WEDNESDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2013
PHILIPSBURG–Government is called on to be creative to “do much with little, to prioritise within priorities and to think beyond ministerial boundaries” as it executes plans for this final year of the parliamentary term, Governor Eugene Holiday said at the opening of the 2013-2014 Parliamentary Year at Parliament House on Tuesday.
Government’s policy plans “must be viewed” within the context and challenges of the prevailing constitutional and regulatory framework, of the current socio-economic setting and of the global financial and economic climate.
The main objectives of government’s financial policy agenda are to complete the 2013 budget before October 1, to have the 2014 budget approved by Parliament by year-end and to finalise the 2012 annual accounts by December 1.
To ensure compliance with the provisions of the national ordinance for government accounts and the Kingdom Law on financial supervision, government will implement measures to realise a modern tax system and mature tax compliance, improve the quality of planning and control processes, and improve efficiency and service as well as compliance, by integrating the Tax Department and strengthening public services.
Government intends to carry out a number of major infrastructural projects, including building Link VI connecting Weymouth Estate to Dutch Quarter, drainage improvements such as the expansion of the A.Th. Illidge Road floodgates, and start of the construction of the waste-to-energy facility project in 2014.
The time for the realisation of its policies and plans is “short,” but government is “dedicated to the task before it to deliver on the objectives of its May 2013 governing declaration and to continue to build our island in the interest of the people,” Holiday said.
Government’s focus for the few remaining months of this governing term is economic diversification, fiscal reform, social safety nets, job creation, training, poverty alleviation, community development, infrastructural development, legislation, electoral reform, labour and immigration reform, national insurance and the further development and strengthening of the Justice Ministry.
Government is “committed” to seeing through a National Development Plan as the basis for a coordinated, balanced and sustainable development. Government is “particularly occupied” with the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and as such will make this “an integral part” of every ministry’s agenda.
The administration is working on an Integrity Law to establish an Integrity Bureau and other related initiatives. Work also has started on preparation and execution of the legislation and regulations required for elections in 2014.
As is the custom, the Governor delivered an outline of government’s plans to Parliament in the presence of the Wescot-Williams III Cabinet and other dignitaries. He told MPs the new year “ushers in a new political year in which you return to the halls of government to deliver on the promise to represent the will of the people.”
He told MPs government would reach out to them with legislative initiatives. “As representatives of the people of St. Maarten, government looks forward to your participation and your support in achieving the outlined vision for the coming period in the interest of the people of St. Maarten.
The Governor pointed out two major milestones in the nation’s history in the past parliamentary year: the abdication of Queen Beatrix and inauguration of King Willem-Alexander on April 30, and the observance of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on July 1. “It is at national moments like these that we come together as one people to reflect on our common interests and aspirations for a strong and united St. Maarten.”
In keeping with its “result-oriented, business-like approach,” government will present a safety and security action programme with three core elements: compliance with existing agreements, maintenance of law and order, and development of new urgent initiatives on laws and policies.
Government has started work on the expansion of the prison and preparations are underway to establish a youth detention centre in Cay Bay.
In its efforts to combat money laundering, government is taking measures to ensure adherence to the standards of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and has prioritised the recommendations of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for implementation aimed at combating human trafficking.
To maintain law and order, government will crack down on “irregularities that threaten to disturb the peace” in the country. Expertise from law enforcement partners abroad, kingdom partners and international organisations such as Interpol will be tapped into where needed by government.
Government will introduce a system of Justice certification and put in place a unit to execute audits on compliance with anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering measures and on meeting the standards established for certification. This will “structurally tackle” corruption and money laundering and “contribute to improving the image of businesses and doing business in the public and private sectors in St. Maarten,” the governor said.
Government also will continue to seek to broaden the country’s economic base by pursuing initiatives “to foster medical tourism.” Establishment of the tourism authority also is on the agenda.
Essential to St. Maarten’s economic development as a small open economy is the maintenance of good foreign relations. Government will “continue to work at maintaining good relations” with its partners in the kingdom.
Government will finalise its foreign policy document, in which special attention will be given to relationships and partnerships with the kingdom, with French St. Martin, with the region, with the United States and with the European Union.
Government is committed to managing the finances of the country in a general sense, within the constraints of the country, as well as in relation to shared entities with other countries in the kingdom such as the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten.
One laptop per child
To raise standards in education, sports and culture, the Governor said government would establish an Education Council, develop standards for the implementation of education and sports, foster interscholastic sports, develop infrastructure for branding St. Maarten as “a language hub” and introduce protocols to report child abuse and neglect, the governor said.
Government will implement a comprehensive set of measures to develop and prepare the youth for their roles in society, including the organisation of a participatory forum on the rights, responsibilities and code of conduct for teachers and staff, and the introduction of the “one laptop per child” programme.
Government will foster “closer relationships” with French St. Martin and promote interregional cooperation with Caricom countries and Venezuela in the areas of education, culture, youth and sports affairs.
In the area of health, government’s mission centres on promoting a healthy and socially supportive community, protecting socially vulnerable groups, promoting employment opportunities and securing accessibility to health insurance and social security systems. The “main project” is the phased implementation of the National Health Insurance plan.
To address the challenges of increasing population density and traffic congestion, government is preparing a new ordinance “that modernises existing legislation in the area of public housing, spatial planning, environment and infrastructure development,” Holiday said.
Related policy initiatives are a housing vision, establishment of a sustainable energy policy, the completion of the zoning plans, reducing the processing time for permits to an average of eight weeks and eliminating the backlog in processing building permits.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell declared the new Parliamentary Year opened. That was followed by a uniformed parade on Front Street and a reception at Sundial School.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten