MPs show up late

POSTED: 01/17/13 11:32 AM

St. Maarten – The attendance at yesterday’s governing program launch was modest; the governor showed up before many of the ministers and parliamentarians and in the customary St. Maarten style, the program started late. What was presented was the sum total of the ideas and visions of two parties; the National Alliance and the Democratic Party and three Independent Parliamentarians; known as the I-3. Considering that the Parliamentarians; Romaine Laville, Frans Richardson and Patrick Illidge were crucial to the government shakeup, one would have expected them to be there to see the master plan, Working for the People, unveiled.

Instead the I-3 turned up at 10:00 am with entourage in tow, for an 8: 30 am official event. They were just in time to witness Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunications and Transport Romeo Pantophlet make his address.  

Pantophlet started by saying that since he has the largest scope of responsibility his ministry will focus on not only spending money to execute its projects but also on stimulating the economy.

The Tourism Authority will be established this year for effectiveness and quick decision making, the minister said.

To this end, the minister indicated that an aggressive tourism promotion program will be executed. It is expected to move away from the traditional American market and engage the Canadian, Latin American, German, Scandinavian and Italian markets.

“We need to have a backup in case something goes wrong,” Pantophlet said. The move is expected to eradicate the seasonal unemployment situation and offer year round tourism and jobs, the minister noted.

He cited the Florida Cruise and Cargo Association Conference that will be held here next year as a sign of St. Maarten’s place in the tourism industry.

He also hinted that the “COPA Convention is likely to be held in St. Maarten.” A final decision on this day will be made known in the coming days, the minister said.

Diversification of Tourism Industry

The minister also wants to build an International Convention Centre here. He said that he is already eyeing a property at the Harbour that would be ideal for the hosting of international conferences, trade shows and other events.

The cricket stadium and drag strip are still on the agenda, the minister assured.

“Those two projects will go down but I will leave it up to the politicians to decide where it will go, I am not a politician, I am a professional,” the minister said.

An island wide comprehensive training program and a unique partnership with Disney will also be realized.

The minister’s presentation was nothing short of grand, it included an attracting 4 five star of hotels here and setting up St. Maarten’s own airline as part of the expansion at the Princess Juliana International Airport.

There will be call centers, a flight training school, catering, cleaning and security services all available at the mega hub; PJIA, the minister stated.

“We are discussions to set up our own airline,” he announced.

The new village to be developed at the Harbour will feature Dutch and French architecture, the minister said.

And while an influx of tourists is expected, the minister said that St. Maarten needs to improve its hotel accommodations to offer better rooms.

He plans to travel to New York soon to meet with investors. Small hoteliers will also accompany him on the journey which is expected in the first quarter of this year.

Draft law to stop barkers

The minister explained that one of the biggest complaints officials receive from travel agents is that of barkers harassing tourists. He plans to draft a law to curtail barking.

Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship, small business development and economic diversification are also in the works.

Economic Diversification

The minister said that he has been meeting with the banks to make it more convenient for people to consider investing in business operations here.

He is also in talks with a major canning and bottling company that has an interest in coming to St. Maarten.

“This will be a great opportunity to provide work for our people,” the minister said.

A well-known food wholesaler that will offer much cheaper prices on goods also wants to establish operations on these shores.

“The St. Maarten Aquaponic Farm will be established in 2012/2013 consistent with the diversification of the economic activities in the country. This Farm will showcase the possibilities of agricultural endeavors, providing means for cheap and healthy food, and provide yet another opportunity to educate youngsters on how to start and maintain a business. The aquaponic farm will grow and sell local vegetables, tilapia and eventually shrimp while at the same time train students in business administration, management and agricultural production. Simultaneously, the general public will be shown that St. Maarten can offer more than just tourist attractions,” a paragraph from the governing programme reads.

 

That Aquaponic Farm will be established the minister said.

Another highlight of his presentation was the establishment of the E-Zone in St. Maarten where the island will conduct electronic ecommerce in electronics and jewelry that are stocked elsewhere.

The minister added that an increase in price controls on the island is imminent as is the expansion of basket of controlled goods. He explained that the Prime Minister provided a list to him of Curacao basket of goods and it will prove very useful in the coming days.

The setting up of a securities and stock exchange will also be done. A financial conference to gather ideas on which direction St. Maarten should go will also be held next month.

“The intention is to make St. Maarten a financial mecca.”

The automation of business license is on stream and people can now apply for business licenses with ease of access, the minister reported.

“In order to combat the traffic congestion, we intend to re-implement the Changing Lanes project. It will involve having road signage, a central bus stop, training of drivers etc.”

Civil Aviation

The Council of Ministers approved funds yesterday to get the airport back up to a positive rating after it was downgraded last year.

The establishment of a civil aviation registry as well as a maritime and shipping registry as well as the separation of civil aviation and maritime departments will also be done. Funds have already been designated for this, the minister said.

The minister made no mention of the upgrade of Down Street, which would see new shops and even nightclubs as he had done last year.

 

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