No reaction to Ser-letter about drag racing strip

POSTED: 11/19/12 2:02 PM

St. Maarten – Up to now, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams has not answered a letter sent to her by the chairman of the Social Economic Council René Richardson on October 15 about plans for a drag racing strip and a cricket stadium. The council released a copy of its letter to the media yesterday.

The letter shows that the Social Economic Council did not get any information about the projects. “It is the duty of the Ser to advise government, solicited or unsolicited, on all important socio-economic issues,” the council writes in an accompanying press release. “To execute its task however, the council needs to be informed about the state of affairs in government decision making.”

That information was not available in October and it is still lacking. Chairman Richardson referred in the letter to Wescot-Williams to the north-western part of the Great Salt Pond as the “assumed location of the drag race strip,” adding that “some sources assume the cricket stadium will be built on reclaimed Salt Pond land as well. Unconfirmed reports place the cricket stadium in Bethlehem (Dutch Quarter).”

The council asks Wescot-Williams in the letter about “the actual reason of background of the recent filling in of the north-western part of the Great Salt Pond.” It also wants to know whether the sand that has already been dumped in the pond will be removed in case the reclaimed area will not be used for a drag race strip.

Other questions are about an economic impact study in terms of the drag racing strip’s effect on the investment climate, economic activity, demand for labor and economic growth. The total investment in the project, the projected financial sources for the investment and the impact on the government’s finances are yet other questions to which the council has asked – but not received – answers.

“How does construction of a drag race strip fit in with the policies of this government regarding zoning, the allocation of public space and protection of the environment?” is the next question. The council furthermore asks about the project’s business concept, whether the government or a private party will operate it, and what  the structural costs for the government will be.

The council also has concerns about the water management situation after the filling in of the pond and wonders whether this aspect is part of an environmental impact study. Lastly, the council asks whether a study has been done focused on the quality of life op people living in surrounding neighborhoods that takes into account noise and air pollution and possible health risks.

The plans for a cricket stadium also triggered a number of questions, like: “Was the choice for a new cricket stadium – as opposed to a facility for a different sport or a multifunctional facility – based on a sport participation study among the population of St. Maarten?”

The council is also interested in the project’s financial consequences for the budget and in a cost-benefit analysis that compares the construction of a new stadium with upgrading existing facilities. Question number four was also quite to the point: “How does the construction of a new cricket stadium fit into the sports policy priorities of this government?”

The Social Economic Council asked the prime minister for a reaction within three weeks. That deadline expired on November 5. And now, another two weeks later, there is still no reaction.

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