Wescot-Williams about Tourism Authority: “Government believes it can fool all the people, all of the time”POSTED: 08/12/15 5:00 PM
St. Maarten – Is a letter Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Claret Connor sent to parliament on June 22 “a scam”? Democratic Party MP Sarah Wescot-Williams asks that question in a press statement about the fledgling St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA).
In June, Connor wrote in answer to questions from Wescot-Williams that the restructured STA would be in place by the fourth quarter of 2016. In the same letter, Connor notes that the parliament could expect legislation about the STA within 18 months – putting the deadline somewhere around December 2016.
Connor wrote that “mainly the airport and the harbor have incorporated a foundation called the St. Maarten Tourism Authority Foundation” and that he intends to sit with the board “to discuss the best way forward.” He added that he intends to establish the STA as an independent governing body.
“What happens in the meantime with our tourism industry if the permanent STA will become a reality only by the fourth quarter of 2016?” Wescot-Williams wonders in her press statement. “Who is responsible for what in this all-important industry?”
The MP refers to the governing program where the government states it intends “to study the possibility of expanding the objectives and purpose of the STA.”
That is a reference to the foundation, Wescot-Williams points out. “I must conclude that the government truly believes that it can fool all the people, all of the time. This is unacceptable and we must speak up, because the writing is already on the wall and we are slipping, regardless of what the numbers say.”
Wescot-Williams was astounded to read that, according to Minister Connor, the STA foundation “has been declared obsolete” and that the future STA “will be established without the intermediary foundation.”
Wescot-Williams has led successive governments since 10-10-10 until December 2014. She was the leader of government for many years before that when St. Maarten was still an island territory. The MP says that the process to establish the STA “has been going on for ten years, some say even fifteen years.” during that time “there have been constant differing visions for this authority, with as result that nothing happened.”
When the Tourism Authority foundation was established with a bit of fanfare “it did bring the establishment of this badly needed authority a step closer to realization,” Wescot-Williams writes. “It was therefore with much concern that not yet one month in office, Minister Claret Connor’s tongue slipped it appeared, and he divulged that he intended to reevaluate the STA.”