PM Wescot-Williams: “Add governance as strong pillar to sustainable development”

POSTED: 02/20/14 11:58 PM

St. Maarten – “I like the concept whereby governance is added as a strong pillar to sustainable development,” prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said in answer to a question from this newspaper to define sustainable development at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing. The other elements for this concept are economic and social development and environmental sustainability, the PM said.

“You could have tour economic development going good, your environmental sustainability and your social development as well. But if the governance of your country cannot carry that, you are not going to be where you want to be in terms of sustainable development,” Wescot-Williams said. “I think it is very important that we look in St. Maarten at this concept beyond just the word sustainable development. Let us look at how we are faring in the areas that together contribute to a high level of sustainable development. That is a challenge.”

The prime minister said that St. Maarten has tagged on with what is internationally understood by sustainable development. The United Nations has identified eight so-called millennium development goals, or MSG’s for short. Number 1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; number 2 the achievement of universal primary education; number 3 the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women; number 4 the reduction of child mortality; number 5 the improvement of maternal health; number 6 the combat against HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; number 7 ensuring environmental sustainability and number 8 a global partnership for development

The definition of sustainable development was first published in 1987 by the Brundtland commission: “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Wescot-Williams said yesterday that sustainable development is important for St. Maarten. Currently two of the MDGs are under discussion: the elevation of poverty and sustainable development. In 2015 the progress the country has made in these fields will be evaluated.

“It is important to understand what we mean by sustainable development,” the prime minister said – that what you do today does not affect future generations negatively. That is the common definition.”

This newspaper referred yesterday to a survey by journalists of Caribisch Netwerk that revealed that shopping in Bonaire is 44 percent more expensive than in the Netherlands, while its minimum wage is 2.5 times lower. Assuming that the picture in St. Maarten will not be much different, which instruments does the government have at its disposal to soften the economic impact on its citizens in a free economy?

“I expect to have concrete answers and suggestions coming out of the workshop (the MDG Acceleration Framework Workshop at USM – ed.) that will conclude this afternoon,” Wescot-Williams said. “We are talking about the cost of living in St. Maarten, compared to the minimum wage. In parliament the term living wage has been mentioned. We have not yet established a poverty-line for St. Maarten and that is important.”

The M noted that right now the minimum wage is the point of departure in discussion about how much people ought to make to be able to survive. “I am quite eager to see what the proposals will be for a pilot project for poverty elevation. There will be different proposals to soften the blow that we need to look at.”  .

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