St. Kitts and Nevis - Foreign Relations
The Simmonds government was one of several moderateconservative governments to come to power (or, as in the case of the Antigua Labour Party of Vere Cornwall Bird, Sr., to be reconfirmed in power) in the Eastern Caribbean around 1980. Other examples could be found in Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These new, generally pro-United States leaders found themselves and their thinking compatible with that of then-Prime Minister J.M.G.M. "Tom" Adams of Barbados, particularly on issues of regional security. Their number eventually came to include the Grenadian government of Herbert Blaize after the postintervention elections of 1984 (see A Regional Security System, ch. 7).
The Simmonds government supported the October 1983 United States- Caribbean intervention in Grenada and dispatched a handful of police personnel to participate in the Caribbean Peace Force on the island. The intervention was generally popular among the population of St. Kitts and Nevis; some observers have suggested that Simmonds called early elections in 1984 in order to take advantage of this support.
St. Kitts and Nevis has been an active participant in Caricom, the OECS, and the Regional Security System (RSS). The ninth meeting of the Authority of Heads of Government of the OECS (the organization's policy-making body) was held in May 1986 in St. Kitts; as rotating chairman, Simmonds headed both that meeting and the next one in Antigua in November of that year. Within the forum of Caricom, Simmonds has advocated increased cooperation to curtail drug trafficking and use within the region. Along with Dominica's Mary Eugenia Charles and Grenada's Blaize, Simmonds has raised objections to charges by leaders such as the late Errol Barrow of Barbados that the United States has attempted to militarize the Caribbean through the pretext of increased security aid and cooperation.
The Simmonds government's relations with the United States were generally smooth and productive. One exception to this concerned the United States sugar quota policy. From 16,500 tons in 1984, the quota allotted to St. Kitts and Nevis under the system of preferential purchases for foreign producers was reduced to 7,500 tons by 1987, and there was little prospect for any increase in the near future. The cut had a severe impact on the island nation's foreign exchange position because of its continuing inability to diversify its economy away from sugar production. The United States government provided some direct food aid in the form of wheat flour to St. Kitts and Nevis in an effort to ease the effect of the quota cut on the domestic economy.
Most United States economic assistance to St. Kitts and Nevis was channeled through AID and was generally intended to promote economic diversification, primarily through infrastructure-related projects. The major AID-funded project in the mid-1980s was the South East Peninsula Road, which was scheduled to progress beyond the surveying stage in late 1987. The Simmonds government hoped that this new roadway would open up the peninsula, the area of St. Kitts with the longest expanse of accessible beaches.
One rationale for the movement to full independence in 1983 was the prospect of foreign aid from sources other than Britain and the Commonwealth. Since 1983 the PAM/NRP government has pursued these new sources avidly. On a bilateral basis, aid programs were instituted with Taiwan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The establishment of relations with Japan and West Germany also held promise in terms of future bilateral aid. Among multilateral sources, St. Kitts and Nevis benefited from assistance from the OAS, the United Nations Children's Fund, and the European Economic Community. It also continued to participate in aid and assistance programs through the Commonwealth. The leading bilateral aid sources among the Commonwealth countries were Britain and Canada. Given the country's comparatively small area, population, and GDP, even limited foreign aid programs had the potential for significant impact, particularly in such areas as education, health, soil and forest conservation, water supply and sewerage, and job training.
As a newly independent country, St. Kitts and Nevis also qualified for loan funds from such multilateral financial institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF--see Glossary). In this regard, Simmonds was a leader in the effort by Eastern Caribbean leaders to prevent the World Bank from declaring their countries ineligible for concessionary development loans through the International Development Association (IDA) because of their high per capita incomes relative to less developed states in Africa and Latin America. The success of this effort was still in doubt in the late 1980s, as World Bank management reconfirmed in 1987 that it still intended to phase Eastern Caribbean states out of the IDA program.
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