SDM outlines main goals ahead of Feb. 26 elections

PHILIPSBURG–Establishing a transparent, stable government to ignite a climate conducive to investors is a top priority for the St. Maarten Development Movement (SDM) headed by Benjamin Ortega, should it capture seats in the February 26 snap election.

The party launched its manifesto, titled “Recovery vs. National Development,” in the Philipsburg Community and Cultural Centre on Sunday evening.
Also topping the priority list for SDM in its parliamentary bid are “supporting national consciousness and unity,” empowering people by improving education and by supporting inclusivity, building economic resilience, stimulating growth and creating job opportunities for all, and strengthening healthcare and promoting preventive health.
Ortega said improving safety and security in the country is also paramount for development and peace of mind, as is upgrading the country’s overall infrastructure, while protecting the environment.
The manifesto states that SDM will guarantee “a professional, passionate, committed, and strong leadership focused on the obvious issues our small island developing country is facing.”
The party believes that by strengthening forces with partners in the region, including, empowering, and connecting, “we could still make a difference. On short term this means addressing our recovery. Issues surrounding insurances that play a key role in the stagnation of our economic recovery are a priority.”
To improve the quality of life for all, SDM plans to aim reform efforts at enhancing transparency, inclusivity, accountability, political stability, electoral reform, the rule of law and public-sector efficiency.
With the focus on empowerment, SDM said it will seek to promote more technical programmes, with priority on plumbers, mechanics, electricians and general contractors, along with the creation of small business loan guarantee schemes to create more job opportunities.
The party will also give priority to enhancing teacher training and improving the competence of teachers and to the implementation of an improved system of job training or creating a new system of apprenticeships so that students acquire skills needed for the job market.
SDM plans to ensure the country benefits from immigration that can boost the economy in sectors such as information and communication technology (ICT) and other high-tech economic and brain-gain sectors, and will managing the inflow “in a controlled fashion.”
Modernising the tax department to increase the production of workload and improve overall tax-compliance, the creation of fiscal incentives to stimulate entrepreneurships, early tax submitting and the introduction of true e-tax options are also areas the party said it will tackle.
On the safety and security front, SDM said it will require Government to conduct a country-wide “Safety and Security Survey” to determine what the safety issues are from the perspective of people in the communities. It will also seek to strengthen local accountability by giving communities a say in setting local priorities and hiring of community police officers.
The prioritisation of research and establishment of access to accurate data in the field of health care are to be promoted by SDM. The party will also require Government to establish the leading causes of preventable deaths in St. Maarten and to promote preventive health and establish the cost-effectiveness in the long run.
In taking care of the environment, SDM said it will seek to create a world-class infrastructure and optimised transportation sector to ensure a dynamic tourism economy and require Government to set up long-term planning in protection of biodiversity and mangroves, with annual updates to Parliament, including how to reverse certain declines of species and their natural habitat.
The creation and safeguarding of fishing grounds for local fisherman and support for alternative energy and reducing GEBE’s fuel clause are promises made by SDM in its manifesto.
SDM has a slate of five candidates in the race for the 15 seats in Parliament. After Ortega, in the number two spot is Arthur Bute, followed by Raymond Matser, James Busby and Elvis Lewis. This is the party’s second bid for Parliament. In 2016, it captured 346 votes, insufficient to earn a seat in the legislature. The grey party had six candidates in that race.

Source: The Daily Herald