“To the people of Sint
Maarten, to our residents and to our guests, as we say good-bye to 2018, I take
this opportunity on behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten to wish you a
Prosperous and Happy New Year 2019. 2018 has been a year of immense challenges but
through faith, perseverance and God’s grace we continue to overcome and are in
a better position to build on the many successes we have accomplished over the
past few months.
On January 15th I was
appointed as Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, tasked with the job of overseeing
the rebuilding process through the execution of the National Recovery &
Resilience Plan. The NRRP is the roadmap to building back Sint Maarten. An
excerpt from the document outlining the vision states as follows and I quote, “the
overarching goal is to restore, secure and strengthen the wellbeing of the
people of Sint Maarten. This requires a resilient community in a healthy living
environment, a resilient growing and more diversified economy and a transparent
effective Government with enhanced capacity” end quote
Together with the previous
and current Council of Ministers, we managed to push this country forward in
the face of criticism both internally and externally. I want to thank all the
Ministers who continue to work tirelessly to see this recovery process through
to a successful end. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and I urge each of
you to remain focused on the National Recovery & Resilience Plan and the
Governing Program as the two principle guiding documents on which all plans are
to be executed.
Now, allow me to look back
at some of the accomplishments of 2018.
In February, the Government
Sint Maarten secured 50 million guilders in liquidity for the daily operations
and later an additional sum of NAf. 32.6 million was achieved to ensure that
the Government met its obligations for the year 2018.
On April 16th in Washington
DC, together with the previous Minister of Finance Michael Ferrier, we
witnessed the signing of the Trust Fund Agreement between the Netherlands and
the World Bank for 470 million euros or US $580 million US dollars. With the
official signing of the agreement, over 100 million US dollars was set aside in
the 1st tranche for projects such as;
The Sint Maarten Emergency
Recovery Project, which was approved on July 10, for 55.2 million dollars and
has as its objective, to contribute to Sint Maarten’s immediate emergency
recovery needs. Additionally the goal is to strengthen institutional capacity,
to manage resilient recovery and reconstruction by supporting the repair and
equipment of shelters, houses, the resilience of the energy and water supply,
and the strengthening of the emergency response system.
The Emergency Income
Support and Training Project was approved on August 2nd, for 22.5 million dollars
with the objective to provide temporary income support, improve the
employability of affected beneficiaries in targeted sectors, and strengthen the
social protection system’s capacity for shock-response and protection of the
poor. The project provides income support to under-employed and unemployed
persons, who are not currently working in the wake of Hurricane Irma and are
faced with declining tourism revenues. Approximately 1,800 people receives
skills training in exchange for a stipend over the next 18 months.
Just 2 weeks later on
August 16th the Sint Maarten Hospital Resiliency & Preparedness
Project was approved for 25 million dollars considering that the only existing
hospital in the country was unsuitable for a complete re-design over the long-term,
it was decided that a new Sint Maarten General Hospital would be built. The
construction of a new and larger facility, that will be more resilient to
climate shocks, was approved. The project will contribute to a rise in the new
hospital’s bed capacity from 66 to 110, improvements in the scope and quality
of health services with new operating theaters and larger areas for ambulatory
care. This new hospital will help reduce costly overseas medical referrals, and
will strengthen preparedness and delivery of medical services in case of future
emergencies and extreme weather events.
As of September 1st 2018,
with financing coming from the Trust Fund the Government of Sint Maarten joined
the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), purchasing coverage
for tropical cyclones, earthquakes and excess rainfall. This is an important
feature considering the urgent need for liquidity by any government following a
At the OCT Resilience
Summit during the month of October I had the privilege as Regional Authorizing
Officer to sign the 11th EDF Caribbean Regional Program for projects on
“Resilience, sustainable energy and bio marine diversity” to the tune of $40
million euros of which 20 million is allocated to resilience. Resilient
programs form this fund will help the country to mitigate the immediate
financial impacts of disasters.
Just recently, the Sint
Maarten Emergency Debris Management Project was signed for 25 million US
dollars in funding to suppress the fires on the landfill, salvage the remaining
ships in the Simpson Bay Lagoon and clear the island of any remaining hurricane
debris. The project will also provide financing to improve the management of
the landfill and decommission the Irma-dumpsite.
As we look forward to 2019,
I pledge to do everything I can within my authority to create a better living
environment for all persons on Sint Maarten. We must continue to build on the
foundation that was laid in 2018. As we look to the future, we must inspire the
youth to prepare themselves to take this country to the next level. Let us
establish a new Sint Maarten dream that sits on the pillars of a SMART &
Resilient country. As government, we have set out to accomplish a number of
priorities, programs and plans for 2019.
One of the first priorities
of this Government will be to pass Budget 2019 as quickly as possible in order
to facilitate all the plans that have been envisioned. With an approved Budget
2019 Government can carry out the key priorities as set out in the Governing
Program “Building a sustainable Sint Maarten”.
As a community, you will be
happy to know that monies has been set aside to establish a Disaster Fund. A
target figure of 1.2 million guilders is currently earmarked for the start of
the Disaster Fund. By setting aside this amount, Government will secure another
financial option for recovery following any disaster to handle its obligations
without disrupting the regular operations.
A key priority as outlined
in the Governing Program, is the stimulation of entrepreneurship and job
creation, funds from the Trust Fund have been allocated for the Sint Maarten
Enterprise Recovery Project. The Enterprise Recovery Project estimated to be in
the area of US 35 Million dollars aims to support eligible Micro, Small and
Medium Enterprises that have been impacted by Hurricane Irma last year, in
accessing financial packages for asset replacement and working capital, through
local financial institutions. A large percentage of businesses are unable to
get financing from local commercial banks as they have collateral requirements
they cannot meet. The Enterprise Recovery Project will provide, subject to a
business plan that is acceptable to a local financial institution, financial
packages for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the form of a combination
of grants and loans. The total number of assisted enterprises is projected to
reach 300 in the first year and close to 600 in the fourth year.
The Solid Waste Management
and Environmental Improvement Project which is estimated at US$35 million
dollars aims to improve long-term waste management and environmental protection
and will be informed by a forthcoming study on long-term solutions to
sustainable solid waste. Its broader objective will be to implement key
elements of the government’s long-term waste strategy and its Roadmap for
Sustainable Waste Management.
Securing the financing for
the reconstruction of the Airport Terminal Building continues to be of utmost
importance. The objective of this Council of Ministers considering all the
options, is to ensure that the best financing agreement be selected in the
interest of the people of Sint Maarten for such an important project.
We intend to see the
finalization of an Integrity Chamber for Sint Maarten and to show our maturity
as leaders taking our country into a future where everyone prospers. We believe
that Integrity and good governance are fundamental for the establishment of a
proud and sustainable country.
With the goal of
modernizing IT, implementing new technology and strengthening the government
apparatus, this Council of Ministers has approved the start of an e Government
Project that will help to improve the overall experience of accessing
Government services in general.
As it pertains to
International, Regional and Local relations, as Prime Minister I continue to
promote cooperation with key stakeholders.
Firstly, with our brothers
in the North, we continue to work on areas that are mutually beneficial to both
sides such as disaster management and seeking funds that target cross border
issues. High on the agenda will be the establishment of the United Congress an
initiative of my counterpart President Daniel Gibbes.
Within the Dutch Kingdom we
continue to work with all Partners to ensure that we are treated equally and
fairly. In early 2019, a meeting is
scheduled in Aruba amongst the Dutch Caribbean Countries to formalize areas of
cooperation and to come to agreements that will benefit all involved. For
example, a key area of cooperation is disaster management and establishing the
individual roles of each Country and what can be expected in a time of crisis.
Regionally, the pursuit of
Associate membership to CARICOM has taken a positive turn as such an
acceleration of the process is expected. Associate Membership to CARICOM opens
doors to many regional organizations and the positive services they can offer
us here on Sint Maarten.
Internationally we continue
to forge ties with key organizations via interactions with the World Bank and
IMF that serve as platforms for possible investments to our island nation. As
Sint Maarten rebuilds, its presence on the world stage continues to grow and
this Government is keen to have its citizen’s benefit from these economic
Now I take this time to
remind you that, “Sint Maarten’s Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon”.
We must remain committed to the goal and task at hand, of returning our country
to its position as a leader in the Caribbean.
As I conclude my address, I
wish you a Prosperous and Happy New Year 2019 and may God add his richest
blessings on you and your family.