New Year’s message Sarah Wescot-Williams: Focus on climate change and flexible labor market

POSTED: 01/7/15 3:35 PM

St. Maarten – A flexible labor market is one of the priorities the opposition Democratic Party has in the crosshairs for 2015, party-leader Sarah Wescot-Williams wrote in a belated New Year’s message. Climate change, ageing and electoral, financial and fiscal reform are other issues the party intends to champion.

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us” (Hal Borland, American author and journalist). With this quote, Wescot-Williams opened her New Year’s message, noting that it is “an apt description of where we find ourselves today as a political party – determined to carry on, but with much wisdom and humbleness from our experiences, especially those of the year just behind us.”

The past year however, was also the closure of a unique and unforgettable chapter, Wescot-Williams noted before describing her own role during the past four years: “One of having our leader serve for a full governing term of 4 years as the first prime minister of St. Maarten, notwithstanding the fall of two governments during the same period. Friend and foe alike concede that she provided this leadership with grace and poise, befitting this highest office.”

It would be remiss of us not to also briefly reflect on the achievements of the governments since 2010 in general and of the first prime minister of St. Maarten in her capacity of Minister of General Affairs, the statement continues.

“These  (the achievements, ed.) are numerous, but the way successive Wescot-governments tackled the issues of  a structural integrity program, the country’s regional standing, European, international and Dutch-French relations, a national development plan and the St. Maarten Development Fund  have earned us due recognition. They point to a party with a vision of sustainable growth and a belief in our ability to solve our own problems, and inclusiveness.

While  on our immediate horizon is the shift in focus from executive to legislative, the vision of the DP is that the Parliament should become much more in tune  with what is living in the community. Not to sit on the government and ministers’ chairs, but to act as an independent controller and scrutinizer of government and its actions.”

The DP-leader realizes that this could lead to criticism. “After all, the DP was a major player in the governance of this country for a very long time. However, the fact remains that the DP will embark on this new role with the same vigor it governed with for the last four years. We will provide vigorous and quality opposition with the goal of defending the interests of all residents and guests of St Maarten, until such time that the DP is afforded the opportunity to lead again. We will keep our ears to the ground and we wish to remind the population that we are here to serve and be their voice.”

The responsibilities of the opposition, in the DP’s view, include scrutinizing the work of the government, asking the government to explain its actions, debating proposed laws in the parliament, working on committees and providing alternatives to government policies.

“We will do this with some specific priorities in mind, such as electoral, financial and tax reform

and an integrity committee of parliament (by whatever name),” Wescot-Williams noted. “From a more general perspective, we believe the Parliament should lead by example and put the following topics high on the national agenda: climate change, ageing, flexibility in the labor market, a general pension plan and a tax system to support the creation of new enterprises and the expansion of existing ones.”

The DP-leader stated that there is no need to reinvent the proverbial wheel where our economy is concerned. “Recommendations from agencies like the IMF and the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten say it all. We know where the pain is. These recommendations however require some bold decisions.”

The DP will also tackle the timeshare draft legislation that is already on the books, initiated by a member of the DP faction in the former Parliament. “This will be done in consultation with the government as it makes no sense to double up on efforts in this regard.”

By and large, the New Year holds the promise of opportunities, Wescot-Williams stated. “May God bless our nation and guide those who lead, granting them wisdom, compassion and humility to serve.” The DP-leader ended her statement with the following Oprah Winfrey quote: “Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.”

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