Prime Minister Wescot-Williams: Human and capital resources are major challenges

POSTED: 01/17/13 11:24 AM

St. Maarten “The two major challenges we face are human and capital resources,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said yesterday as she spoke on some of the handicaps of the current coalition.

The government has many plans but needs the money to execute them. Rather than starting from a strong financial footing, St. Maarten inherited some of the old Antillean debts. It will therefore continue to seek out the Dutch government for a reopening of the debt relief program, the prime minister said.

Along with the ever present budgetary woes, was the expected closure to Antillean co-financing agency (Amfo), the prime minister said.

“Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining. The dark cloud was the looming, now present and untimely cessation of Dutch funding by the Amfo agency. The government could not allow the void that this created to be left unaddressed, we are confident that we can ensure the continuation of social programs and the employment that they create within the larger social agenda to be developed,” the prime minister said.

As she had said on previous occasions, the prime minister reiterated that the agreements for Constitutional status looked good before 10.10.10 but no one could have foreseen “the financial and other major crisis which shook some of the major world blocks.”

Consultations on the draft budget are in full swing, the prime minister said.

“We need to take time out to decide together where we want to be in the next couple of years. A lot of fuss is made about the annual financial projections in the budget and with some merit; I must admit that we cannot budget today without taking into account the effect and consequences of such for tomorrow.

Focus should also be placed on highlighting the mindset of St. Maartener, the prime minister said.

“No law can establish this mindset. It is one that must be developed and nurtured, that has respect for the culture of St. Maarten.”

“The emphasis for government in the coming months has been placed on job creation, education, healthcare, safe and security and overall wellbeing. It should not be on surviving. It’s about growing and thriving in this land we call home,” the prime minister said.

A successful Neighborhood Integration Program will require “community involvement, effort and collaboration,” she added.

The prime minister said that she also looks forward to National Development Plan that will contribute to nation building and is supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Public Service Centre in Simpson Bay.

She also spoke of a Human Resource Development Plan that will result in training for the civil service particularly employees of the Education, Labour and General Affairs Ministries.

“Government spends a lot on this,” the prime minister said.

Caribbean Ties

“Caribbean Countries share historical, social and cultural ties that bind them together. Despite these ties, there are also common challenges associated with the islands’ smallness in geographic size and population; heavy reliance on imports of goods, services and energy; vulnerability to external shocks and ecological fragility. The government of St. Maarten attaches great importance to regional cooperation as it is viewed as a tool to assist Caribbean countries in coping with these challenges. To this end, government has taken up and considers membership in regional organizations that will help with institutional building, provide opportunities for social and economic progress, facilitate transfer of knowledge and best practices, offer technical / financial assistance in specialized areas and serve domestic goals such as migration, social development, justice and diversification,” the Prime Minister said.

Strengthening Foreign Relations

“The new governing program embraces a dynamic strategy to anticipate rather than merely respond to change by making choices and developing a regional identity that fits and marks our presence as a niche player. One of the tools has been the establishment of the new Directorate of Foreign Relations (DBB). DBB is a government department which provides advice, deals with international treaties, protocol services, and consular services and is the focal point in communication of the St. Maarten government with other governments. It constitutes the liaison with international organizations, within the framework of the Charter of the Kingdom. In order to achieve a solid foreign strategy and service, the government supports the further strengthening of DBB.”

Effective Cooperation with French St. Martin

“Stepping up effective cooperation with French St. Martin certainly is an important priority. The government values the partnership with our French neighbors and sees the intrinsic interdependence of both economies. Economies of scale can be reaped in cross border cooperation in important areas. Quick wins can be achieved to improve the quality of life of the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin. First steps have been taken on priorities, which signal the implementation phase of many projects in which the principle of subsidiarity will be the new direction in island cooperation. Among mutual priorities in cooperation are joint road projects, transportation and vehicle registration, recognition of licenses, drinking water production, waste management and garbage handling, sewerage, drainage, agriculture initiatives, exchange of data among hospitals, education cooperation and aspects related to safety, welfare improvements and regulations that matter to the people but also discourage fraud. In view of this, a promising start has been made with joint passenger immigration control at Juliana Airport and cross border police cooperation.”

The prime minister said that all focus will be on sustainable development and investment.

“We need to get a good grip on financial possibilities and limitations.”

The people of St. Maarten still remain the island’s most valuable asset, the prime minister concluded.

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