SHTA urges people to voice their opinions “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve”

POSTED: 04/4/13 12:57 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA), recognizes and appreciate that the wheels of Justice in St. Maarten are turning slowly but deliberately with regards to the recent investigation into a potential bribery incident. This demonstrates that St. Maarten has a fully functioning and independent justice system which is critical to any democracy, the association stated in a press release. While it is important that the investigation completes its process, the SHTA believes that there is an even more critical and fundamental issue which should be the creation of a political system which is transparent and serves the people.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the ultimate goal should be to have a political system that is less susceptible to manipulation by individuals. When individual gain becomes the measure by which decisions are made, the interests of the country and the people that live here become secondary, or worse, irrelevant. Every decision made for personal gain, means that there was one less decision made based on merits.

According to www.transparency.org “corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. it hurts everyone who depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority”.

It is under this light that the SHTA reiterates its position that the debate on electoral reform is critical for country St. Maarten to develop a culture of transparency and good governance that will allow the island to prosper. Some may consider electoral reform idealistic and naïve. Others will claim that expecting the beneficiaries of a system susceptible to corruption, to change that system, is unrealistic. Ultimately, it is up to the people of St. Maarten to determine the environment in which they choose to live. According to Alexis de Toqueville (a French political thinker and historian best known for his work Democracy in America), “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

SHTA suggests the following changes. Individuals that are campaigning should be required to make public certain information as it pertains to the election process, including sources and amounts of campaign donations in cash, services and in kind. Candidates should make public their business interests and either take positions that don’t have conflicts of interest or dissociate from those investments prior to taking office. Candidates should declare after the election how the money was spent.

In order to prevent the use of contracts, agreements and permits of all kinds as currency to encourage political supporters, the authority to issue individual licenses, work permits, building permits, bus licenses, taxi licenses, contracts for services, scholarships, land, and housing should be delegated to civil servants under strict guidelines and systems of checks and balances. Elected officials should be focused on developing criteria, transparency, policy, legislation, and oversight instead of actually approving or rejecting individual permits. Appeals could still be handled by elected officials, which would still give them possibilities to intervene when special attention is required. Additionally, this would create a feedback loop whereby policies could be adjusted when necessary.

Citizens interested in voicing their opinions directly to parliament should do so via their website http://www.sxmparliament.org and go to the contact section or directly at info@sxmparliament.org. All emails are officially logged by parliament as incoming mail. Please feel free to copy the SHTA at info@shta.com.

The SHTA is dedicated to bringing quality to all aspects of life on St. Maarten by promoting sustainable economic development for its members in cooperation with the social partners and the creation of a fair marketplace. For more information please contact our offices at 542-0108 or visit our website at www.shta.com.
The SHTA is the largest private business representative on the island, representing a broad range of companies including amongst others: the hotel, restaurant, catering and entertainment industry, wholesalers, retailers, real estate, marine trade, financial and legal services, taxi associations, car rentals, construction companies, and environmental organizations.

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