I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and congratulate our Harbor and Airport for being named the Best Caribbean Port and Airport of 2016 by various international entities.
I also would like to commend our Honorable Governor for his “Imagine speech” at his New Year’s Reception held last week Friday where he shared several imaginary projects with the general public.
I can remember last year the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Executives also shared with Parliament and the people of St. Maarten areas that need improvement to enhance our Tourism product.
The Central Bank also shared their year-end report of the St. Maarten economy and projections for this year. I have also listened to our Council of Ministers speeches during our budget debate in Parliament to pass the Budget 2017.
I fully agree with all of these speeches, which are nothing new, but as our Excellency stated we have to come together as individuals, media, businesses, unions and government and put a plan action with respect to projects to move St. Maarten forward in 2017. Anyone today in Government has to be creative with a little budget and take a hands on approach to get any project executed within Government.
The question is how we move St. Maarten forward for 2017 with a limited budget is by setting our priorities for the year and start acting on most of these imaginary projects, which are already in the making by the former Coalition Government. There is a Master Plan already on how to revitalize and bring back life in the entire Philipsburg area.
Port St. Maarten also has a Master Plan for the entire Great Bay Harbor area with all stakeholders included.
As the former Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee of Parliament, we sent a letter to Government identifying the old Government Administration Building as the new location for our New Parliament Building and the Post Office Building as a Parking Garage with the vision of making the Clem Labega Square into a national park, and upgrading the entire Soualiga Boulevard to the Court House as a people’s avenue. In this area you can also create a bus terminal and taxi holding area.
We need to focus more on safety and security with a comprehensive camera surveillance network in Philipsburg and the border, and start putting more blue on the road for 2017 in which was already started by the former Minister of Justice. We also need to give our Community Police Officers in the different districts the necessary tools and equipment to better serve the community.
Community policing is a very successful programme along with neighborhood watch programs for the residents in the different districts.
The Minister of Health would follow the court decision and focus more on building a modern hospital facility and improving our quality care at the Medical Center for our growing population.
I have a lot of confidence in our new Minister of VROMI who has hit the ground running in improving our garbage and traffic situation in which was a main concern by the FCCA and the people of St. Maarten. I have several quick win solutions on how to improve the traffic situation and on renewable energy, solar park which I would be happy to share with the new Minister of VROMI.
I also would like to see my previous motions in Parliament to establish our first National Park and Agriculture Station at Emilio Wilson Estate for our residents and visitors to enjoy. In the signed agreement with Rain Forest, there are conditions for them to establish a national park for the people of St. Maarten to continue to teach our children the history and culture of St. Maarten.
I would like the Minister to follow up with NV GEBE to complete the solar project for the public parking lots in Philipsburg and the water tank project for the residents of Marigot Hill and Guavaberry Road in St. Peters. Last Year, the French Government gave approval in writing for NV GEBE to put the cables underground on the dirt road, which is historically on both sides of the island and for the people to get water and lights in the Marigot Hill area.
How they say the French and the Dutch Sides can’t work together in the general interest of the people. I would like to see us put aside our egos and work together on behalf of the people in which we represent.
Government needs to start a project to upgrade and beautify all the districts, especially Sucker Garden and Dutch Quarter. We need to bring back that pride within the different districts and revitalize some of the dormant Community Councils.
I also would like to see the University of St. Martin being recognized as our National University with dormitories and for Government to increase their subsidy. I am still amazed on how we talk about how we believe in higher learning and still neglect our University.
In closing, I would like Government to focus on revitalizing our economy and market our tourism product together with the business community and the people of St. Maarten. We need to cut back on the red tape and bureaucracy in Government to get the people permits and building permits out on time. We need better control on prices and immigration. Everyone has a role to play in making St. Maarten a better place for 2017. We also have to create incentives to stimulate our local entrepreneurs for 2017, which a lot of them closed their doors last year.
We need to encourage our foreign investors to invest into our island to improve our economic growth for this year.
Little things make a big difference in the community.
What happened to the branch offices NV GEBE wanted to rent in St. Johns and Belvedere to accommodate the long lines of customers at the main office?
What happened to Link 4 (Cake House Road) making it a two-way with railings to ease the traffic flow in Cole Bay? Government already purchased some of the land to widen the road and they just need to talk to the other landlord to make it possible.
What happened to the taxi way and clearance facility at the Airport to continue to make St. Maarten the clearance hub of the Caribbean?
What happened to the upgrading of Weymouth Road for the residents and the beautification plan of Sucker Garden and Dutch Quarter?
What happened to the road markings for the motorists and cyclists and painting of the pedestrian crossings for the safety aspect of our people?
2017 would be a very interesting year, but we have to be up for the challenge by being creative in Government and going to get things done and work more closely with the businesses in a Public Private Partnership and the people of both sides of our beautiful island St. Maarten. We need less talk, firmer decision making and more action in 2017.
Former MP Maurice Lake