As the old year passed and the new year dawned, I have seen many characterizations of 2013. More often than not, the narrative of the characterizations of developments in 2013 are less than favorable. They tell a story of developments in our sweet Sint Maarten land that do not match the promise of our nation. They tell a story of political discord and budgetary imbalances that is not conducive to the sustainable development of our people. They tell a story of conflict, integrity investigations and divisiveness as opposed to one of unity, opportunities and potentials fulfilled.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Reflecting on the developments of 2013, I see a year in which the strength and resolve of our nation has been put to the test. I see a year in which we navigated through the adverse effects of external as well as of internal developments. A year in which many in the public and private sectors have contributed their share to the overall welfare of our country. A contribution for which we are to and commend them.
Nevertheless, today several important and real issues remain which need our attention. As a firm believer in the strength and resolve of the people of Sint Maarten, I am convinced that we can address these issues and in so doing shape our nation's future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Shaping our nation is a call to all for innovative policies, to secure a quality future for our people. One which is particularly relevant in an election year when politics as opposed to policies, - more than normally is the case - become all important.
The challenge before us can thus be summarized in one question: What are we to do to shape our country's future?
First, as some people in our sweet Sint Maarten land wrestle
• with the challenges of obtaining work and job security;
• with the challenges of the cost of living; and
• with the challenges of access to health care
we need first and foremost to acknowledge that their challenges are our challenges. That the fate and future of our neighbor in need, is our common concern. As a result, it is evident that we, to answer the call to shape our country for a quality future, must individually and collectively make a firm commitment to the common good.
Second, assessing the many developments taking place on our island, we need to realize that the shaping of our nation is more than erecting concrete and steel structures. It is more than building airports and harbors, national assets of which we are rightfully proud. And it is more than increasing monetary gain. This realization is critical because it seems that too often public and private policies are driven by politics and factors other than those that are in the interest of the people. This means that to answer the call to shape our country, we must move to place people at the center of public and private policies.
Third, the shaping of our nation's future is contingent on our investments in the preparation of our people to take up their places and responsibilities as well as in the creation of opportunities. Every youngster not prepared or graduate that does not return, is an opportunity lost for the growth and development of our country. The securing of the participation and contribution of our youngsters, is a key determining factor towards the perfecting of our nation's sustainable growth.
Fourth, to answer the call to shape our nation requires a sense of purpose. Drawing from the purpose driven words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I wish to emphasize that to meet that challenge we must in our actions not allow ourselves to be led by the questions:
a. is it safe?
b. is it convenient? and
c. is it popular?
But rather by the fundamental question: Is it right? This question is essential for all and particularly where it concerns issues of public governance. The response to the call to shape our country, is therefore a call to act and take decisions because they are right. In doing so we will individually and collectively expand our reach in shaping a more just, safe and secure society.
And fifth, the shaping of our nation is not something that can be achieved in one, two or three years. It is a continuous process that requires the input and contributions of all. A process that requires continued real dialogue. It is a process in which disagreement among each other, may never be a reason not to speak with one another. This because the shaping of our nation is a collective call. It is one which can only be achieved together, with the purpose of ensuring that our economies can provide for the needs of all our people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Considering the challenges we face as a nation and cognizant of a growing recognition of the need to address existing real and important issues, there is no better time than now for us to reexamine our national strategy. The five necessary factors I outlined for the shaping of our nation's future, provide some guiding and transparent principles for the further development of our national strategy.
In the end, the shaping of our nation's future will to a large extent be determined by the actions of public officials. In our system of representative government, it is a fundamental and guiding principle for the representatives of the people, as public servants, to have and continuously nurture the people's trust and confidence through legislation, policies and execution which are responsive to the needs of the people. It is thus the responsibility of the people to make their needs known and hold their representatives accountable. Giving greater emphasis and content to mentioned five people driven factors in our National Stragety can play an important role in the interaction between the people and representatives.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In closing, standing here this evening at the beginning of 2014, I believe that we face real and important issues. As a result, we have a commitment to present new solutions. The Great Nelson Mandela in the face of great challenges have left us with many wise statements, one of which is and I quote: "It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my Soul" Unquote. Considering the real and important challenges facing our young country, I wish to end my call for the shaping of our Nation's Future by paraphrasing the inspirational and powerful words of Nelson Mandela, as follows: As the masters of our fate and captains of the soul of our nation it is our collective responsibility to shape our nation's future.
Thus, as we begin this New Year, let us do so thankful that we have been blessed to see the sun set on the year past and the sun rise in 2014. At the same time let us as individuals, corporations and government confirm and strengthen our commitment to shaping our nation's future. As Governor I shall continue to work with government and other stakeholders to perfect the shaping of our nation to secure a quality future for the people of St. Maarten.
With that commitment and sense of purpose, Marie-Louise and myself hereby wish you and your family a year of health, happiness and growth.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless Sint Maarten.