WEEKender columnist Kenneth Cook in Friday’s letter to the editor titled “Who should I vote for” lamented the fact that only one of seven parties had released its manifesto in a timely manner as the Electoral Council recently announced. At least one since did so and another planned to, but the question may be asked what importance can really be attached to such campaign programmes and platforms.
All local governments in the past three decades have required coalition partners and consequently compromise. The dual system that came with country status per 10-10-10 to fully separate the legislative and executive branches also gave the former less direct influence over the latter in practice.
Moreover, contrary to the other Dutch Caribbean countries where Parliament seats won by each party are allotted to candidates according to their position on the list unless they earn one outright, in St. Maarten those with the most personal votes get elected
into office. This created a more individualistic approach to politics which can also be seen, for example, in the usually high number of candidates switching between parties that as a result have at times lacked cohesion and a clear common purpose.
In such a political environment, the value of a manifesto hardly exceeds that of a collective campaign promise competing with individual candidates’ slogans, quick-fix ideas, jingles and one-liners.
The facts are that the island and its tourism economy have not yet fully bounced back from Hurricane Irma and people still require help, while there continues to be a budget deficit requiring liquidity loans from the Netherlands and limiting public investments. That’s why it’s so crucial to keep working with the National Recovery Programme Bureau (NRPB) and the World Bank, no matter how hard and time-consuming, to make the best possible use of available means from the Dutch-sponsored Trust Fund to assist the population in need and promote sustainable development.
So, if the electorate is to be presented with nice plans and proposals, let them be feasible ones under the present dire financial circumstances. Otherwise, don’t even bother.