~ Requested 7 meetings ~
PHILIPSBURG–The chairman of the committee for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (TEATT) Member of Parliament Rolando Brison has called seven meetings starting next week Wednesday on a range of critical topics related to the committee.
In the first TEATT committee meeting held in July, several MPs lauded the initiative to have an exploratory meeting that helped identify some of the urgent investigations the committee will conduct. The TEATT Committee, which reports to the Central Committee of Parliament, will prepare decision lists for the Central Committee to handle further, and forward these directives to the ministers, according to a statement from Brison on Thursday.
In the first TEATT committee meeting, it was also expressed by members that the fact that the St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA) presentation was postponed was very unfortunate. “This request to postpone was by the previous minister, so we hope the new minister will ensure that such an urgent item is not pushed back any further.
“This country will ultimately fail its marketing effort if the legal and executive structure of the tourism department is not changed to fit competitive realities. Thus, as was agreed by the TEATT committee, we are immediately calling this meeting once again to hear the minister’s vision of the STA going forward, and to hear from the STA Foundation their concept on what the STA law should look like so that parliament can initiate that legislative process.
“The committee plans to conduct preliminary investigations into what is the current status regarding pre-clearance, what legislative and budgetary needs the Department of Civil Aviation has, and how prepared the country is for the upcoming ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization – Ed.] and FAA [United States (US) Federal Aviation Administration – Ed.] audits that ultimately could make or break aviation for the island if these audits are failed.
“We need to know that the minister is fully prepared for these crucial audits, and that he has afforded all the necessary support to the Department of Civil Aviation,” stated Brison.
Recent media reports indicated that the US has not heard any progress regarding pre-clearance and thus the program is in jeopardy.
“This is very much contrary to the statements by the TEATT Minister during the budget debate that ‘all was still moving forward in terms of pre-clearance.’ Someone is not telling the full story here, and the Minister will have his chance to tell the committee and the public what is truly happening,” Brison said.
Other meetings being scheduled include the current status of data collection by government, the promotion of small business development in St. Maarten, the ministry’s plans with regard to agricultural development, sustainable development goals and environmental protection practices in tourism product development integrated into the policies of TEATT, and the 2019 budget for TEATT.
Country Expenditures Committee
Brison, who is also chairman of the Committee for Country Expenditures, called two meetings for that committee as well.
“There is quite a backlog (over two years) of incoming documents addressed to the Committee for Country Expenditures, so a meeting has been called to decide on the handling of these documents. In addition, we have invited the general audit chamber to present their 2017 annual report, and to give us an update on their findings related to the tenuous situation that exists regarding the lack of approved financial statements for the country,” said Brison.
Before meetings are called, research is done, problem definitions are made and the objective of the committee meeting is made clear. Brison worked through the month of July to do the necessary background research on the topics before sending out the meeting requests immediately after the end of recess.
The TEATT committee will facilitate the preliminary investigations for parliament, and the population and business community can rest assured that the committee is working hard to address the urgent issues of the country’s economy and tourism from both a legislative and executive perspective. Most meetings are expected to be open to the public, so that citizens and stakeholders can also be apprised of these matters.
To effectively conduct all these meetings, it was decided by the committee to meet every week, even on the Wednesdays of so-called “non-meeting” weeks.
“I was very pleased to read that Minister Johnson would be happy to meet at any time in the national interest of the country; these meetings are clearly of urgent national interest and we require the presence of the Minister to answer the queries of the committee,” said Brison.
The proposed time for meetings will be 11:30am Wednesdays, giving the minister some time to leave the press briefing and attend parliament.
“The ministry of TEATT is the arm of government charged with ensuring our economy and its related support structures continue to function to the benefit of our country and its citizens. Similarly, the Committee of TEATT of Parliament is charged with conducting investigations into matters related to this ministry. It is, after all, Parliament’s job to hold the Ministers accountable, and the TEATT committee will do its part to ensure the Minister of TEATT fulfils his tasks in the best interest of the country.
“While we have seen some information being disseminated by Minister Stuart Johnson, mainly consisting of rudimentary plans, wishes and observations, the Minister’s presence at these meetings will be a more ideal venue to not just read ‘what’ the minister plans or hopes to do, but ‘how’ specifically the Minister will ensure the many urgent items related to our economy are going to be addressed,” said Brison.