Prime Minister’s New Year’s Message

POSTED: 01/5/12 12:36 PM

The first full calendar year as a country is behind us. That’s 2011. At this time it is usually expected that we cast a fleeting look on what is behind us as we contemplate on what is before us.
In looking back, we must guard against dwelling too long on what should have been, as all our focus is needed to look and plan ahead. To be truthful, the look back, in the case of St. Maarten does not reveal any big bangs or shock and awe type of events. While some might regret this I see it differently. Shock and awe could also have been created by events that could have had a dramatic and negative impact on our country. This we have not had, and I am grateful for that.
Yes, we have had our share of struggles and squabbles, some near calls, but nothing close to the upheavals that rocked other countries near and far. To suggest that we even approach such chaos would be in my opinion ungrateful and bordering on selfish wishing for self fulfilling prophecies.
Still looking back, what is undeniable are the small and stable steps we have made during this first full year as a country. This is evident as we look back on the government organization in general and the new ministries and departments in particular. I have experienced our constitution as coming alive slowly, but surely, because this document represents the people and their government. It establishes freedoms and limits, bedrocks against any undemocratic tendencies.
Government workers throughout the organization have stepped up to the plate and many have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the successful start as a country. Still we are not there yet.
Government’s decision making has become much more transparent, with the publication requirement for all ordinances, national decrees and ministerial decrees. Dialog has taken on new meaning as the parliament of our country set out to hear and dialog with organizations big and small with respect for the opinion of others.
In the area of foreign affairs we have planted seeds, the fruits of which we will reap in the coming year – so this year – and beyond.
In the area of healthcare, just to mention one example, the institution created to succeed the former SVB hit the ground running. Gone are the long lines and the even longer waiting time for services.
With the termination of Dutch development aid on the horizon St. Maarten has established its own NGO financing platform – a vehicle to properly guide social funding to the most needy in our community. The community help desk initiative has taken shape and the first one in St. Peters is up and running.
The last months of 2011 have been in the light of many infrastructural projects and this is to continue in 2012, where we will also see new projects coming online such as the hospital expansion, school and more road constructions.
Tourism is one the rebound and the additional airlift into St. Maarten is one of the signs of such.
It was also pleasing to witness a stronger police presence on our island during the holiday season, a sign that the much needed expansion of our police force is underway. Nevertheless fighting crime committed against residents and visitors remains a top priority for government in this new year. I commend the citizens who have assisted the police force with information that was helpful in solving acts of crime. I trust that the police force, in handling this information, will protect those citizens to ensure an even further strengthening of the trust between the police and the citizenry.
Investments in St. Maarten, from government’s perspective, must be with the ultimate objective to further contribute to the economic growth of the nation and thus the overall well being of our people. At the same time we take not of the mixed predictions regarding the global outlook for 2012. There is some optimism, at least as far as the travel and tourism industries are concerned.
Well, we, on St. Maarten know a thing or two about this industry and should pursue growth opportunities and growing markets relentlessly. Predictions for the United States economic growth, still our main source market, puts this growth anywhere between two and three percent, notwithstanding, its internal budget woes, and the general expectation that the US economy will hold its ground against a predicted continued and possibly escalated European recession in 2012. Global peace remains fragile with many parts of the world that should be viewed with grave concern by all nations of the world.
It is these outlooks that St. Maarten faces and must contend with as we welcome this New Year, a year of many uncertainties yes, but also of many opportunities if we focus on what is important for St. Maarten and the roads that will take us there.
For every individual – personal or professional – there is with every beginning – a new year, a new month, even a new day – the opportunity to start anew, with renewed vigor and determination, not dwelling for too long on what you should have, but rather on what you will do. So it should be for our entire nation; slowly but steadily staying the course.
Happy New Year to the entire St. Maarten!

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