the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexsep 12, 2017

The Governor’s address delivered by the Governor of Sint Maarten his excellency drs. Eugene b. Holiday on the occasion of the opening of the 2017/2018 parliamentary year.

Madam Chairlady, Members of Parliament,

Good day and very special greetings to the people of Sint Maarten.

Each year, as prescribed by our constitution, we gather in this special parliamentary assembly on the second Tuesday of September for the opening of the new parliamentary year. This year we do so under very special circumstances. We do so in recognition that our form of government has its legitimacy in our people to whom we are accountable. It is against that background that I stand before you, in my capacity as Governor, to present Parliament and thus the people of our nation with an outline of the policy plans of government for the coming year. Today’s presentation of the policy plans of government takes place against the backdrop of the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma.
Before the passing of hurricane Irma I addressed our population. In doing so I stated that I trust that we the people of Sint Maarten will draw from our collective strength to withstand and overcome this storm. Today we stand in the aftermath of the ferocious winds of hurricane Irma and I am moved by the extent of the material damage and of the emotional toll Irma inflicted on our people. This hurricane will as a result forever live on in our collective memory. Meanwhile, I believe that we can be thankful that we were spared a hit by hurricane Jose.

Following the passage of Hurricane Irma on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, government moved to take stock of the damage and organize the emergency response. In doing so I was heartened to see so many persons, in good Sint Maarten tradition, cleaning up their districts and helping each other. I was however saddened to see the unlawful behaviour of some in our community. Behaviour which clearly do not do justice to who we are as a Sint Maarten people. Behaviour that has only made matters more difficult for all of us. To address that situation government declared a state of emergency on Friday, September 8, 2017. And government intends to take all measures necessary to secure the safety and security of our people and properties.

Based on a preliminary assessment it is clear that there is much work ahead for us individually and collectively. That preliminary assessment provides the following general picture:

1. Most of our personal homes have been damaged;
2. Our hospital suffered damage to its roof which have resulted in a decline in patient-intake capacity;
3. Our water distribution network is down, due to damage to the secondary lines and the water storage tanks;
4. The secondary lines of our electricity distribution network suffered damage and the main building of the headquarters has been demolished;
5. Most of our 27 primary and secondary schools have suffered damaged in varying degrees;
6. Our airport and Air traffic control facilities are not operational;
7. Our telecommunication systems, fixed, mobile and data, are partially operational with intermittent coverage;
8. Several major supermarkets have been damaged; and
9. Approximately 80% of our hotel inventory is out of service;
In short, our critical infrastructure has been hard hit, but the good news is that vital services such as the hospital is operating, and electricity and telecom are gradually being restored.
Given how critical these facilities and systems are for our daily lives, government has established a number of emergency priorities:
1. First, the maintenance of the security of the population. Government has established that this is essential to allow for an orderly restoration of our daily life. To assist the local law enforcement officers, Government therefore intends to continue to maintain the security support as provided by the Dutch military, the police officers from the Netherlands, Aruba and Curacao and the Aruban and Curacaon Military.
2. Second, the provision of humanitarian support in terms of water, food, medicine and evacuation of persons. In particular government is setting up distribution networks to supply those who need these basic needs. Government also intends to have the supermarkets and pharmacies reopened as soon as possible. In addition, government has been and will continue to work with various countries to evacuate their citizens.
3. Third, the clean-up of the debris, created all over the island by hurricane Irma is vital.
4. Fourth, the reopening of schools. Government is putting a plan in place to realize a speedy return to school of the 8000 student’s population, with concentration on the exam classes. 
5. Fifth, securing building materials. This is critical to provide for a quality rebuilding of the country.
6. And sixth, securing of budget support will be required for the remainder of 2017 and fiscal year 2018. This because it is expected that the 2017 budget and the recently presented 2018 budget will record deficit. They no longer reflect the current environment. These deficits will have to be offset by grants and/or borrowing. Government will therefore present parliament with an emergency budget within short.
Government will in view of the changed situation develop a national recovery program to chart, guide and fund the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure and economy in the medium to long term. The plan will include a social-economic program, a budget support plan, an infrastructure investment plan and a financing plan. As part of that plan and in keeping with its governing program for the years 2016 – 2020, titled “Stability for Prosperity” government is committed to pursue a number objectives. These include:
1. First, the supply of emergency housing for those persons who have lost their homes.
2. Second, the revision of the Tourism Master Plan with an outline of government’s strategic objectives, priorities and vehicles aimed at the redevelopment and at the promotion of our tourism product.
3. Third, the rebuilding of our water distribution network;
4. Fourth, the rebuilding of our airport and ATC facilities;
5. Fifth, investments in the upgrade of existing as well as in the construction of new education facilities;
6. And sixth, securing the financing for the construction of a new medical center.

Taking care of our island’s environment is a community responsibility. A responsibility which requires our combined efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure that we pass on a livable environment to future generations. Government has made solving our landfill problems a focal point of its environmental sustainability agenda. The objective of the plant is to separate garbage, reduce the size of the current landfill and ultimately produce alternative energy.

To realize its strategic objectives government is dedicated to implementing the measures needed to generate the required revenues to finance its programs. Considering the new circumstances government will be revising the 2018 budget submitted to you at the end of august and with that the measures required to raise the required funding.

As we face this new reality we can do so with the knowledge that we have been down this road before and we overcame. In doing so we improved our infrastructure. Government believes and is committed to implementing policies and plans that would not only lead to recovery but which will also better prepare the people of Sint Maarten to withstand hurricanes like Irma. And in doing so ensure that we rebound stronger together through concerted national action.

Looking ahead to 2018 government is committed to having its governing program, through the policies and programs briefly outlined here today, continue to serve as a road map for the management of the affairs of our nation. A road map designed to build a strong, proud, healthy and resilient nation, governed based on the principles of transparency, integrity and performance management. I therefore trust - in this difficult time - that we the people of Sint Maarten will move to encourage and build each other, to support and lift each other up. And as we do so, I hereby personally and on behalf of government thank all the persons of our disaster management organization as well as the support teams from the Netherlands, Aruba and Curacao for the work which they are doing under difficult circumstance since the passing of hurricane Irma towards the recovery of our island.

In this new parliamentary year, government will, starting with a revision of the budget, reach out to you with various legislative initiatives towards the realization of its policy agenda for the rebuilding of our nation.  As representatives of the people of Sint Maarten, government looks forward to working with you and to your participation and your support in achieving the outlined vision for the coming period; this aimed at creating greater stability and prosperity for our people. And as you deliberate and decide on the issues that will come before you, I wish you much wisdom, strength, and God’s speed.

In closing, to the people of Sint Maarten I know, the government knows that things are though. We therefore encourage you to stay strong and keep the faith. For as I said before the storm, I am confident that through our individual efforts and collective strength and resilience we will overcome with the help of God.

Thank you, God bless you and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.