Gracita Arrindell states: “ We must be willing and prepared to change the narrative from ‘there’s nothing government’ can do to; ‘government is the facilitator in taking the lead to improve the quality of the lives of our citizens and residents.’ How do we achieve this goal that seems elusive to so many citizens among us? How can we continue to justify the growth of multi- layered luxury condos, while living conditions of many neighborhoods in the best cases have remained practically the same or in worse cases are dramatically deteriorating conditions. Simply put, how can we make Sint Maarten beautiful again for all of us”
“We cannot continue on this same path. Sint Maarten has long reached its tipping point and we all agree ( locals and visitors alike) that our carrying capacity in all areas are overburdened.
Several studies and reports have been written about this scenario which today is a hard reality for many.
“Yes, the gap between the have and those citizens who have very little and struggling daily and who can’t even ‘make ends meet’ is big and getting wider. Our citizens can see the type of constructions going up compared to the level of their living conditions and -living standards, which is often substandard. For example, several neighborhoods still do not have underground cables, electrical or otherwise, paved roads, or clean, safe areas for kids to play. In spite of many promises made to rectify these conditions residents are informed that such property is private land. To be clear, the issue of providing decent and affordable housing and home-ownership opportunities for our citizens will continue to be addressed separately”
Arrindell said: “the issue of land, government long lease land, private land and the manner in which these properties are used has always been a very sensitive issue. Land on Sint Maarten is a scarce therefore valuable commodity”
“The question asked once more is; ‘parties who have leased their land for decades to government for the purpose of building affordable rental homes, do they not have a moral or social sense to ensure that those residents live in an environment worthy of their presence?
Emergency homes have become permanent dwellings for many paying rent for decades.
Most residents are law-abiding citizens, working several jobs and raise their kids. All they ask for is to be treated as human beings and with respect. Structural investment in their respective neighborhoods supported by a maintenance plan that spans at least a decade is a good starting point”.
Gracita states: “It’s necessary to address this growing discrepancy, sooner rather than later.
A step forward is to pursue a structural dialogue with the private landowners and impress upon the benefits to be derived for all parties solving the deplorable infrastructural situations in several districts. To be clear, some of these neighborhoods have nice structural dwellings.
However due to the fact that the land is private property, the streets cannot be fixed by government’s budget therefore remain deplorable for many more years to come. Ad-hoc policies won’t cut it any longer. We can do better.”
Arrindell continued: “We are a new ‘country’ within the Kingdom of the Netherlands since October 10 2010. Our people were promised a better quality of life and faster decision-making powers with the transfer of these powers from Willemstad to Philipsburg. Today regrettable, we are faced mostly with underperformance, lack of social cohesion and a fragmented society. We must realize that positive and sustainable development isn’t achieved automatically. It takes, a united effort, vision and a workable action-plan to make it work for our citizens.
It’s imperative to present and in-act programs or an ideology that represents all social interests.
This is a common responsibility carried by the public and private sectors. Unified Resilient Sint Maarten Movement (URSM) will focus on these working programs and policies, while others are more concerned about personalities.
Transparency International rang the social discrepancy-corruption alarm bell including in 2016 by underscoring the importance of government ‘initiating the process of taking the lead for ‘multi- stakeholders dialogue between civil society and the private sector. People must be made more aware of the impact of the costs of corruption and neglect on society.”
Gracita concludes and said: “Pursuing a public- private policy aimed at improving the living conditions of our neighborhoods requires an overall approach that puts the general interest of this country first. We must build our country responsibly, not break it. This requires competent, caring and compassionate leadership whereby our local communities will be the real winners”