Opinion: Change

POSTED: 04/23/12 8:36 PM

We found it rather odd that the department of communication sent out a press release this weekend about a workshop that was held more than a month ago. The subject matter was interesting though: the strategic economic plan for the next ten years.

Economic Affairs Minister Franklyn Meyers says in the press release that the time is right for a change. We need a roadmap for a fairer and more balanced economy.

Where have we heard this before? You know, this mantra that St. Maarten has to diversify? Living off tourism alone is not going to cut it in the long run –at least, it is a tricky way of doing things. If the battered timeshare industry – the backbone of our stay-over tourism – keels over we are all in dire straits. This is nothing new of course; everybody knows it, but so far nobody has done anything decisive to drastically alter the makeup of our economy.

If we did not have cruise ships calling, and stubborn timeshare owners hanging on to their investment, all our jewelers, car rental owners and most of our restaurateurs could go home because they would have no more business.

What is so interesting about the minister’s statement is his announcement that it is time for a change. Why now? Why is it now the right time for change?

The more pregnant question is obviously what kind of change the minister had in mind and how he wants to bring that change of direction about. The press release says nothing about this and that is a pity. We would have loved to hear what we are going to get involved in: medical tourism or sports tourism? Will St. Maarten become another international financial center? To make that happen, the digital infrastructure needs speed, a lot of it. Maybe an idea to bring in a second fiber optic cable.

Oh, wait, we passed that station already. More fiber optic will only be allowed if it flies under the TelEm-flag. That means basically that TelEm, or the minister, could dictate all the terms for the landing and the use of that cable.

Is that the kind of change we are going to see? It feels like a move to stifle the economy instead of stimulating it. In a vibrant economy a government creates a friendly and above all efficient environment for doing business. That is the change everybody is longing for.

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