It is truly an honor for me to participate in this special inauguration ceremony for the Windward Island Bank Family, in particular, and for Sint Maarten, in general. I am thus very pleased to herewith commend and extend my congratulations to the entire WIB Family on the official inauguration of the new, expanded and upgraded Windward Island Bank Banking Center. Congratulations!
Today as we stand in front of this new WIB building for this grand occasion I am very pleased to address you considering the significance of this moment for Sint Maarten. In the first place, because we have gathered to celebrate the renewal of the oldest banking institution on Sint Maarten. In the second place because today's ceremony is testimony of the financial and economic accomplishments of the bank and Sint Maarten. And third, because the inauguration of this building today holds in it a major promise for future opportunities and growth.
Drawing from the significance of this WIB moment, and underscoring that opportunities are created, I will in the next few minutes draw your attention to the importance of and to our responsibility to: "create centers of opportunity for the next generation".
Most of us have no clue or idea of what it must have been like when WIB opened its doors in 1960. In fact it is quite easy to forget that, when the Windward Islands Bank opened its doors in December of 1960, many St. Martiners kept their savings – insofar they had any – under their mattresses. And people were not comfortable going to a bank. Since then a lot has changed. The mattresses have now made way for checking, savings, investments and loan accounts and for the convenience of electronic banking. This thanks to the pioneering work of the founder and pioneers of the Windward Island Bank, Mr. Cyrus Wathey and Mr. Shon Sja Capriles. Their work and vision have been carried forward by past and current members of the Windward Island Bank family. Both men are most likely smiling at the results of their business agreement reached in 1960. Through that 1960 agreement the foundation was laid and the corporate responsibility assumed to create a center of opportunity for generations of Sint Martiners.
As a center of opportunity WIB is one of the largest employers of the island offering quality employment opportunities. That is opportunities in a variety of areas ranging from banking, finance, information technology, accounting, corporate law and security amongst others. Who are the benefactors of these opportunities. Not counting the many persons that have worked for WIB in the past 50-plus years WIB offers work to some 250 persons today. In fact I too had the opportunity to be a benefactor. I can still vividly recall the positive reception I received when as a young economics graduate I approached the former WIB Managing Director the late Mr. Vict Henriquez as well as my positive discussions with Mr. Ron Comez Casseres some 26 years ago about working at WIB. These are the type of options and opportunities our people need.
As a center of opportunity in banking Windward Island Bank is a modern bank offering some of the most sophisticated banking services available. And in doing so creating economic value through the facilitation of personal, corporate and public sector transactions on the island. In that regard WIB, at age 52, is synonymous with the unprecedented economic growth and progress of modern day Sint Maarten. This because WIB has been a major partner for other centers of opportunity on the island providing critical banking services and financing to individuals, businesses and government.
In addition to having WIB as a partner it is my hope that existing businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs would draw from the example of WIB and take up the responsibility to create new or expand into strong centers of opportunity for local workers and investment. Having strong businesses that fulfill the role of centers of opportunity for our people and invest in the overall enhancement of the infrastructure of the island is my hope; that ladies and gentlemen, because it is a prerequisite for the further balanced and sustainable socio economic development of our country.
Today we are here as witnesses of such an investment, that is we are witnesses of the result of the decision of the Windward Island Bank to invest in this new building and thus renew its commitment towards its being and its expansion of its achievements as a center of opportunity on Sint Maarten. A decision which, moreover, was taken during the global financial crises amidst uncertain and fragile economic prospects. And which will contribute to strengthen the economic recovery and future growth of our island.
In closing, I therefore commend the Management of MCB and the Windward Island Bank for taking and carrying through with this decision during challenging economic times. A decision which shows your confidence in the economic future of Sint Maarten.
Looking at what has been accomplished in the past 5 decades I have full confidence that the partnership between the WIB and the Community of Sint Maarten will be one of continued growth and progress; one of fostering the creation of centers of opportunity for future generations. With that I herewith once again congratulate you with the inauguration of the new, expanded and upgraded Windward Island Bank Banking Center. Congratulations!
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Sint Maarten.