PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - One should work in the best interest of the Country when the opportunity presents itself to serve. I served as Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT) as well as Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Ministry VROMI) for the United People’s (UP) Party led coalition for the governing period December 2014 to November 2015.
During that short period, I had the opportunity to work on a number of very important initiatives. Here are just a few I would like to share with you.
National Economic Summit - The National Development Plan of St. Maarten is built upon four pillars of sustainable development; namely: culture, environment and infrastructure, social and human development, and the economy. While no pillar is more vital than the other, the economy, as a pillar, is essential to realizing the greater mission of the National Development Plan and St. Maarten’s development as a country.
Economic planning is not a quickly executed task; while the process of shaping a national economic vision is not an easy one. This process requires foresight, inclusion and a keen understanding of the needs of all partners. The respective government departments within Ministry TEATT took the first steps by drafting a National Economic Framework.
A National Economic Summit was held to allow stakeholders to have an input and assist in building from the ground up a national economic framework. A number of things were identified such as public-private partnerships; communication; improvement of the local workforce; public sector activities; data collection; Tax reform; Economic diversification; Ship and Aircraft registry just to mention a few.
Since the successful National Economic Summit of May 22 and the follow-up session of June 12, the Ministry has been actively expounding upon the National Economic Framework via the creation of strategic economic workgroups. These workgroups cover a range of thematic sectors, from telecommunication to marine, tourism to agriculture and environment to financial services.
This process is a very inclusive one and we believe it would have reaped great benefits and better relationships with our private sector partners. It was our intention to deliver at the end 2015 a National Economic Plan that outlines a shared vision for St. Maarten’s sustainable growth.
The development of Tourism is a collaborative undertaking between the Government of St. Maarten and stakeholders in the tourism industry. The combined expertise and resources would have been utilized to develop and design a comprehensive development plan, which will serve as the foundation for the creation of a facilitating environment for tourism development. The incorporation of the St. Maarten Tourism Authority Foundation (STA), in anticipation of the Tourism Authority to be established in an independent/autonomous public/administrative entity / “zelfstandig Bestuur Orgaan” (ZBO) was an undertaking aimed to create that conducive environment for tourism development, which was continued during my tenure.
Social Housing - With respect to promoting social housing, I worked with the St. Maarten General Pension Fund (APS) to develop affordable homes on a parcel of land in Cay Hill (formerly the Vorst property) for civil servants. The minimum number of homes envisioned was estimated at 45.
Chamber of Commerce and Government Economic Development Project - In order to promote the public interest of commerce and industry, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Government worked diligently to develop an “Economic Service Center” for Philipsburg aimed at overall economic development. A parcel of land was identified for the location on which the center and other supporting business activities would be established.
Technological development and services - I was in the process to further expand services within our telecommunications sector. As global telecommunications develop, new services are being added known as VAS (Value Added Services). These services would provide improved access to information and information services, which offers a higher value experience to consumers of telecommunication services.
A strong economy is the foundation for all other factors that we want to achieve as a country. Our economy is the life line that supports and maintains our very existence.
We cannot just grow our economy; we have to develop our economy. We must expand and increase the main elements of our economy.
Within the industries of our tourism driven economy we must continue to develop our infrastructure. This is the reason why a new medical center is vital as it ensures that the main drivers “the people” of this country are taken care of right here on St. Maarten.
We have to also develop our ports of entry, in order to sustain our volatile.
We must develop our people, without the people expressing the proper spirit of what St Maarten is truly about will be like a ship adrift, a lost and visionless people.
We need to introduce programs aimed at building knowledge and awareness of the industry that our livelihoods depend on.
Furthermore, our neighborhoods must reflect the true meaning of community, we must build facilities that our children use for their development and further self-enhancement.
Our senior citizens should able to recreate in the neighborhoods that they have lived all of their lives.
This can be achieved by expanding on or building user friendly community centers and/or recreational centers in every neighborhood.
Our educational system must be in balance to deal with the moving technological trends so that we can become an intelligent society. This can be achieved by designing and implementing school curricula to include technology as a learning enabler.
I believe in the St Maarten of our forefathers where neighborhoods help raised the children.
I believe in the St Maarten of today where that spirit still exist in persons who remain steadfast in their belief that St Maarten is still the greatest place on earth.
And I believe in the St Maarten to come.
I believe and love St Maarten and its people and that is why I have placed myself at your service, for a better and brighter St Maarten. My focus and vision have always been for the people of St Maarten.
I believe in my candidacy. However, it is only with your mandate I can help shape St Maarten. I therefore ask you that on September 26, that when you go out and vote, that you vote for leadership qualities, competence, dedication and commitment. Vote for Claret Connor, your #8 candidate on the UP party slate.
May God bless you and may God bless our beloved St Maarten.
Claret Connor, former Minister TEATT / VROMI