On behalf of the council of ministers, I greet you and wish you a pleasant day. I bring apologies from Ministers Marlin, Pantophlet and Tuitt. I again wish the deputy Prime Minister much strength during this time of bereavement. Our condolences are also extended to Mr. Eugene James and his family, and to the family of Mr. Karl Arndell (Tall Boy).
On this date last year I stood in these chambers and like most others then reminisced about 10-10-10.
Not only that remarkable date, but the period leading up to October 10, 2010 and specifically the decade that immediately preceded, following the referendum of 2000.
By October of last year, in my assessment, we had made some strides since the transition date of 10-10-10. And I alluded to these accomplishments in 2011
We had no choice. We voted for the status of country, we fought for it and when it became a reality, we had to make it work.
Ready or not, we had to move forward and move we did.
We were eyed with quite some suspicion. And the doubt on the minds of many was evident. In fact, some expressed these doubts openly.
St. Maarten remained however unperturbed.
We hade created a solid foundation in terms of the checks and balances that are critical to our democratic state. The 3 most important institutions being the Parliament, the Government and the Judiciary.
Especially the relationship between parliament and government, as enshrined in our constitution dictates that these 2 bodies are separate, yet dependent of one another.
This democratic state is a costly, but necessary affair.
During the past year now, government was able to focus its efforts on providing service to the people in the new and changed environment of a country's government.
A government that works primarily through its ministries and with all due respect for individual accountability of ministers , there is the integrity of the legal body of government (de openbare rechtspersoon, het land St. Maarten) to uphold and safeguard.
A government that holds those delivering the services accountable through statutory agencies such as the ombudsman and ultimately the Parliament of St. Maarten.
It is a learning process for the population; the government and the parliament.
Necessary components of this process are openness, inclusion and flexibility amongst and from all stakeholders. Elements that government continues to promote within its confines and in its dealings with others.
I believe Government's administration has improved.
We have invested heavily in ICT, but there is still much more that can be accomplished in the area of technology that will benefit the population.
Several ministries will be going online in the coming months. Several ministries will branch out into the districts.
Our focus is on service, the cost of living and the cost of doing business. Our economy is too fragile to clamp down on the business sector with the heavy hand, as much as government needs all the revenue it can muster together.
We need all players, business, government and the community, and government will be calling on the fair judgement of all to work together during these trying times.
How do we gauge St. Maarten's successes?
Well, for one, when you hear positive, albeit cautiously, sounds coming from our fiercest critics in the Dutch Kingdom, you can safely say that our efforts to make this country work for all who call here home, are paying off.
That St. Maarten agree strongly on many things and disagree slightly on some, is to our advantage.
How do we solve the disagreements? How do we make the necessary choices with limited means with at the forefront always the people who we serve.
Our young country in this building phase is often faced with offers that are out of this world. And of course, in true salesman fashion, "it's all done for St. Maarten".
Well, the ones to determine that, are those whose chambers are in this building and those across the road, including the minister of Justice whose abode is further down the road.
Don't let us ever forget what makes us strong. That there will be differences of opinion is to be expected.
With respect for the opinions of others, these differences will contribute to a vibrant society. A society in which its members can freely voice their opinion, respecting that of others, and the St. Maarten culture and way of life.
As I did last year, I look back on the past year.
We are not yet where we want to be in terms of service to the citizenry. Still too much stories of the infamous go-come-back, from pillar to post, lost and not found.
But from ministry to ministry, these negative phenomena are being tackled. In different ways: training, performance evaluation, improved accommodations, material and automation.
The government of St. Maarten recognizes the plight of the elderly and the youth.
Within short this parliament will be asked to work with government to bring relief to our seniors.
Our financial assistance law will be overhauled.
With respect to the cost of living: several initiatives are being undertaken in the area of utilities, controlled goods and of course the national health insurance to offer medical insurance to all.
In the area of fighting crime, the efforts to curb the incidence of crime, continue unabated.
With this bird eye's view, Mr. chairman I reiterate that we can not rest on our laurels. There is so much that is expected of this young country of ours and of its government.
Expectations by the citizens, by Kingdom partners, and by regional and international bodies.
When one looks at the past 2 years, it is evident that government will never win first prize for swiftness.
But that is the nature of the business called "Government". From on the inside, one can appreciate the checks and balances that should protect our country and the integrity of government. However, these were never meant to frustrate government.
Hopefully after the first 2 years of country, in this, the third year the community will reap the fruits of the preparatory work done in the areas I highlighted earlier. Pension reform, Tax reform, health reform, social reform.
In the meantime, government continues to work with parliament on those matters, identified by parliament as priorities, such as the timeshare legislation, labor legislation (so-called short term contracts) etc.
There is still a lot to be done, but our country is still young, our people still determined and with the courage to make it work for us and for our future generations.
As the first prime minister of this young country, I am humbled by the fact that since 10-10-10, I have enjoyed the confidence of all factions of this Parliament in different coalition constellations. I thank the parliament of St. Maarten and pledge my unwavering dedication to the only business I know and that is the business of the people of St. Maarten.
HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY to the strong nation of Soualigans!