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No Need to Point Fingers, We All Failed.

Dear Editor,

I observe Mr. Olivier Arrindell embarking on the process of founding his own political party and initiating his campaign. As I reflect on how he has captivated the hearts and minds of many in St. Maarten, I find myself pondering how this happened. A significant number of people attribute this phenomenon to a failing education system, suggesting that this is why so many are willing to support Mr. Arrindell.

However, I do not entirely agree that our education system has failed us. At the primary level, the FBE system has indeed fallen short, primarily in my opinion it attempted to mimic the Montessori system without incorporating the foundational elements that contribute to Montessori's success. Equally, at the academic high school level, there is a commendable parity in academics that equips our students for tertiary education. Efforts are also being made to enhance vocational training but there is still much to be desired.

Undoubtedly, more resources are needed in both academic and vocational streams—additional funding, more teachers, and smaller class sizes, to name a few. Interestingly, about a third of our national budget is allocated to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport, and three-quarters of that goes directly to education. Therefore, while the need for more resources is clear, I am also keen to understand how the current resources are managed for maximum efficacy.

Returning to the issue at hand, it is undeniable that educating our population, particularly our children, is vital. Yet, I believe a more pressing issue exists. When I compare Mr. Arrindell to figures like Mr. Trump, notable similarities emerge. Both exhibit larger-than-life personas, make outlandish statements, and combine enough truth with misinformation to compel people to listen.

But why are they so effective? In my view, they skillfully manipulate emotions. Regardless of one's level of education, if their rhetoric touches on personal grievances, it becomes persuasive. Consider the complaints: the tax office harasses small business owners while large companies evade scrutiny, business permits for ordinary citizens are delayed while influential individuals receive theirs swiftly, and politicians appear corrupt, amassing wealth while the average St. Maartener struggles.

As an average St. Maartener, witnessing politicians' affluence and the prosperity of foreign businesspeople can deepen feelings of disenfranchisement. Even educated and critical thinkers can find it challenging to dismiss the narratives these individuals present, as they often reflect real frustrations.

This emotional resonance is why elected officials have failed the people, allowing individuals like Mr. Arrindell to sway public opinion. Structural changes within the government, long overdue, remain unimplemented due to constant political instability.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted these issues when the Netherlands and the Kingdom's islands, including Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten, engaged in tense negotiations over reforms. While the Netherlands took a firm stance, the islands rightly defended their autonomy. After extensive debates, an agreement was reached on implementing and managing these reforms.

The reforms target critical areas such as financial management, public sector efficiency, taxation, the financial sector, economic policies, healthcare, education, and the rule of law. The "Implementation Report Country Package Sint Maarten" published on January 22, 2024, offers a clear update on these reforms from October 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023. This document, with its straightforward overview of measures, activities, intended outcomes, deadlines, and status updates, is a valuable resource. I urge everyone to read it.

Successfully completing and periodically testing these reforms for quality assurance will help St. Maarten achieve its collective goals and render the rhetoric of individuals like Mr. Arrindell ineffective. However, this success hinges on the stability of our government and the willingness of our leaders to collaborate, setting aside personal differences to truly listen to the people of St. Maarten.

 

Sincerely,

Charles Darnay

 


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