Simpson Bay Causeway officially inaugurated: UP leader chides criticsPOSTED: 01/27/14 12:52 PM
St. Maarten – United People’s (UP) party leader and Member of Parliament (MP) Theo Heyliger minced no words on Saturday during the official opening of the Simpson Bay Causeway. The UP leader lashed out at critics of the bridge, including fellow coalition members of the Democratic Party (DP) for their past remarks. “Today, most of those who challenged that vision happily use the causeway and actually get somewhere, instead of nowhere!” he emphasized, a clear reference to National Alliance leader William Marlin’s criticism that the Causeway was a “bridge to nowhere.”
“Despite the critics, the causeway can save you time in traffic and give you time to concentrate on your overall wellbeing,” Heyliger said in his speech to a crowd in the hundreds as they sat under a tent near the Cole Bay roundabout section of the Causeway. “While I have been accustomed to controversy, a la the harbor and boardwalk, this causeway has given me more personal pain than all others as its birth took over 6 years.”
Heyliger told the crowd that many companies were “involved in the preparation and construction of our country’s newest landmark. And we did everything required and more. From environmental impact studies, traffic studies, financial studies, engineering studies, architectural renderings to soil investigations, economic impacts, aviation and nautical measurements (and re-measurements). Meetings upon meetings with stakeholders, financial institutions, contractors, and even government coalitions. This project has been through it all. It was a vision that many couldn’t or wouldn’t see.”
He asked the audience to take a “trip down memory lane” with him where he read the various comments shot at him and the Causeway over the years. “Then Island Council member Leroy de Weever stated that I was busy building a new city in the lagoon which would include condos and acres and acres of land. Then Island Council members Roy Marlin and Maria Buncamper said I seemed not to know what I was doing. Maybe they can now see that I was not lost!” Heyliger went on. He quoted MP Louie Laveist, “Causeway is going to permanently deface the lagoon,” and then chided Laveist for making use of the Causeway. “It was wonderful to see MP Laveist making good use of the causeway just last week. You are welcome, MP!”
He quoted MP Leroy de Weever again, who said that, “The causeway will destroy the last bit of inland water we have.” Heyilger said that “we have enhanced our product and environment. By the way, did you notice the mangrove replanting efforts?”
Heyliger also reminded the public of what then Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin said, “If the possibility exists for government to stop the causeway, I would recommend to stop it.”
The UP leader explained to the crowd how the Causeway was financed, noting the central role of the Harbor Group of companies, whom he praised, and the Central Bank for issuing the bonds needed.
“The harbor bond, thanks to the Central Bank, was created mainly to generate interest in developing our own local bond market,” Heyliger said. “The many discussions I had with Bank President Dr. Tromp centered on how to create more wealth for our people. The idea was to create the sale of smaller bonds in which our people and businesses could buy and sell bonds in increments of possibly NAf. 10,000, a far cry from getting 0.25 % on a commercial bank.
“This same idea would have also stimulated our banks into buying local bonds or have their savings account holders withdraw their money and buy bonds. In the case of the harbor, a person could make 5.5 % earnings on their bonds.
Heyliger said he intends to bring to Parliament “draft changes to the landsverordening op de inkomstenbelasting en de landsverordening op de winstbelasting van Sint Maarten. These changes are for a tax exemption to residents and companies as long as they buy government or her institutions bonds. This will further develop our country and at the same time keep foreign exchange local and creating wealth in St. Maarten rather than sending it abroad.”
Heyliger concluded his remarks by telling the crowd that “St. Maarten has the resources to pull herself forward and upwards. What she needs are people who believe in her and believe she is the gem of the Caribbean.”
After Heyliger spoke the crowd left the tent and walked along the Causeway to watch a spectacular fireworks display officially inaugurating the bridge. Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Central Bank President Emsley Tromp, Minister of Infrastructure Maurice Lake, and CEO of the Harbor Group Mark Mingo.
Music, food from Dino Jagtani’s Temptation restaurant, and cocktails followed at the reception tent where a large cross section of the community gathered afterward to mix and mingle.