That no candidate has yet been decided on (see related story) to become the next Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA is hardly a huge surprise. After all, sending home former Minister Emil Lee didn’t seem like a particularly concerted and carefully-planned effort from the governing parties United Democrats (UD) and St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP).
In fact, only opposition legislators and – of course – UD faction member Luc Mercelina backed his motion of no-confidence against Lee. However, it passed because the coalition normally only has a minimal majority.
The question is: what now? Most would agree that Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin probably shouldn’t keep handling VSA for too long, considering the importance of her own General Affairs portfolio especially in terms of the country’s continued recovery from the devastating hurricanes of September 2017.
Whoever is named the successor faces a big potential problem. Several considerations for forcing Lee to resign mentioned in Mercelina’s motion touch on essential matters like Social and Health Insurances SZV co-financing the new hospital, continuing with the current Italian contractor, the new five-year contract for SZV’s director, etc.
If all these decisions are to be reversed, it can have serious implications for not just the hospital project, but also additional means from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund managed by the World Bank to make the future medical care complex more storm-resistant as well as to improve and upgrade the existing St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) facilities, a process that is already well underway. This is something any incoming minister will need to keep in mind.
Perhaps a return of former VSA secretary-general and current Plenipotentiary Minister in The Hague Jorien Wuite may indeed be the best option. For one thing, she has recent knowledge about the background of what is going on now at the ministry, and gained public administrator experience in Philipsburg as Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports.
However, the individual taking over might be less relevant than setting a clear and unambiguous policy to be pursued; otherwise it could easily turn into another “mission impossible.” That is not up to just him or her, but a task for the entire UD/SMCP coalition of which Mercelina remains part and parcel.