SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “I remember my first day of work at the Government of Sint Maarten like it was yesterday. After working for municipal and provincial governments in the Netherlands for several years, I decided it was time to leave that cold, foggy country and work on the development of our Antillean islands,” Loekie Morales said in a statement on Saturday.
“I chose Sint Maarten, and I have never regretted my choice of a vibrant island that had potential, but then-insufficient capacity to run complex national development programs and projects.
“I started by designing an industry package with environmental regulations for car- repair companies and contributing to the federal Antillean Nature Policy Plan. A year later, then-Commissioner Roy Marlin placed me in the Strategy Policy and Development Department (SBO) to develop the new field of heritage conservation.
“The idea of identifying, designating and eventually restoring or preserving potential monuments in Sint Maarten for future generations was mainly encouraged by then-Lieutenant Governor Franklyn Richards, who gave me a lot of support in that process.
“In partnership with the Foundation for Monuments and the Curaçao Monuments Fund, I started to lift the monuments policy, legislation, and financial framework, including a Monuments Revolving Fund. We also set up the Foundation for Conservation of Monuments and established the Monuments Advisory Council, a government advisory board of cultural-heritage experts.
“Working with a team of Dutch students specializing in heritage restoration, we identified and described the interior and exterior of more than 100 potential monuments.
“This enormous job was completed with the generous cooperation of monument owners in Sint Maarten and the unconditional support of Herman George, former director of the Monument Fund in Curaçao.
“The capital of Curacao, Willemstad, is on the UNESCO World Heritage list and provided an outstanding example of preservation of monuments. George’s employees often flew to Sint Maarten to advise me on monument policy, legislation, financing and designation. We began by designating 28 monuments, which are on the official monuments list of Sint Maarten.
“In 2004, the reorganization of the civil service was underway, and SBO became a Program and Projects Bureau, set up to implement large development programs, with millions of Antillean guilders from the Netherlands managed by USONA.
“All ministries had to be focused and aligned in Sint Maarten’s development endeavor. Stakeholders were players to reckon with. Government deployed specialists in the field of leading programs and projects, such as the SEI, a Social Economic Initiative program, and the Institutional Strengthening Program, with good governance of government and NGOs as a pillar.
“In the Netherlands, I had worked for many years on large spatial-planning and environmental projects, such as water-purification installations and drawing up provincial plans to manage and renovate estates and castles in the Stichtse Lustwarande area. As a result, my skills were a good fit for Sint Maarten’s new “development strategy” model.
“From Oct. 10, 2010, Sint Maarten was to be developed in such a way that it would be stable on the way to becoming an autonomous island.
“I was briefly in charge with the new portfolio regarding development via the European Development Funds. The National Development of Sint Maarten was soon taken up. Basis was the Millennium Development Goals, since 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals, a portfolio that I managed and became my passion.
“Before that, I led a working group that wrote the first Millennium Development Goals report for Sint Maarten. This was followed by the development of the Millennium Acceleration Framework, in which development goals such as poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability were cross-linked. Sint Maarten was lagging with these goals. With relevant stakeholders, we developed a program to strengthen these targets.
“Today, I end an interesting journey, in which I learned a lot and represented Sint Maarten in various national, regional and international forums and contributed to its development.
“The road to the sustainable development of Sint Maarten has many challenges, yet it is worth following to achieve a cohesive, decisive country, with more equality in wellbeing and progress.
“Sint Maarten can best focus on recruiting and supporting specialists in creating and leading development programs and projects, developing new forms of income outside the tourism pillar and providing our young people with tools and skills to promote self-reliance, including knowledge of government finances and the ability to recruit funds from international organizations.
“During my years in government service, I am happy to have contributed to Sint Maarten’s development process. I would like to thank all those who helped me in the shaping of programs and projects, and I wish them continuing insight and inspiration on their way to a sustainable Sint Maarten,” the statement from Morales concludes.