Opinion: Impact

POSTED: 01/2/13 12:33 PM

You don’t have to be big to be able to take decisions that have an impact on a community. Statia is a nice example. This Dutch public entity has a $1 million budget this year for investment in its road network.  We don’t know the condition of the roads on Statia, but we figure that a million dollars will fill a lot of potholes.

Not too far away, in St. Maarten, the unfinished ring road is a stark reminder of governing impotence. The body of sand that has been unceremoniously dumped in the Great Salt Pond to meet the ambitions of the cruise port, shows that bad decisions have awful consequences. And what’s more: those who are responsible for such decisions do not eat one Johnny cake less.

The ring road ambitions seem to have more or less disappeared. Last year there was money on the budget to make at least a start with the project’s completion but for unexplained reasons this never happened. Maybe the money was needed to fund the Tempo-project. Fact is that nothing happened and as far as we are able to assess the situation, nothing will happen in the near future either.

Of course, our government has now designated part of the ring road as a parking lot. That we need parking space around Philipsburg is clear, but was it necessary to dump all that sand in the pond for that reason? We don’t think so. The government should have contracted a private sector party years ago to build a multi-story paid parking facility. That is a guaranteed money maker for the developer and for the government, and a solution that does not require all that much space. It would have been a sensible alternative for the spread out parking lot we have now behind the TelEm building and the new government administration building.

But it seems that our decision makers have a taste for projects buy cheap generic diazepam online that cost at least $100 million. There is Roland Duncan’s Justice Park and Vromi-Minister William Marlin’s tunnel vision. Surely these are visionary plans, but as long as nobody has the money to make them a reality they remain a pipe dream.

Think for instance about the garbage dump. Already in 2007, and probably earlier, the perception was that this facility  is “nearing the end of its life cycle.” If nothing happens, the island will drown in its own rubbish. There is a great plan for a waste-to-energy plant (even though there are some unanswered questions about the potentially poisonous emissions from it), but there was no money and there is no money. This project also has a reported price tag of $100 million.

Compared to these projects, building a drag racing strip is probably peanuts but then, it is not possible to get rid of our waste on such a facility. From this perspective the fancy projects ought to take a back seat while the government sweats over finding enough money that will enable it to stop dreaming and to start executing.

In this respect, the ability to loan any significant kind of money hinges on not only a balanced 2013 budget, but also on a balanced multi-annual budget. As long as those projections are not in place – complete with the blessings of the board for financial supervision Cft – the multi-million dollar plans are all up in the air. We’re going towards exciting times, because the Cft-advice about the 2013 draft budget is about to be published. Then we’ll know how realistic and how solid the work of our Finance Minister Roland Tuitt has been and how much loans the country will be allowed to attract.

Mind you, the ability to borrow comes with a reality check: loans have to be paid back, one way or the other. And the people are always the ones footing the bill.


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