Published On: Tue, Oct 18th, 2016

The Birth of Our Own Socioeconomic Two Headed Dragon

jimmy-challengerSt. Maarten Life Realities, Local Finance & Economics column by Jimmy C. Challenger, writing as a regular weekly columnist for the TODAY newspaper and contributor for the TODAY NEWSPAPER ONLINE.

St. Maarten Life Realities

“We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.”
– Nelson Mandela – Speech at his inauguration as South African president in Pretoria, May 10, 1994.

 

26 September 2016 – The Birth of Our Own Socioeconomic Two Headed Dragon…

Thank You!

Elections have once again taken place on St. Maarten in the midst of continued peace, freedom of expression, freedom of choice – basically an election with all general liberties that one can think of as it relates to what democracy really should represent.  And thank the citizens we must! With a diverse population made up of residents of different nationalities, cultural and religious backgrounds, all “under one roof”, we can be considered a “United Nations” hub.  We are an example to the world that despite our differences, we are one race, the human race.

“Ten Seats and Four Years Government”

With the aforementioned as a foundation of my trend of thought for this piece of writing – I zoom in on the results of the election and the socio economic consequences thereof. After all, the purpose of the election was for us the people to decide who will represent us in the legislative hall of parliament and the executive branch – the council of ministers at the new government administration building on Pond-Island.  These parliamentarians and council of ministers jointly will determine in one form or another whether we will be better off as a people for this governing period or not – a governing period which I will dare refer to as the “Ten Seats and Four Years” governing period.

Hmmm…Yes – It Can Work

Before we concentrate on all the usual reasons why this “Four Years and Ten Seats” government will not work, let us look at the reasons why it can work.  This government, once in office, will be in a position to:

  • Boost Investor Confidence: After much turmoil in the halls of government, with constant changes in the politicians or their poppets holding ministerial posts, St. Maarten would be in a position to show the local, regional and international world that it is ready to commence business more than ever before – that it can provide stability in its governmental decision making process for the next four years – This will encourage investors here at home to spend a little money and improve, expand and manage their businesses and possibly provide more jobs with confidence. Our partners and stakeholders here and abroad would not have to ask us at every regional or international meeting the following question or derivative thereof: Why a half-size island nation can’t keep the same captain and crew for more than two years? And most importantly, with the United States in its final months of the Obama Administration poised to further defrost relations with Cuba, opening the doors to attract new business for Cuba that could have come our way, and even more worse, with the possibility of a Trump Administration looming, we would be better off to focus on the advantages of a stable government to prepare ourselves for what’s to come, rather than fight from within and loose everything.
  • Legislate and Execute: Pass legislation by simple majority or whenever required by a two-third majority, leaving this incoming government with little room for excuses at it relates to seeking support to submit amendments to existing laws, initiate new laws or seek support for yet another lean budget for approval by the CFT or any other powers that may.
  • Bring More Efficiency & Effectiveness: It would have two political heads, less than the previous two governments, and this in itself should result in less cooks in the kitchen to spoil the midday broth or sauce for that matter. This should result in the governing partners reaching consensus on the way forward for this country in a more expeditious manner, with ability to factor in the necessary actions that must be taken to address the socio-economic challenges of this nation in each and every action taken by the executive branch or in the legislature for that matter.
  • Be Its Own Automatic Internal Audit Mechanism: Being extremes of each other, the National Alliance (NA) and United People’s Party (UPP) – in my humble opinion – will naturally act as each other’s own internal checks and balances. Yes, the opposition parties will be there and without a doubt will be doing their part to question the democratic governing processes but having a natural internal audit behavior of its own, this government may very well prove to be the best coalition option for St. Maarten.
  • Represent a Larger Portion of Persons Who Exercised Their Voting Rights: Being the two largest parties in terms of the number of votes received the coalition of the NA and UPP represent well over 50% of the cast valid votes for the recently held elections. The coalition therefore in terms of numbers is a better representation of what the country has voted for. That said, a government is and should be a government that operates in the best interest of all its citizens – those that voted for them and those that did not vote for them, without prejudices.
  • Balance Social Expenditures against Increased Economic Revenues: The fruit of one’s labor should be the ability to live a more comfortable life, with increased income, higher standards of living through the involvement in the economic development of the country, including but not limited to participation in the creation of new business entities, improved employment options via established small to medium size manufacturing firms, or even expanding St. Maarten owned and operated businesses to the wider Caribbean basin and the world for that matter. The latter can be achieved through government and private sector initiatives to promote international business for St. Maarten.  In turn, our increased income streams can be used to improve education, our healthcare system, road networks, telecommunications, water, electricity supply and other infrastructures which are essential for continuous economic stability.
  • Reconcile and write the last Anti-Wathey Political Chapter: Working together can more often than not heal old wounds and foster new beginnings. In his speech to parliament in Cape Town, March 26, 1999, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela’s words on his government’s achievements during his five years as president: “We have laid the foundation for a better life. Things that were unimaginable a few years ago have become everyday reality. I belong to the generation of leaders for whom the achievement of democracy was the defining challenge.” –

Reasons of Doubt

One can argue that the two parties in this incoming governing period are too different in their ideologies, political goals, and business practices to have even considered working together. That the two, National Alliance being more concerned with “Social Initiatives” and the United People’s Party being more about “Big Business Initiatives”, can only result in a “Natural Political Governance Disaster” to the magnitude of a Hurricane Luis. And while this thinking may have some rationale to it, we should also humbly remember that the days after Hurricane Luis were days of much unity, solidarity, cooperation and love for country than maybe any other period of our island’s history.

For those who don’t remember or were not around, after Hurricane Luis, we had a broad-based government and a very competent governor who collaborated with each other in the best interest of the people – a government that danced to the tune of stability and focused on building up instead of breaking down our own. A government that negotiated across the Atlantic , in the Caribbean Region and right across the border with representatives in Marigot, to ensure that the free movement of business and people returned to normalcy in record time.  In fact, the sitting government was  at that time also made up of people of different political ideologies but who knew then, that it was either sink or swim together if we were to achieve any sustainable recovery for the island.

Take the Challenge

In conclusion, the reality is that this election has produced a “Two Headed Dragon”, to be more specific, a “Two Headed Socio Economic Dragon” to office with “Ten Seats and Four Years”.  We must give it the chance to form in the same peace, non-violent, transparent and cooperative way that we democratically elected them to office. We must challenge ourselves to allow this new chapter in our political history to take its shape – and our writings, words and deeds – should reflect this going forward.  We must take part in the development of St. Maarten in the next four crucial years as private citizens – in our homes, businesses, places of employment, social and moral activities across the board.

Don’t Complain – Vote!

It is imperative that we track the performance of our government on a daily basis. It is our right and obligation to ensure that they are performing in a manner that is in the best interest of all.  And if any one elected person or party in office does not live to our expectations, then the electoral ballots at the poles – in the next four years – should reflect the change we collectively would once again desire. And that change can only come when we continue to exercise our democratic right to vote. Yes, voting is the one true and only way to choose outright the persons we collectively wish to see in office. So the seven thousand plus persons, who did not vote this past election for one reason or the other, also have to recognize and support this government – and I dare say support with little or no complaints – for the time to elect your representatives has passed. And the time to govern and hold elected officials accountable is on the rise. The ship has set sail “without you” on board…