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New Year’s Message Chamber of Commerce and Industry St. Maarten. (COCI)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Having said farewell to 2015 COCI opens the year with well wishes to one and all. Given COCI’s role in the business community of St. Maarten an assessment of its undertakings in 2015 is required to determine the success of the COCI direction followed through 2015.

In 2015 931 new companies registered at COCI, yet this number in no form signifies the economic development in St. Maarten. New registrations were countered by 458 company closures in 2015, all siting financial difficulties as the reason for the closure. A proper economic development demands that we question all initiatives and decisions that resulted in closures to understand the demographics of our business community. So we question:

-Are we ill prepared as entrepreneurs for the woes of our business environment?

-Are we not fully knowledgeable about our market and its needs prior to entry?

-Are the difficulties faced due to a different direction taken by financial institutions to which the business sector needs to adapt to maintain business operations, but fails to do so timely?

-Are we faced with labor resource issues, rigid or too flexible laws, or a protected labor force that knows how to (mis)use the system, resulting in an expensive labor force with poor productivity?

-Is it the absence of a supportive environment that affects proper economic development? Or

-Are we the people of the country simply to blame for our lack of growth because of our attitude, our lack of pride or appreciation for this paradise we are permitted to call home?

Surely a combination of positive answers to the questions have shaped our business environment over the last years and have made doing business in St. Maarten challenging. We assess, accept the reality, re-group, reformulate our goals and do it once again yet better prepared, structured and with combined resources, for this is what development is and requires.

Economic development requires a number of ingredients to be mixed together thoroughly, timely and in the right amounts. Enhancing our tourism product, supported by well trained and friendly staff, a safe and secure environment are just some of the easy attainable ingredients. Although easily attainable many of these ingredients are often lost due to a self-centered business approach. Yes, we must strive to improve how we do business, but we must also realize that this effort falls within a greater picture and must enhance the overall product that we as a country offer. So in our attitude and approach we must change and grow ensuring that our approach is friendly and welcoming and serves as the departure for efficiency. A labor force that takes pride in serving the consumer, that focusses on a combine effort with use of every ones best attributes will propel our economy. Employers appreciating and respecting their employees guarantees a forceful labor force. One sector within our economy cannot drive economic development on its own, the combined effort of all sectors is required.

The Government and its apparatus have a crucial role to play. A structured approach to development through the execution of a multi annual development plan should be the objective of our government, regardless of its composition. The civil core must aide in enhancement of public service and must realize that long lines and multiple lines are an inefficient approach and costly with a direct negative impact on revenues. A high level of customer service is required through all sectors both private and public all supported by utilities provisioning second to none.

COCI has been criticized for its lack of flamboyance in the press, for being too silent and on a negative trajectory. COCI however is of the opinion that its flamboyance attained through 2015 will shine through its enhanced service and products. The focus on education, betterment of employment conditions, development of new services and enhancing the quality of our services is the reason why flamboyance in the media had to be replaced by inward assessment, analysis and development of our abilities. COCI was so able to improve its customer service and launch new services bringing greater convenience to the consumer. Whilst there is much work still to be done, COCI believes that its part in the due economic development of St. Maarten had to start from within. COCI is thankful to all its members who have through the year worked in close collaboration with COCI to achieve goals and/or set the basis for future development. 2016 will be marked by a focus on economic development, whilst COCI will continue to better itself. No one entity can realize proper economic development in St. Maarten however together we can all turn the tide and bring a brighter future.

COCI presents its report card for 2015.

Formulated goals 2015 Achieved goals in 2015
Accessibility to COCI

-Greater access by E-mail through the launch of: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a 24 hour service

-Toll free access to COCI launched

-Access to COCI through its web- and face book page

- Launch of Complaints division- Complaints policy and procedure

Enhancement of COCI services

-Training of Staff

-Introduction new data management system

-Reorganization of COCI work processes for faster and better service

-Launch of COCI 24 a 24 hour service

-Launch of COCI 2 U COCI goes to the customer enhancing convenience

-Launch of GET COCI permitting a drop off and pick up service offering in Simpson Bay at the Government Public Service Center for the convenience of the business over the hill

-Launch of COCI Curbside a curbside service offered in December only.

-Digitization of COCI files

Promote safety and security in St. Maarten

Promote year-round tourism

-Collaboration with the Government and stake holders on the CCTV project

-COCI providing signage on barricades in Philipsburg explaining the use of barricades

-Collaboration with the Justice Ministry for the launch of a Caribbean tourism aimed product

Enhance compliance by business with laws and regulations in the business sector -Collaboration with the Ministry of TEATT and the Tax office understanding the non-compliance all divisions face for the design of mechanisms to achieve compliance on a larger scale
Promote Better Business

-Launch of the Business Center to permit entrepreneurs access to resources at an affordable price

-Issuance of the COCI newsletter

- Small business competition- aimed at aiding young entrepreneurs to realize business concepts

Other:

-Approved Donations Policy and procedure

-Approved Rules of Order

The COCI family wishes one and all a prosperous 2016.

The President.

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