PHILIPSBURG:--- National Alliance (NA) Leader Silveria Jacobs says the party’s manifesto is a comprehensive solution-oriented document that addresses the many concerns of residents in the community ranging from the recovery and rebuilding of St. Maarten in all areas and a roof and home repair program to the development of the country’s human resources, the creation of jobs and the revival and growth of the tourism sector and economy, amongst many other things.
Jacobs said that she is proud that the party’s manifesto contains something to benefit just about everyone. She gave a brief insight into the manifesto in a press release on Friday.
NA had conducted a listening tour over the past few weeks and heard the concerns of the populace. The concerns included the instability of government; the slow recovery process; the chronic lack of jobs; the sluggish economy; housing shortages; the plight of seniors; the spiraling cost of living; the deteriorating healthcare system and the lack of vocational educational opportunities and other things. NA’s manifesto is a preliminary presentation of solutions to address the concerns addressed by residents and other issues that have been identified. It will be further tweaked when the party is returned to office.
Healthcare is a major topic in the party’s manifesto. The realization of the construction of a new general hospital for the country and the provision of improved health care services are among the priorities in this area. The party also plans to create a sound financial management system in public health; finalize a new tariff structure; create the right environment and conditions to attract local medical professionals currently residing/working in other countries back home; transforming the healthcare system to provide all residents with needed care will strengthen and safeguard the community; implement a national healthcare plan; develop policies, laws and regulations in public health, and healthcare services in general to include vulnerable groups, e.g. seniors, elderly, physically and mentally challenged, and the under-insured; create accountability policy for medical practitioners; increase maternity leave and implement a paternity leave for all fathers; finalize the policy to regulate medical tourism and develop a policy for planned parenthood/family planning, among many other things. “In providing world-class healthcare, we can ensure better quality of life for our residents and offer better services to our region, decreasing our medical expenditures overseas,” the NA manifesto says.
In the area of housing, the party plans to lead the repairs of roof and damages to most affected houses in collaboration with other partners. It also plans to review and expand public housing; review the housing vision and policy to meet the population's housing needs; diversify housing options; purchase land for the realization of housing programs; engage public/private partnerships in new housing projects; develop homes for low income earners, seniors, and persons with special needs; provide opportunities for middle-income earners to rent or own their homes; develop neighborhoods; construct community centers in various districts; secure land for infrastructural development in communities; allocate land for community gardens and exploitation of agriculture; build outdoor gyms and playgrounds in each housing development project and position the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation to enable occupants to buy the houses they rent for better neighborhood maintenance and many other things. “Housing is a basic need. From the young professional to the business owner; the newlyweds or senior citizens; a person with special needs and the middle-income earner: we all have the right to proper and affordable housing,” the manifesto said.
In addition to continuing the realization of a long term solution for the landfill, in the area of infrastructure the party plans to update and realise the execution of a comprehensive road network plan to open-up and connect all districts and neighborhoods; conduct structural maintenance on main roads; introduce proper management of water drainage; build water catchments to alleviate flooding in vulnerable areas; initiate drafting a master plan for sewage management; work together with property owners to clean up areas with sewage, running water and garbage disposal challenges and proper management of cemeteries among many other things.
In Justice, NA plans to work towards strengthening the Police Force, Prison, Immigration and Customs departments, Improve Immigration services, increase border control on land and sea, acquire container scanners for the control of goods by Customs, in collaboration with the Port St. Maarten and review the Caribbean Visa Policy and many other areas.
In education, NA plans address the mountain of issues facing schools affected by the September 2017 hurricanes as well as improve the curricula and educational materials to meet the changing needs of primary and secondary school learners; provide opportunities and improve accessibility to special needs education; encourage and provide incentives for the private sector to invest in education; implement entrepreneurship and agriculture curriculum in schools among many other things. The party will also continue the renovation and upgrading of schools.
Culture is important for the party. Under the manifesto, NA plans to increase and improve the country’s cultural infrastructure by constructing a National Theatre of the Creative and Performing Arts; repair and upgrade existing cultural and artistic facilities, boost the usage of Festival Village, raise awareness of and inspire pride in St. Maarten’s culture and natural heritage, finalize the cultural policy and strengthen the monument policy and increase the promotion of Sint Maarten’s culture and many other things. “The culture of Sint Maarten is unique – even within the Dutch Caribbean. In order to preserve and celebrate our tangible and intangible cultural and natural heritage, we must ensure that cultural integrity thrives here,” the manifesto says.
The party will also be “progressive with the youth and sport” and the manifesto outlines a number of areas in which this will be achieved.
As it relates to the caring for the elderly and vulnerable, NA’s plans include establishing a council and recreational centers for the elderly in various districts; collaborating with stakeholders for elderly protection and care; research and propose food, amenity and transportation discounts; increase pension benefits, generally; increase old age pensions for the elderly; conduct a study to determine a livable wage; work to increase disposable incomes for the low-income earners and simplify procedures to improve responsiveness to the needy in society among a list of other things. “The elderly and vulnerable are the foundation our community is built on. The elderly has worked hard for what we now take for granted. By taking care of our elders, we can pave the way for how we too will be cared for as seniors.”
In addition to facilitating the creation of employment opportunities for residents and stimulating and supporting the return of businesses; in the area of labor, NA plans to implement labor legislation and policy; finalize the draft national ordinance to stop the abuse of short-term labor agreements; review the minimum wage; enforce labor inspection policies; finalize legislation for the youth employment fund, and execute the youth employment fund program; enact legislation for protection and sustainability of small businesses; fulfill labor needs through education; adjust the education and job training programs to meet local labor needs; foster collaboration between the labor and education departments to improve the facilitation of employment for educated persons; provide opportunities for continuing education to train and re-educate the labor market, and offer second chance education opportunities among other things. In the manifesto, the party also wants to provide tax incentives for businesses willing to hire and train the registered unemployed; facilitate small-medium enterprise development; fight to protect and grow small local businesses by offering tax incentives and government assistance; stimulate agricultural initiatives and review the government’s organizational structure to include agriculture and fisheries, and other things. “Job creation is one of our biggest focuses. Getting our citizens back to work and improving the economy is something that we are working diligently towards,” the manifesto said.
NA’s manifesto also contains extensive plans to stimulate and revive the country's tourism sector in all areas as well as plans for the environment; information and communications technology; telecoms; transportation; finance; public services; finance; kingdom and international relations and good governance and several other important areas.
The complete text of the manifesto can be read on the National Alliance Facebook page: National Alliance St. Maarten.