Land park, health care and housing on govt.’s agenda | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–Government has signalled its intention to pursue the establishment of a terrestrial nature park as part of the area commonly called “Emilio Wilson Estate” in Cul de Sac. This is to be “in harmony with the Rainforest Adventure project,” Governor Eugene Holiday told Parliament in his outline of government’s plans for the 2018-2019 legislative year.

This land park will find its footing in the government’s intention to establish an environment and nature policy “as a framework to guide all efforts in the area of environment and nature management, including protecting what is left of the bio-diversity on the island.” When established, this park will be the first of its kind and will join the already-in-place Man of War Shoal Marine Park.

Government’s economic revival and restoration agenda will centre on the reconstruction of Princess Juliana International Airport to fulfil its gateway role in the development of the economy, facilitation of hotel reconstruction, revitalisation of Philipsburg as a centre of commerce and economic activity, and the provision of facilities to businesses and personnel to bridge the gap for economic recovery in the hospitality sector.

Government is preparing an enterprise recovery project with the World Bank to support businesses in their ongoing reconstruction efforts. It is anticipated that this project will come on board in the first quarter of 2019.

Government is pursuing the concept of the “orange economy” and has requested that the Social Economic Council execute a study on the country’s creative industries as a meaningful contributor to economic growth.

Government will prioritise and sequence its policy actions to match available funding while seeking ways to generate or attract additional funds.

Government is working on improving its financial management with the aim of presenting Parliament before the end of the year with a realistic 2019 budget founded on the principle to “achieve more with less.” In that regard, government intends to start with a major overhaul of the Tax Department aimed at achieving greater efficiency and increased compliance, to increase tax income for government.

The realisation of a new hospital is central to the improvement of health care in St. Maarten, said the governor. This also relates to government facilitating comprehensive health care reform, which will introduce a basic health care package for all residents, within this governing period.

Tackling the ever-smoking dump and introducing recycling continue to be on government’s packed agenda.

Government will research and establish a poverty line.

The Governor, on behalf of government, reminded Parliament and the populace there is still a long way to go to rebuild a more sustainable St. Maarten. This rebuilding is against the backdrop of declined finances due to the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma a year ago. Government intends to use its 2018-2022 governing programme, titled Building a Sustainable Sint Maarten, and its National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) as its roadmap for the recovery process.

With a financing gap of more than US $1 billion for recovery, government is focused on addressing the immediate needs: housing, employment, health care, and safety and security. Together with the World Bank, work is ongoing to implement the first projects financed by the 550-million-euro Dutch financed recovery trust fund.

Government is reviewing the country’s disaster preparedness with an aim of updating existing disaster management plans. The process to realise a disaster management fund is in progress.

To aid capacity-building, government will seek the introduction of the Integrity Chamber law and development of legislation for a gaming control board.

Important education policy initiatives include the creation of a “Building Safer, Resilient and Child-Friendly Schools for 21st Century Learning in St. Maarten” policy document with UNICEF Netherlands support, tackling school repairs from preliminary insurance claim settlements, continuing the iSTEP project in all public schools with training for 50 teachers and 25 school managers, supporting the newly-established University of St. Martin (USM) law programme and continuing discussions with regional institutions to offer students more affordable study opportunities.

Government looks forward to Parliament’s support this year on finalisation of the draft Ordinance on Higher Education and the draft Study Finance Ordinance.

The development of a social registry system to serve the community more effectively with a focus on poverty reduction and the eradication of inequality, sheltering and reintegration of those who were displaced, emergency income support and skills training, taking preventative measures through vector control in the debris-cleaning programme and improving the capacity, accessibility, quality and availability of health care services are on government’s agenda.

The expansion of the sewage treatment network to achieve country-wide coverage and the realisation of a sewage treatment plant for the areas West of Cole Bay Hill in collaboration with the French side are in the pipeline.

Sustainable implementation of sewage projects requires the implementation of sewage levies to financially support the management of the network. The Wastewater Ordinance, which was enacted in January 2009, includes the possibility to implement a sewage levy.
Government intends to work with St. Maarten Housing and Development Foundation (SMHDF) for the construction of new affordable housing in Foga and Over the Bank. Government is also cooperating with the General Pension Fund APS for its Welgelegen housing project.

Legislation to modernise the building code will be delivered to Parliament.
Government is working on completing the Spatial Development Strategy with the use of the Global Sustainable Development Goals, which will result in zoning plans legislation.

To address labour market challenges, government’s medium- to longer-term objective is to build resilience, which will include fostering employability in key sectors, establishing an unemployment insurance fund and streamlining the delivery of vital social services centred on a community-based approach.

Work will continue on the proposed labour revisions to the Civil Code currently being discussed in Parliament.

Government will also continue with plans to establish a fully-operational National Employment Service Centre.

Government is to maintain zero tolerance on crime.

Government is, notwithstanding the limited finances, committed to investing in the strengthening of law enforcement. Other important law enforcement initiatives include investments in the camera surveillance project, plans to strengthen the Immigration and Border Control Services in cooperation with the Netherlands, and plans to invest in the construction of a new prison to meet international requirements.

At the same time government has, considering the complication of the shared borders, continued to work with French authorities to better coordinate island-wide judicial cooperation to combat cross border crime.

The talks with the US government on US pre-clearance at the airport continue, as does focus on the development of the cabinet of the minister plenipotentiary in The Hague as the central vehicle in fostering and improving relations with the Netherlands.

Source: The Daily Herald