New Year’s address prime Minister Gumbs: Government wants to implement controversial counterpart policyPOSTED: 01/5/15 2:09 PM
St. Maarten – In his inaugural New Year’s address, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs has indicated that his government will make work of implementing the controversial counterpart policy and that it will tackle the gray economy. Gumbs’ address is first and foremost a message that holds the promise of an incorruptible government that takes ingerity serious and that intends “to carry out the majority of the recommendations” from the three integrity reports, produced by the General Audit Chamber, the Bob Wit-committee and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Below is the unabridged text of the address.
“My Fellow Citizens,
This is always a hopeful time as we celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. And while 2014 was a challenging year for many St. Maarteners, our resiliency and conquering spirit re-enforces the knowledge that brighter days are ahead of us. Though our challenges in 2015 will be great, I have no doubt that the government and people of St. Maarten will have the fortitude to rise and meet them.
When I proudly accepted the challenge to serve as Prime Minister, I was cognizant of the fact that our people have had to endure a period of such instability that many became disenfranchised with government, distrusting of their representatives and less hopeful in the future and direction of this country.
I also knew however, that our people are patient and understanding if they see their government with a steady focus on priority areas, championing initiatives that improve quality of life and a genuine effort to improve the efficiency and integrity of government. We have also seen for ourselves that there is a need for major re-commitment in handling core public tasks on a firmer basis.
I knew that despite the difficult fiscal conditions we are facing, the people would understand that it is not possible to solve every issue overnight and some tough choices have to be made in order to achieve the right balance.
In this atmosphere I want to assure you that I will tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. I will be honest. I will be realistic. The list of priorities is not a short one. Starting with the completion of the budgetary process, it is essential that we are honest with the public about the scale of these challenges.
It will be one of the priorities of Government to ensure the needs of the masses are constantly met with the utmost of honesty and fairness. Carrying out the integrity program and the majority of the recommendations of all three integrity reports, the PwC report, the report that the Wit-Samson Committee drafted in July this year and the integrity report of St. Maarten’s General Audit Chamber, will serve as testimony to how highly regarded “good governance” and integrity will prevail during this governing term.
Government will be giving priority to measures that contribute to sustainable economic growth and high employment level and stable economic development. The Government will use the budget to lay down the direction of economic policy and for the further growth of our country. The completion of a balanced budget for 2015 and beyond is another priority against of the backdrop of good governance.
The experience and changes over the last few years confirms the need of more and better jobs. It is necessary to implement deliberate and integrated policies like the counterpart policy, employability through training and skill building for youth and adults, strengthening workplace compliance and formalization of the informal economy that compliment economic growth and reduce unemployment in order to create sustainable development.
We will strive to build a strong and diversified economy that will provide jobs, increase productivity and result in more prosperity for all St. Maarteners. We will ensure that our economic recovery, based on sound policy, is being felt in all areas, and by all our people.
But with a new year comes new hope. We hope to demonstrate to taxpayers that government can work, even in moments of disagreement, if people are willing to work together. We are very encouraged with the great willingness we have experienced thus far to achieving change. This mindset should be encouraged because in order for us to get to where we need to be, we need everyone to play their part and be an active citizen.
New hope requires that we are all pulling in the same direction while doing what we do best on a daily basis. If you are a carpenter, be a good carpenter, if you are a nurse, be a great nurse, if you are a teacher, be an exceptional teacher, if you are a police officer be an even more diligent one and if you are a public servant be an efficient public servant.
An active citizen is a person who uses his or her professional skills and applies them to alleviate a social problem in a sustainable way. In a time of unprecedented challenges locally and globally, citizen engagement is not a choice — it’s a necessity.
Every one of us has a responsibility to identify our skills, apply them in the community, and do our part to make this a better country. That’s how we’ll come back healthier and stronger than we have ever been before.
As we welcome 2015, the government of St. Maarten recognizes that we must and will do our utmost to regain the trust of the people of St. Maarten. We will strive to set the ship right so that we can continue moving forward to becoming the great nation we all know St. Maarten can be. This country needs tranquility, stability, civility which will lead to prosperity.
My hope for this New Year is that we grow and work together to make this beautiful country, this greatest little country in the world, a better place to live, work and play. As we look ahead to new beginnings and new opportunities in 2015, Myra and I, and all of our family, wish you and your loved ones peace, prosperity, good health and God’s guidance.
May God Bless St. Maarten.
Happy New Year.”