Chris: Vanity projects still being prioritized over public interest

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Leader of the NOW party (Nation, Opportunity, Wealth) MP Christophe Emmanuel on Sunday said that the National Alliance led government of St. Maarten has clearly prioritized political vanity projects over issues that matter most to the population. So much so, he said, that the government sees no need to provide relevant and factual information on ongoing projects such as the hospital and the airport, but choose instead to roll-out projects meant to distract people over the summer break.

“There are so many issues that affect our people direct and indirectly that this government is willfully and strategically ignoring due to the fact that elections are on the horizon. My only hope is that the people of St. Maarten will see right through these tactics, remember the past four years and vote accordingly,” MP Emmanuel said.

His case in point was the recent announcement by Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran of the approval of an underwater attraction in Great Bay. This project, the MP said, is shrouded in mystery and is a clear vanity project from the coalition that the people do not need currently. “The Minister and coalition MPs are neck-deep in this,” he said. 

“The problem with political vanity projects is that they present serious dangers to society and governance. Misallocation of resources, lack of public accountability, and diversion of political focus all contribute to a governance approach that prioritizes image over substance. The consequences are far-reaching, eroding public trust, neglecting vital issues, and burdening citizens with unnecessary costs. When are we going to prioritize public interest over personal ambitions and engage in responsible, evidence-based decision-making?” The MP asked. 

He said the lack of transparency regarding the company involved in the project raises concerns about the financial viability of the project. If the government does not disclose relevant information about the entire process to arrive at this point in the project, including background information on the company, its principals and the agreement itself, there will be questions about their experience, financial capacity, and commitment to seeing the project through. Without this information, against which the company could be held accountable, there is a risk that the project could stall, leaving the government and taxpayers responsible for any incurred costs or unfinished structures.

“Establishing an underwater museum, even with the intention of creating an artificial reef, can have negative consequences for marine ecosystems. Construction activities and subsequent maintenance (if there is a maintenance agreement) could disturb delicate marine habitats. The introduction of artificial structures can also alter natural currents and disrupt the balance of the underwater environment potentially harming the very marine life the project aims to promote the conservation of,” MP Emmanuel said. 

He added that when the government refers to cultural heritage in relation to this project, they seem not to understand that if not managed carefully, the project could inadvertently lead to the destruction or misrepresentation of cultural heritage, causing irreparable harm to the island’s history and cultural identity. “The Nature Foundation is on record as saying the site for the project is not suitable. We have been here before with lack of information that the public can hold up to the light and scrutinize, but apparently this government is comfortable with ignoring the lessons of the past,” the MP said.

He continued: “Vanity projects often come with ambitious price tags. As a result, they frequently experience cost overruns and financial burdens that the public must bear. This political vanity project is obviously driven more by personal ambition. In the meantime while the Ministers drink champagne and announce projects, the hospital construction has stopped, the airport is a long-lasting and embarrassing joke, there are no answers about GEBE, infrastructure is a mess, cost-of-living has not decreased and the regular people on the street is worse off than they were four years ago.”