Chamber president unveils plan for sustainable development

POSTED: 07/22/13 11:40 AM

chamber president speaks

Chamber of Commerce President Tamara Leonard (middle) during yesterday’s press conference. Photo Today/Milton Pieters

St. Maarten – “I do not think it is necessary to reemphasize that this chamber board works in an orderly fashion. In everything we do there must be order. Order is achieved through established principles,” St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce President Tamara Leonard said yesterday at a press conference.

The president continued by saying, “this chamber board with the current existing members will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth, “the good word.” Everything that we have been doing so far has been done with the purpose of laying a strong foundation that we and future boards can continue to build on.”

“This is in the general interest of the entire business community of St. Maarten,” Leonard emphasized. “I want the public to understand that the chamber is not an association of members. The chamber is an established public institution incorporated by a federal ordinance.”

“That said, as it refers to the visit of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his delegation of Dutch business representatives only confirms that that which we as a chamber has been working on is almost like the collision of preparation meeting opportunity.”

She said that since taking the helm as president of the St Maarten Chamber of Commerce, both the board and she have been working on a series of initiatives and strategies aimed at positioning St Maarten in a more advantageous economic position.

“As a chamber we are determined to remain focused and strong in doing all within our powers to create an environment that would remedy the economic situation, while demonstrating to the international business world that we are serious about working together with other stake holders in creating a better economic and investment climate, all in an orderly fashion,” the president added.

So far, some initiatives have been taken. For example, in March of 2013 the executive director and vice president joined a delegation of government heads from the ministry of economic affairs, general affairs and foreign relations for a three day brainstorming workshop on profiling St. Maarten in Latin America. Representatives of the Kingdom Foreign Relations lead the discussions. Members of the ministries of economic affairs and representatives of governments and representatives of the chambers of the BES Islands, Curacao, Aruba, and St Maarten participated in these sessions.

Since then meetings continued and a plan is in motion involving the Chamber, on recommendation of our prime minister, to establish a symposium to identify our top economic sectors and the role they play in St Maarten as the island develops and define its “sub-hub function.”

The summit hopes to give definition to how these sectors are positioned, define their role in the wider economic framework of St Maarten’s development, and identify the areas that need strengthening through a SWOT analysis.

In addition, preparing for the goal of strengthen relations with our Dutch business counterparts, a relationship has been established with Dutch kingdom ambassadors throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. These ambassadors include: Ambassador Arjan Hamburger, ambassador to Peru (chair of the Conference of Kingdom Ambassadors to Latin America); Ambassador Rita Rahman, ambassador to the Dominican Republic (she left for Malta in 2013 but indicated she would leave instructions for her replacement); Ambassador Wiebe de Boer, ambassador to Panama; and Ambassador Norbert Braakhuis, ambassador to Cuba; Ambassador Robert van Embden, ambassador to Colombia.

The Chamber’s intention is to organize a regional kingdom ambassadors’ conference and to further a trade mission here in St Maarten where the chamber will open doors to new business, establish trade and work out logistics, transshipment opportunities in the region, and establishing support for regional tourism (immigration and visa for people from Cuba and Dominican Republic, which could attract up to 400,000 affluent persons from the DR for instance).

“As we have discussed with the economic representatives that accompanied the Kingdom Prime Minister Honorable Mark Rutte,” Leonard continued. “It is vital that a solid foundation is built to support and secure a sustainable economic environment for St. Maarten. This we believe is achieved by understanding our position as a destination: what we have to offer, how are we living up to that, how is it defined, and how can we improve.”

The president also said that St. Maarten needs to “create synergies, strategies, and best practices to achieve the above by establishing relationships with the Dutch (stay in touch with the Dutch), use our embassies and economic consulates to penetrate markets, explore the availabilities and possibilities of a second economic pillar.”

Upon request of the Kingdom representative to St. Maarten, Gert Versluis, a meeting with registered business organizations and the delegation has been organized by the local Chamber of Commerce.

“Here is where it is important that the general public, business community understand that it is simply wrong to mislead the public that more could have been organized by the chamber while they know that this trip and its objectives were that of the Dutch prime minister. We did what we were asked to do,” President Leonard finished off.

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