Independence Day Ceremonial Parade will be cancelled in keeping with the country’s proactive COVID-19 measures, which has resulted in St Kitts and Nevis reporting no current active cases, and zero deaths recorded to date.
“There will be no Independence Parade this year. This is to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus with thousands of participants attending the Independence Parade. This decision was a painful one given the seminal importance of independence at the fulcrum of our sovereign state,” Prime Minister Harris said. However, he encouraged citizens “to wear national colours, carry their national flags with them and display their flags on their homes and public buildings to mark the day, and be mindful to comply with our COVID-19 Regulations.”