St. Maarten Governor: 2012 to be tough, but not impossible

POSTED: 09/14/11 11:42 AM

GREAT BAY – “The coming year shall be a tough year, but by no means impossible.” Those words frame the entire context of the first State of the Nation Address delivered by Governor drs Eugene Holiday at Tuesday’s opening of the 2011 – 2012 parliamentary year. The broader elements of the speech come directly from the Governing Program – A Foundation of Hope for our Country – that was approved by the Council of Ministers between two to three weeks ago and presented to President of Parliament drs Gracita Arrindell and all faction leaders on Tuesday by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.
From the outset Governor Holiday made it clear that the government has been confronted with a high price tag for the democratic guarantees anchored in the constitution like the Constitutional Court, the High Councils of State and the human rights catalog. The government will also have to deal with the fact that, for at least, the next 12 to 18 months the cabinet will not be able to afford to fill all of the positions it envisaged in the governance structure. Even if they do it will be at a higher cost than previously anticipated because of the pressure of time.
“The challenges associated with the price tag and financial framework, have been apparent with the balancing of the 2011 budget, which was approved less than two months ago. Given the limited available financial means the budget for 2012 will be the next challenge as government move to comply with its obligations to meet the needs and aspirations of the people of St. Maarten,” Holiday said.
The government believes that securing a sovereign rating with a credit agency will help lower some of the costs if borrowing is done on capital markets. That lending will give the government the resources to implement its policies by hopefully creating the “right fit.”
“Getting the right financial fit for country St Maarten, after decades of co-management with the Netherlands Antilles will take time, creativity and crafting and re-crafting. The neglect of the past needs to be undone and new challenges will have to be met head-on. The redrafted 2011 budget has gotten closer to this ideal, however there is still much more work to be done. This work continues to be done within the framework of the financial agreements of the constitutional reforms,” Holiday said.
Whether the rating and the loans are secured or not the island will also remain challenged because of the state of both the local and the global economy.
Despite the challenges the government remains committed to moving forward and plans to use both local expertise and manpower and expatriate expertise to accomplish its goals. The latter type of expertise will be secured through the signing of Service Level Agreements.
“Essential in that regard, is that the integrity program as developed, along with the legislation that supports it will continue. In doing so, government will place the emphasis on empowering workers, with the knowledge that an open, transparent, fair, and accountable government operation benefits all,” Holiday said.
Regional and international cooperation will be a factor in the implementation of the government’s policies in the coming year. That will include intensifying newly established relationships with UNDP, UNESCO, CFATF, CIAT, COTA and CARICOM. The government will also seek further functional cooperation in tax information exchanges and mutual assistance in tax matters.
“With due consideration for the Dutch Kingdom’s coordinating role for foreign relations, St. Maarten needs the space to develop its own foreign policy. As an Overseas Country of the European Union, St. Maarten’s participation in agencies such as OCTA is desirable and necessary, this also in light of the approaching new development agreement with the EU,” Holiday said.
The relationship with the partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands will also remain important and the government has decided that economics, finances, respect and free will must remain the basis of the continued relationship between St. Maarten and its partners in the Kingdom.

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