SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Faction Leader of the Party for Progress (PFP) Member of Parliament (MP) Melissa Gumbs delivered the following address in the House of Parliament on Monday at the closing of the 2019-2020 parliamentary year.
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Griffiers and support staff, my colleagues in Parliament and those joining us online and via radio.
Mr. Chairman, we’re here today after a turbulent seven months, with our young country slammed by its second major crisis in three years. Our economy, not yet recovered from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, is now buckling under COVID-related blows. This struggle is made more difficult by the fact that we are now 6 months on from the 1st of March and have yet to receive concrete, tangible and SUSTAINABLE solutions from this Government. I want to stress on the word SUSTAINABLE and its importance as we continue to push through this crisis.
Sustainability means meeting our own needs without making it difficult or impossible for future generations to meet theirs. When we talk about economic development, environmental protection, social systems, healthcare, housing, pension funds and government assets…we cannot continue to talk about and treat these areas as though the world is ending and we are the last generation to need them. It’s clear that we are not, so why do we behave as though we are? This is what this faction has meant when we question the lack of proper planning for the fate of our school-going children, despite having had seven months to develop said plan. It’s what we have meant when we cautioned against the eager rush to treat country assets like Chiclets, at a time when most countries are holding onto these and focused on new ways to generate money that doesn’t involve selling the lightbulbs to pay the light bill. It’s why we have pushed to receive an economic recovery plan, and encouraged conversation, instead of conflict. Why we have championed diplomacy, instead of arrogance and, as my grandfather would say, hard-headedness, because of political and world history. Conflict is not sustainable; people cannot eat it or spend it, and that is what any rational thinking person is concerned with today.
Region-wide, we are seeing the impact of unsustainable development and decision-making as COVID has exposed that ‘auto-pilot’ governance can no longer be the order of the day. Administrations must push themselves to be more proactive and less self-centered with any efforts made to haul their respective countries out of this crisis in a responsible and yes, sustainable manner. Government spending, region-wide, is the target of fresh criticism; many administrations are ‘late to the game’ of reducing their expenditures to fight off potential crises, and we are no exception, to the point where we are then forced to make cuts we should have made since, especially, 2017. I don’t have to imagine the frustration that the average citizen feels with this merry-go-round of weak to non-existent decision making, forced reform and wild rhetoric; until January 8, I was the average citizen, working in a private sector that smiled through a black eye in 2017, only to get a second one in 2020. A private sector that continues to struggle through financial ruin and then has to deal with attacks, sometimes personal, by individuals who have not actually operated in said private sector. So, it would appear that we have issues building consensus among our own people, which does not give much hope for when we have to do it abroad and I’m not just talking about Kingdom partners. Understanding and comprehension of more than just one’s personal reality and ambitions will go a long way to developing the type of unity that we’ve heard thrown around here and in press briefings. It is our sincerest hope that we begin to operate on these concepts in the new Parliamentary year.