GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – On Friday, March 31, the Council of Ministers hosted an Information Session to the Secretaries General of the seven different Ministries and their Management Team, the Staff of the Ministers cabinet, and the Staff of the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers.
The main agenda points of the session were the Governing Program; integrity and the plans of the Dutch Government towards establishing an Integrity Chamber on Sint Maarten and their recent appointment of a Dutch Integrity Quartermaster and an update on the budget 2017.
The Council found it essential to inform the key leaders and advisors of the organization in person about these key matters.
While the Prime Minister, William Marlin, spoke on the issues of the Governing Program and Integrity, the Minister of Finance, Richard Gibson Sr., elaborated on the budget.
At the same time both Ministers stressed the importance of the role of each civil servant in the process of making Sint Maarten great. The session was well attended; the Council of Ministers will conduct similar information sessions in the near future to safeguard transparency and open communication with and within the organization.
Both the Council of Ministers as well as the ministers on an individual basis will ensure that the civil servants receive the required information necessary to fulfil their tasks and responsibilities.
The Prime Minister’s intention regarding the topic of the Governing Program was not necessarily to explain what was in the Governing Program, but to show to the audience how the Governing Program has come into existence, how the Government Program is to be used and what are the next steps to be taken.
He explained that the Governing Program “Stability for Prosperity” was the product of a workgroup consisting of members of the three different political parties - National Alliance, United Sint Maarten People’s Party and the Democratic Party – which all want to address different issues in different ways.
The common ground among all three parties were identified and written down in the program. The Secretaries General of the different ministries and the cabinet members all provided their input in finalizing the program.
The Prime Minister stressed to civil servants present that the success of the Governing Program depends on all the civil servants acting as the managers of the process while focusing on certain priorities.
He stated: “You are here because we want to emphasize that you are important in the execution of the Governing Program. It is about liking your job. We are already in March and we are already executing. It is a government for four years and we may begin in 2017 and certain things may run over in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
“For now, the concentration is on what should be done in 2017 and this should be in sync with the Governing Program, but more important it should be in sync with your budget.”
The importance of following up on advices and decisions taken by the Council of Ministers was elucidated upon. “The progress has to be meaningful and important to you. You should follow up on decisions of the Council of Ministers, you should execute, you have to be proactive,” Prime Minister furthermore stated.
While on March 23 a copy of the Governing Program was presented to Parliament via the Chairlady of Parliament, Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams, and the Vice Chairman, Member of Parliament Frans Richardson, a follow up Central Committee meeting of Parliament will take place on Tuesday, April 18, to present the year plans of the different ministries which are intertwined with the budget and the Governing Program.
In regards to the topic of Integrity, the Prime Minister explained that there is a major difference in interpretation of integrity and how to deal with it between Sint Maarten and the Dutch.
“Integrity breach in the Netherlands is considered fraud by the Dutch while integrity breach in Sint Maarten is considered corruption by the Dutch”. He furthermore stated that Sint Maarten wants discussion, not instruction.” He stressed that “Sint Maarten is only a country that is six years old and needs space, room and opportunity to handle the integrity issues her own way, respecting her circumstances and situation, learning along the lines.”
He acknowledged that there are integrity issues on Sint Maarten, but Sint Maarten decides WHAT to accept in the issues with integrity and HOW to deal with unacceptable things. An Integrity Chamber should not be single handedly imposed by the Dutch Government.
Management was urged to continue to provide service in an integer manner to the public of Sint Maarten.
The Minister of Finance continued the presentation on the budget of 2017. He personally thanked each civil servant for their contribution seeing that today’s surplus in the budget would not have been possible without each one of them, yet stressed that a lot more work needs to be done.
He pledged financial assistance to the youth, the prison, the tax department and the Ministry of VROMI. In regards to the capital investment, Management present were tasked with the responsibility to prioritize their plans and projects for final decision making by the Council of Ministers.
“The exercise is needed for Sint Maarten to take advantage of the opportunity to apply for a NAF. 30 million loan to be approved by the ‘College financieel toezicht’ (Cft). This becomes the first time since 2014 that Sint Maarten can borrow capital expenditures and make investments so the Gross Domestic Product can grow”, noted the Minister of Finance. He was confident that the future looked much brighter.
For more information on the Governing Program, both Facebook and the website StabilityForProsperity.sx can be visited.