St. Maarten Primie Minister opens information session national development plan

POSTED: 03/8/13 1:29 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams opened the first information session on the development of the National Development Plan (NDP) at the University of St. Maarten on Thursday evening.

The prime minister started her opening address by telling the crowd of invited civil servants, representatives of the private sector and non-governmental organizations and invited guests that there can be no National Development Plan without bush tea; “As I walked in earlier this morning I was offered a cup of coffee and I indicated that so early in the morning to take a third cup of coffee was pushing it. But when offered a cup of bush tea I gratefully accepted and indeed there can no development plan without bush tea,” the PM said. “It occurred to me that that is exactly what it means to develop a national vision and a national plan. We cannot have a plan without bush tea and understanding what a good bush tea means for St. Maarten; what it means to the people to fortify themselves with bush tea, then we would understand what it means to have that grass roots involvement in the development of a development plan for the development of our country St. Maarten,” the prime minister continued.

The PM urged all participants to actively participate in sharing their knowledge and experiences in order to provide guidance for the process St. Maarten is about to embark on. “This process is essential in charting the new course and direction our new country is about to embark on; a direction at a crossroads of a strengthened nation. It is through this process that we will define collectively our common vision of what kind of St. Maarten we want for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We need to define what kinds of rights and obligations would bind our citizens and indeed what kind of relationships and responsibility Government should have towards the citizens,” the prime minister emphasized.

The prime minister also made it clear that the capabilities of government are limited and there are certain parts which need to be accomplished by the private sector and the non-governmental organizations community. The government of St. Maarten has made the conscious decision of making it a point of working together for the people with a truly participatory partnership on the different mechanisms to be established which will form the national development plan.

“Let us imagine for a moment, a headline could appear in tomorrow’s newspaper in any one of two directions: ‘key leaders of the community agree to work together with the government to achieve the goal of making a sustainable development strategy for the Country of St. Maarten.’ Indeed a headline we would all like to see. Or we can have the unfortunate consequence of seeing: ‘St. Maarten leaders have failed to agree on the process of developing a national vision and a national plan.’ The direction that headline will take is up to all of you present here and your stakeholders in development. While not all the critical leaders have been invited today due to limited space, the importance of your contribution and those of your networks cannot be overstated. To make this a reality, broad collective thinking, understanding and tolerance are necessary. National alliances must be built to support tripartite co‐operation; long term evidence based planning; institutional strengthening; human resources capacity development; mobilizing funding; and monitoring and evaluation. It is also important for us to strategically identify and select our partners,” continued the PM.

The United Nations has been a key player in the former Antilles and St. Maarten since 1969. When the first millennium development goals (MDG) report was published in 2011, a pledge was made by the current government to use the recommendations as a baseline for the country’s national development planning process. The strengthening of such alliances can support St. Maarten in delivering on national and international commitments while tapping on the wide-ranging expertise of the United Nations for St. Maarten’s development planning.

The MDGs introduced by the United Nations are the most broadly supported, comprehensive, and specific socio‐economic and environmental improvement targets and indicators the world has ever established. It offers the means to improved livelihoods ‐ a life with access to adequate food, employment and income; to basic education and health services; to clean water and sanitation; and to empowerment for men and women. The prime minister reiterated that put simply, advancing the MDG recommendations in the country will be an important step in the quest for social cohesion and regional leadership.

“That said and in line with our development history as a small island developing state, we do not only strive to reach the MDGs by 2015. We aim higher in using them as a baseline for our more encompassing longer-term national development plan. We envisage that United Nations Development Program, our partner from the United Nations, the Unesco, International Labour Organization, and other agencies will help us to capture and share lessons from our application of the proposed approaches with partners around the region and beyond.”

The prime minister closed by thanking the team who has been working hard on implementing the NDP with all stakeholders and stressed that the time has come for us all to bind the collective efforts between the government, NGOs, private sector, academia, media, imminent persons and well willing members of our society to build the St. Maarten that all desire and deserve. “Through a collective vision, a long term national development strategy and a resource mobilization plan, we can and will chart our future course more sturdily, regardless of which government may be in power. This is because through this program, through dialogue, we agree to collectively share the ownership and power of this process. This can be hailed as a new beginning in our new country because it puts the decision making power with the people,” concluded the prime minister.


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