SDM highlights importance of infrastructural improvements

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Protecting the environment and investing in our infrastructure, has an incredible value for us, our tourism product and ultimately our economy.

“Maintain and improve rather than expand,” says Benjamin Ortega from the St. Maarten Development Movement (SDM).

“Currently our St. Maarten government is struggling to maintain the overall infrastructure. It is being shown through a constant ad-hoc upgrading of our roads. This has been proven not to be the most efficient way to maintain or to improve our infrastructure. This inefficient way of working even leads to higher expenditures on the long run. Lack of available funding and capacity are often mentioned as reasons why our government is failing.”

Development is, however, not just a government responsibility. SDM therefore believes that setting up a proper partnership with the private sector could be a solution to the problems addressed. By creating an adhering contract or some other mechanism, in which it is agreed to share responsibilities and financial responsibilities related to the implementation and/or operation and management of any infrastructural or environmental project, we could structurally plan for improvements on the long run and include the maintenance thereof.

Our government could look into the possibility of setting up an interagency, co-chaired by the private and public sector, and destined to work with investors, local project developers, local contractors and others. This agency could particularly focus on improving the coordination to obtain finances and complete infrastructural projects prioritized as being important to our people, our environment and ultimately our entire (tourism) economy.

“Creating jobs and maintaining the overall infrastructure can go hand in hand,” says Ortega. “There are many infrastructural work-related tasks that could be outsourced to the interagency suggested. Continuous painting of street lines, repairing of potholes, repairing of drainage channels are just a few examples of the various small, but yet very meaningful jobs that need to be fulfilled. The agency could execute these works as well and include young and established local women and men to this field. It will allow them the opportunity to develop themselves from starting laborers to skilled laborers, to supervisors and ultimately to become full rounded contractors. It’s true entrepreneurship.”

The current infrastructural budget of VROMI has an allocated budget to execute certain works. If this budget is taken to a public-private agency, in which additional financial contributions are added from third parties, the budget St. Maarten needs to get to a state-of-the-art infrastructure will be created.

Working together with the private sector and possible foreign investors is an innovative (financial) approach to come to agreements on how to improve and maintain our infrastructure while creating job opportunities for the people of St. Maarten.