Philipsburg, Sint Maarten — On Saturday, February 26, the Council of Ministers welcomed the members of the Committee of Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Senate to a meeting in the Government Administration Building. The delegation consisted of 15 persons and was escorted by the Dutch Representative of the Netherlands in Philipsburg (VNP), Mr. Chris Johnson. Both parties concluded that it was a fruitful and open conversation about various discussion points, including the relations within the Kingdom along with the COHO and the 12.5% personnel-related cost-cutting measures.
The visit of the Senate was added to a slew of recent positively experienced mainly in-person visits of which the last one being the recent visit of the State Secretary Van Huffelen to Sint Maarten. The Senate was mostly interested in ways and means to continue to strengthen and foster relationships between the Dutch and the Sint Maarten Government, and how the Senate could assist Sint Maarten in this process. Having a better understanding of the historical, demographical, financial/economic, and political reality on the island is one of the foundation blocks of being able to build a more trustworthy partnership.
The Council of Ministers reconfirmed its commitment to the national reform measures and indicated to the delegation that most of these were already included in its National Development Plan. However, the potential of the island needs to be more highlighted and better profiling of the strengths of Sint Maarten within the Caribbean through politics should occur. Upon request, clarification was provided regarding the absence of capital expenditures to invest in the prison and financial management, though approved yet not forthcoming. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the same period that the current Council of Ministers assumed office, further negatively impacted the absence of the approved funds, resulting in no financial means for capital investments.
The meeting continued with the Senate posing various questions to the Ministers present which provided Ministers the opportunity to explain the impact of the cost-cutting measures on education, the ten-year vision of the country where creative arts, safeguarding food security and agriculture, being more resilient to natural disasters – in particular, flooding – and improving infrastructure in general, were emphasized.
In its closing words, the Council of Ministers reemphasized its willingness to commit to the reforms yet stressed that imposing while a consensus has to be sought does not aid in building open and trustworthy relations. Neither does a ‘one size fits all approach for all the countries within the Kingdom or applying a negative generalized perception of all politicians on Sint Maarten. The meeting ended with an exchange of gifts and a pledge to continue the open dialogue.
After the meeting with the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice joined the delegation at the VNP’s office where a presentation on the Prison was provided; this continued with an update on the reconstruction projects followed by a tour displaying the actual progress of some of these projects. The Prime Minister and the director of the National Recovery Program Bureau (NRPB), Mr. Claret Connor, were able to further elucidate en route via the landfill, the John Larmonie Center shelter, and the Caribbean Heritage travel exhibit, then via the Sint Medical Center (SMMC) and The ew General Hospital that is currently being built, along the lagoon to witness the cleaned-up lagoon after the removal of the shipwrecks.
Although the visit of the Kingdom Relations Committee occurred over the weekend, the Prime Minister deemed it important to invest the necessary time and opted to attend the different elements of the delegation’s program as she equates the investment of this relationship with the long-term (financial/economic) well-being of the citizens of Sint Maarten.