Council of Ministers info sessions for civil servants

PHILIPSBURG–The Council of Ministers hosted an Information Session last week Friday for the Secretaries-General of the seven Ministries and their management teams, the staffs of the Ministers’ cabinets, and the staff of the Council of Ministers Secretariat.

The main agenda points of the session were the Governing Programme; integrity and the plans of the Dutch Government to establish an Integrity Chamber in St. Maarten and its recent appointment of a Dutch Integrity Quartermaster; and an update on the 2017 budget.

The Council found it essential to inform the key leaders and advisors of the organisation in person about these key matters. Prime Minister William Marlin spoke on the issues of the Governing Programme and integrity, and Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. elaborated on the budget. Both Ministers also stressed the importance of the role of each civil servant in the process of making St. Maarten great.

The session was well-attended and the Council of Ministers will conduct similar information sessions in the near future to safeguard transparency and open communication with and within the organisation.

Marlin’s intention regarding the topic of the Governing Programme was not necessarily to explain what was in the Governing Programme, but to show to the audience how the programme had come into existence, how it is to be used and the next steps to be taken. He stressed to civil servants present that the success of the Governing Programme depends on all the civil servants acting as the managers of the process while focusing on certain priorities.

He said, “You are here because we want to emphasise that you are important in the execution of the Governing Programme. It is about liking your job. We are already in March and we are already executing. It is a Government for four years and we may begin in 2017 and certain things may run over in 2018, 2019 and 2020. For now, the concentration is on what should be done in 2017 and this should be in sync with the Governing Programme, but more important, it should be in sync with your budget.”

The importance of following up on advice and decisions taken by the Council of Ministers was elucidated. “The progress has to be meaningful and important to you. You should follow up on decisions of the Council of Ministers, you should execute, you have to be proactive,” Marlin stated.

With regard to integrity, Marlin explained that there is a major difference in interpretation of integrity and how to deal with it between St. Maarten and the Dutch. “Integrity breach in the Netherlands is considered fraud by the Dutch while integrity breach in St. Maarten is considered corruption by the Dutch,” Marlin said.

He furthermore stated that the island wants discussion, not instruction. He stressed that “St. Maarten is only a country that is six years old and needs space, room and opportunity to handle the integrity issues her own way, respecting her circumstances and situation, learning along the line.”

Gibson continued the presentation on the budget of 2017. He personally thanked each civil servant for his/her contribution, seeing that today’s surplus in the budget would not have been possible without each one of them, yet stressed that a lot more work needs to be done.

He pledged financial assistance to the youth, the prison, the Tax Department and the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI. With regard to capital investment, management representatives present were tasked with the responsibility to prioritise their plans and projects for final decision-making by the Council of Ministers.

“The exercise is needed for St. Maarten to take advantage of the opportunity to apply for a NAf. 30 million loan to be approved by the Financial Oversight Committee [Committee for

Financial Supervision CFT – Ed.]. This becomes the first time since 2014 that St. Maarten can borrow capital expenditures and make investments so the gross domestic product can grow,” said Gibson.

Source: The Daily Herald