MP Wescot-Williams’ shares her thoughts at the closing of the parliamentary year 2023-2024.

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MP Wescot: “On Monday, September 11, we close the 2022-2023 parliamentary year and as customary, Members of Parliament are given the opportunity to reflect on the past 12 months and provide some thoughts for the coming year. On Tuesday, Governor Ajamu Baly will present the Government’s Statement for the coming year”.

In MP Wescot’s view, this presentation comes at a peculiar time, with elections scheduled for January 2024; no budget for 2024 and the  usual behavior of the ministers towards parliament.

“Of course the absence of an amended 2023 budget and the tardiness in  submitting the 2024 draft budget do not faze this government one bit.”

“Nevertheless our constitution prescribes this presentation. With so many questions left unanswered and ministers acting opposite to one another, the question is what will be different this time around?”, MP Wescot surmised.

MP Wescot posed a few rhetorical questions to illustrate her point:

Will we hear about government’s solution for the refinancing of the loans from the Netherlands? Or is that topic secret too?

Will we hear about government’s plan for the Economic Development Corporation and its new management? Or is that top secret too?

Will we finally learn what is behind the Grid market agreement? Will they supply residents with solar panels and a new metering system?

Will that agreement help the many persons who in one way or another are jeopardized by the situation at our utility company? And do we have the whole picture of what the situation at GEBE is?

“I have given up seeking answers through the appropriate channels, namely the parliamentary route. By the time answers are provided, new facts have surface and answers are constantly given in a roundabout way.”

“This government is a living facade. Behind that facade however is the reality of the St. Maarten people. The everyday hard working or retired persons and the  youngsters, most of whom want better for St. Maarten. Let’s admit that living, working or  doing business on St. Maarten is not easy and that a divisive and openly  contradictive  government only exacerbates these challenges. That is the foremost picture of the past parliamentary year”. 

“It’s easy to say, get your hurricane supplies, when for many getting their normal daily necessities is already a hardship. It’s easy to say, pay up to GEBE, when a large percentage of our people live from month to month. Does the government understand this?”

Our democracy is one of coalition and opposition. Yet, if you listen to some members of the coalition, one would think opposition members are to show up, sit down and shut up, the MP stated with a clear reference to some of her colleagues in parliament.

“In the past year, as the government and its coalition members did everything to hold on to power, this ridicule against members of the opposition was especially evident. Inuendos and insinuations with unproven statements are the order of the day”.

MP Wescot’s solution for this behavior is the code of conduct for parliament, which has been on the books for some time.  “Where is Parliament’s code of conduct? Why are we reluctant to hold each other accountable for the things we say and do?”

The dynamics of our system are often misunderstood,  the MP explained.    

“Unless there is a link with those in the executive branch (the ministers),  opposition MPs are often lone voices. I have experienced this first hand with the law on Timeshare, the plastic bag ban, the changes to the Labor Law, the tax reform, banning the harmful vaping, electoral reform, healthcare reform, pension indexation and others.”

So what are this government’s priorities and what are their parties’ priorities? It is difficult to tell with the constant flip-flopping on critical issues. Therefore I have little hope that we will hear more than the  usual window-dressing in the Governor’s presentation, the MP bluntly stated.

“Everything is put on the country package. Yet, after more than 15 management summaries by the body charged with the country package, only 5 reports have been commissioned and even less executed. The country reform package is not working, regretfully.”

On the topic of electoral reform, the MP stated: “finally it seems as if the Prime Minister has put in motion the change to the Election Ordinance to eliminate the black curtains in voting booths, but in the meantime has put the electoral reform project in doubt with her sudden statements regarding radio  charges for political announcements and voting by non-Dutch residents”.

“We see contradictions in the approach to  utility company GEBE. Why must GEBE’s assistance to the population, whether in payment schedules or senior relief be made political, when the government is the shareholder and has a special representative in place at the company?”

“The Trust Fund, that is the achilles heel of this government, has suddenly become its most treasured achievement. Suddenly, we must believe that  the  “ills” with the hospital and with the airport, etc. have been righted by the very ones who were vehemently opposed to the entire Trust Fund to start with”.

“I have sounded the alarm with regard to the national health insurance which is on the books to be introduced in January 2024. It does not appear that  actual consultation has taking place on the government’s decisions regarding this national health scheme. The concerns expressed have not been taken seriously. By the time, the package reaches parliament, it will be expected to be ‘take it or leave it’.”

My advice to government will be to take it in stages and not to lose the health aspect to the financial aspect. The onus should be on healthcare for all.

As we close the 2022-2023 parliamentary year, more issues remain unsolved than have been solved, more questions remain unanswered than have been answered and answers given evoked more questions in the minds of the members of parliament and of the people, MP Wescot concluded.