Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in Parliament on Monday.
PHILIPSBURG–The structural reform measures that have been proposed in the country package are in the sectors of financial management, cost and effectiveness of the public sector, taxes, the financial sector, economic reforms, health, education and strengthening the rule of law.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said the country package consists of structural measures and reforms measures. They have been conveniently grouped per domain/sector that have been identified in areas of good governance and areas that need not only strengthening, but also to be anchored to further build on that foundation.
Jacobs told Parliament during a meeting of the Central Committee on Monday that the sectors proposed for structural reforms are seen as key domains for reform to ensure the financial, economic and social sustainability of the country. “Per domain, there are reform measures and plans of approach that will be developed for each measure. The plans of approach must basically provide a description of the reform, the goals to be achieved, the timetable, the benefits of the reform, but also the risks and the financial consequences along with sustainability.”
She said that there is also assessment of the needed expertise and implementation capacity. “The reform measures are somewhat generalised, allowing us to tailor the measures to the needs of the respective country – St. Maarten. Considering the scope of the reform needed and the magnitude of the reform measures – remember it is not a wish list of projects – an implementation agenda is also needed.” The agenda, she added, is a road map that outlines the priorities and sequencing of the actions to be executed, clear goals, timelines, financial resources and capacity needed. “This forms the overall picture of all the reforms and is part of a development agenda for the coming years.”
What is significant is that the implementation agenda is a dynamic document. It is not a set-in-stone document. “As we go along, this document will continue to evolve.” The current focus is on the coming year and the first set of priorities. Also important is that St. Maarten has been given the opportunity to determine its priorities. This opportunity has been well utilised as through the Secretaries General Platform (SGP), the first set of priorities as well as the objectives have been determined and presented to the Council of Ministers for decision making last week, she indicated.
Based on the effects of coronavirus COVID-19 and liquidity support received from the Netherlands to help buffer its effects, the government of the Netherlands recommended the development and implementation of structural reforms, which are considered a means to ensure the resiliency and promote the financial and economic sustainability of Dutch Caribbean countries.
“It entails inter alia institutional and regulatory measures, a framework, new processes and reorganisation to ensure growth, sustainability and a conducive environment for a thriving economy, financial stability and social development. The country package also offers a vehicle to set administrative processes in order and should be seen as a collection of structural solutions in the form of reform measures for the restructuring of government – something that I believe governments over the past years had been talking about,” Jacobs explained.
“Although there is much attention on the reform entity [Caribbean Body for Reform and Development – Ed.] COHO, it is the country package which serves as the beacon, and [contains] the work to be carried out in the coming years.”
She said the country package has been established by means of mutual agreements. The three-step approach taken in this case includes a kingdom law, mutual arrangement establishing the country package and the country package itself. “St. Maarten, in agreeing with the country package, is expected to further develop the measures of the country package into an implementation agenda based on plans of approach.”
In elaborating on the governing structure of the country package, Jacobs said it was decided to use the existing instrument of the SGP as the overall management structure as this is already legislated. The Council of Ministers added a responsibility to the structure. The SGP reports to a monitoring committee and the monitoring committee reports to the chair of the Council of Ministers and to the Council of Ministers.
Currently, the structure is being finalised so that the monitoring committee will be the primary contact with the monitoring entity TWO and inform and update the Council of Ministers. The main role of the SGP is to ensure optimal execution of all inter-ministerial actions and to be accountable for said actions. The SGP ensures the development of plans of approach and the implementation agenda and executes the reform measures in accordance with these.
As of last week, the SGP finalised an overview of the prioritised measures for 2021, alignments and objectives. This overview was presented to the Council of Ministers for approval and through this process government remains in the driver’s seat of the reforms and implementation, Jacobs said.
In the meantime, the legislation for the COHO is currently being established at the Council of State in the Netherlands and is estimated by the Dutch government to be final by July 2021. There is no guarantee of this as currently an election process is underway in the Netherlands. The TWO was established to temporarily carry out the tasks of the monitoring and support as well as report back to the Dutch government via Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.