PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – United People’s (UP) Party Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake is calling on Government to come up with creative financing ideas and to foster stronger more meaningful public-private partnerships. Such partnerships will increase the development of the economy and improve services for the entire country.
“The private sector has been the driving force for years as an essential pillar of the economy and to the economic achievements of our country. They are why we are tops in the Caribbean in a lot of areas over the years. In these challenging economic times with a government that doesn’t have money, that is the only way we can move forward as a country is hand-in-hand with the private sector,” said MP Lake.
“When government and the business community work together the ultimate winners are the people of St. Maarten. Good partnerships, that’s what it’s all about,” said the MP. The partnership will stimulate growth, stability, create decent jobs and enhance community togetherness to reduce crime and poverty.”
St. Maarten’s economy saw a 1.5 per cent growth in 2014 and is projected to see a 1.6 per cent growth this year, according to the Annual Report 2014 of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten (CBCS).
Lake: “I know St. Maarten can show a better increase in economic growth if we show more political maturity and work together to build this country. We need to raise the bar to take this country to another level.”
The drastic decline in the construction sector in 2014 shows the urgent need for government to boost the economy by starting projects to benefit the people, said Lake. “The country’s budget it tight, I know, but that’s the reason we need to get creative. Government needs to build homes for our young professionals. The Vorst Land is now in the hands of government – free and clear. We have no reason to wait, let’s start the process. When the private sector sees government is going something in the community, the confidence level will go up and more will start to happen.”
“Why we can’t build more affordable housing with the assistance of the General Pension Fund APS for local professionals at a deducted rate, create financing with SHTA to pay law and hospitality teachers to execute much needed courses for our university with public/private partnership projects,” said Lake.
“What’s the holdup on completing the taxi way for the airport to keep our competitive edge in the Caribbean for the upcoming season? Why the businesses in Front Street and Back Street can’t contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the streets in Philipsburg in the form of a public/private partnership,” asked Lake.
The MP questioned that status of utilities company GEBE’s investments in waste-to-energy and alternative energy to reduce to cost of living which is the main areas hurting our people.
Lake called for a revamp of the tax system so everyone, including undocumented people pay taxes, instead of a just a few. “The integration of all tax related departments and unique number system are needed promptly to increase tax compliance.”
Government needs to create other incentives, other than money, to help entrepreneurs to jump start their businesses and by extension the economy, said Lake.
Central Bank President Emsley Tromp has advised government in the Annual Report to reconsider of St. Maarten’s authority to borrow on the capital market and the country’s budgetary constraints leaves limited or no room to borrow for much needed capital investment projects. “These projects are very critical for continued economic growth in our country, the Dutch is not going to let us borrow and create a budget for capital investments for St. Maarten,” said Lake.
Lake said in his former post as VROMI Minister he was successful without a balanced budget thanks to his “Back to Basics” approach of working with the community and coming up with creative financing ideas, including forging public/private partnership projects.
“I hit the ground running as a minister working very closely with the Timeshare Association, St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, Harbour, Airport, Rotary and many other associations and community councils in connection to public/private partnership projects. These led to the upgrading of the entrance at Oyster Pond, Pelican, improved road signage, streetlights, adopting roundabouts and paving of dirt roads within the different districts,” said Lake.
Lake wanted to complete the upgrading of the sidewalks along the main road of Simpson Bay together with area businesses to create a safer walk and running path, and addressing the drainage problem by Atruim Hotel going into Pelican, giving the local contractors within their district a tender two year contract to clean the trenches within their district, outsource the road painting contract but his 18 months term as a minister ended in December 2014 and he headed into Parliament. “I wanted to do the same type of public-private partnership project we did with the improved road in Cupecoy.”
MP Lake concluded that he understands everything costs money, but: “If we come together and everyone contributes with a public-private partnership initiative, we would get a lot more accomplished for the country.
“Government needs to hit the ground running and start building especially in a time where construction is stagnant at the moment. We need to build more sewage treatment plants and water tanks in strategic areas, and this could be done via the aforementioned initiative along with the landowners.”