The political climate in St. Maarten seems to have woken up / been shaken up. With the recent departure of Member of Parliament Ludmila Duncan from the National Alliance, the party seems to be scrambling for a more secure majority in the coalition. We should all commend MP Duncan for taking the step to distance herself from the party that no longer aligns with her morals, values, and vision for the island. Some may say that this action should’ve come sooner, however, the expression better late than never comes to mind. Structural change is not an easy feat to achieve, especially when it comes to changing the morals and values of those at the top of our political system. A system plagued with favoritism, nepotism, and those individuals that would put personal gain above the greater good.
This is exactly what this piece aims to highlight. Delving into a few examples of Leadership that is centered on ‘Us’ as in leadership that is in the trenches with the populous, vs leadership centered on ‘you’, as in leadership that is sitting on its high horse and dictating from on high, with no real intention of self-sacrifice and plan to alleviate the burden for its people.
The first message I would like to bring to your attention was the Corona pandemic speech in which Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs addressed the nation. This speech went viral as it was seen as a stern message of sacrifice that would be required to get us through the hard times:
“If you do not have the type of bread you like in your house, eat crackers. . .”
“If you do not have bread, eat cereal, eat oats, sardines. . .”
Then I would like to bring your attention to a press conference speech the Prime Minister of Barbados, the renowned and often cited (in our very own Parliament) Mia Mottley gave regarding the price gouging of hotel rooms in California, and her response to that:
“Barbados did not stay in a hotel. We went and rent some apartments. I stayed in an apartment with my officers. . .”
“If you can cook inside, which we did. . . I did breakfast with most of them. . .”
Can you notice the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s there. YOU vs WE. You have to sacrifice, while I will strive to give up as little as possible. More recent examples of this are the multitude of trips (“snoepreisjes”) that our MP’s seemingly cannot get enough of. To add insult to injury, the justification for the latest Parlatino clip by MP. Brison was and I paraphrase “Previous governments were broke, didn’t propose to change anything to the travel budget, and still got to go, so why shouldn’t we?” [Py21-22 Central Committee meeting #36 minute 9:15] Truly unbelievable and unacceptable! No mention of an added benefit for the nation through a clear and practical plan for implementation. No agricultural experts have taken along to bring theory into practice. Simply a pleasure trip because they (previous Governments) got to go, and so should we. The nation is struggling! Yet Parlatino visits and celebrating Curacao’s flag day seem to be more important than saving money on our financial budget to ensure we can comply with removing the 12,5% cuts. One such condition is: “Furthermore, the countries may not have a budget deficit once the labor benefits cut measures are eliminated.” – Source: The Daily Herald
Our government doesn’t seem to grasp the situation, either willfully so or through sheer ignorance. Both the local as well as global markets are facing unprecedented challenges. It is no longer time for status
quo Mp Brison. It is time for a change, self-sacrifice, and actual long-term planning and vision for the island and its future. If we do not prepare and truly build in the systems of good corporate governance allowing sustainable investments, a better wealth distribution, access to clean renewable energy, and less dependence on the ever-increasing cost of fossil fuels; steps to truly bolster the island’s resilience, the good times, or even some semblance of normalcy, may be further away, then we all hope. And so, I would like to conclude this article with some recommendations for this current Government:
- Distance yourself from poor corporate governance practices, favoritism, and a disregard for the laws of the land as demonstrated by the Minister of Vromi time and time again. The pattern has emerged and is clear.
- Delve into and scrutinize any and all Government expenditures. Ensure proper financial reporting and adherence to the laws or policies that are in place to guarantee that the money is spent for its intended purposes.
- Cut back on travel expenses that are not strictly and directly benefit the people of St. Maarten.
- As is now the case with the Casinos, go after the money that is owed to the government. That this wasn’t a departure point when the island was in serious financial constraints is beyond me.
- Overall, devise a plan in which we take charge of our own future, wherein we can, if necessary, ask Holland for assistance, formed the way WE see fit, not dictated by a CFT or a COHO or any other entity.
To the people of St Maarten, I say this, what we should want is clear and truly shouldn’t be that difficult. A government that has the best interest of the people of St Maarten at heart. One that is willing to do what it takes to ensure good corporate governance practices become the norm. Both within and outside the public sector.
- David Salomon