Grisha: “Attending AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum confirmed that our Government is asleep at the wheel.”

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On October 30th and 31st, MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten attended the “Second Annual AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum” (ACTIF2023) in Georgetown, Guyana.

The ACTIF2023 was organized by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the Government of Guyana, and focuses on strengthening ties between the private sectors of African and CARICOM to advance trade and investment. In attendance were top executives from the private and public sectors of both regions.

During the ACTIF2023, the Afreximbank signed several multi-million dollar agreements in loans and grants supporting the development of the CARICOM region. Afreximbank’s total commitment to CARICOM currently stands at 3 billion USD.

In a press release issued on Sunday afternoon, MP Heyliger-Marten elaborated on her experience during the ACTIF2023. “Attending this forum, and meeting with the different delegates, confirmed that the Government of St. Martin is asleep at the wheel, while the region and world are moving on without us and ahead of us”, Heyliger-Marten stated.

“During this Parliamentary term, I have sent numerous letters with questions and suggestions regarding regional and global integration and cooperation, food security and trade to different members of the Council of Ministers. To date, Parliament has not received any concrete responses to these letters, which to me indicates that Government is either incapable to answer, or not interested in developments outside of St. Martin and the Dutch Kingdom”, according to Heyliger-Marten.

“For this reason, I decided to pay my own way and attend the ACTIF2023 in order to gauge the developments within CARICOM and beyond, meet with top executives from the Caribbean and African continent, and provide Parliament, Government, and the people of St. Martin with my findings”, Heyliger-Marten stated.

During the sessions at the ACTIF2023, a number of topics were addressed by speakers from both regions in the form of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions.

Two sessions in particular were very relevant to St. Martin, namely a panel discussion on improving food security, agricultural productivity and expanding agribusiness opportunities and  

The former session covered how agricultural productivity can be improved and opportunities for agribusiness expanded to enhance food security, take advantage of the circular economy, generate employment, and export opportunities, and increase rural incomes. Also discussed were some appropriate strategies that could be employed to develop the sector and what agro- industry value chains provide opportunities for cross-regional collaboration.

The latter session was about Energy Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Development. Issues discussed where how Africa and the Caribbean can enhance Energy investment to ensure energy security and sustainable development as well as the role the two continents can play in the climate change agenda.

At the ACTIF2023, Heyliger-Marten also met with Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and CARICOM Secretary-General Carla Barnett. “Those brief discussions confirmed to me that St. Martin is not profiling itself on the regional or global stage. Most delegates have heard of our island and some have visited, but that’s about it. They have no idea where we come from, where we are, and where we want to go as a nation and people. This is very concerning, especially in light of all the regional and global developments”, Heyliger-Marten stated. 

During the meeting with Prime Minister Mottley it was agreed that the two would meet again after the January 11th, 2024 Parliamentary elections to continue their talks related to St. Martin’s future.

“What my visit to Guyana clearly demonstrated is that there are many direct benefits for the people of St. Martin when we directly and pro-actively engage partners in the region and beyond. If we don’t want to miss the boat and stay behind as stepchildren of the Dutch Kingdom, we need to look beyond the “bubble” of the Kingdom and engage the region diplomatically and otherwise as soon as possible”, Heyliger-Marten concluded.