PFP presents party manifesto: Focus on improving quality of life for all

PFP presents party manifesto: Focus  on improving quality of life for all

Party for Progress, led by Melissa Gumbs (centre), presented 10 candidates for the January 11, 2024, elections.

PHILIPSBURG--In presenting the Party for Progress (PFP) 2024-2028 manifesto, titled “Five for the Future: Working Today to Transform Tomorrow”, party leader Melissa Gumbs said: “We have prepared this document under what remains the PFP’s central vision and intended governing theme of improving quality of life for all on St. Maarten.”

Nothing in this or any document can be accomplished without the two critical nation-building pillars of people and partnership, Gumbs said. “These are pillars that Raeyhon, Ludmila and I have consistently championed in Parliament. For four years, we remained committed to what proved to be the most important task that Parliament can execute: holding Government to account for their conduct and performance.”

PFP called out the lack of proper communication, lapses in financial management, the absence of diplomatic tact and geopolitical comprehension, and the unwillingness of ministers to accept responsibility and accountability when they are found lacking.

“In our 2020-2024 manifesto, we warned that our history was littered with a focus on commercial development over the development of the people,” Gumbs recounted. “Four years later, this remains the reality for our overdeveloped country; pouring concrete instead of pouring into our people remains the norm. However, it is difficult to pour into one’s people when their basic needs are not being met. As a result, we reiterate our commitment to improving infrastructure, social care, education and health in this updated manifesto.”

Poverty line

In 2019 PFP campaigned on the importance of establishing the poverty line, the first step in developing a comprehensive living wage for St. Maarten. The pandemic exacerbated the already well-known fact that the cost of living on the island does not align with the established minimum wage, PFP said. “In truth, it does not correlate to most wages on the island. Consequently, many are left unable to cover basic needs.”

PFP remains committed to establishing the poverty line and will create a research committee to identify what it takes to live on St. Maarten. “This means that the study will determine what is the necessary amount needed to cover your basic needs: housing, food, transportation and utilities (electricity, water, and Internet).”

Lower profit tax

St. Maarten is still in a post-catastrophe recovery phase and its profit tax, currently standing at 34.5%, remains one of the highest in the region. To improve local private sector development and to encourage foreign investment during this ongoing recovery period, PFP will work to lower profit tax to 17%.

“Microbusinesses have particularly disproportionately high operating costs,” the party noted. “To curb these costs, in addition to the reduced profit tax, PFP proposes that all businesses with an annual revenue less than NAf. 360,000 are exempted from the 17% profit tax.”

St. Maarten Road Fund

The Road Fund is meant to be the destination authority for road tax payments; with that funding, the Road Fund will be able to execute the development of new roads, the maintenance and security of existing roads, as well as the placement and installation of road markings, signage, and street-lights on all roads.

Cleaner fuel

Within the first year of a PFP government, a research initiative will be conducted to investigate the possibility of requiring that fuel providers import high-alcohol-content fuels such as E85, which is roughly 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. “‘Why?’ you ask? High-alcohol-content fuels are cleaner-burning and have less CO2 emissions than regular gasoline,” PFP explained. “They also tend to have a cheaper price tag at the pump. Vehicles that have the flex-fuel symbol can make full use of this cleaner-burning fuel.”

Driving tourism

PFP believes that the establishment of an independent Destination Marketing Authority is a significant step in the recovery, development and maintenance of St. Maarten’s tourism product. “This is, of course, the long-awaited St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA),” PFP explained. “At our launch, we briefly addressed the start/stop phenomenon that has hampered progressive action in several areas of our government apparatus; the promotion of our destination is one such area. Marketing of our beautiful island should not stop or shift depending on who is in government.”

Digital access

Due in large part to lack of vision and action, the country’s information and communication (ICT) infrastructural development has lagged behind where it could be today, PFP concluded.

“As we seek to improve people’s access to digital commerce solutions, an ICT infrastructure and development vision for St. Maarten will be established and then executed by Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTP), as per their articles of incorporation. This vision will include key partnerships with our immediate neighbours, such as the French side, to build comprehensive approaches to infrastructure improvements and cybersecurity best practices.”

STEAM-powered learning

STEAM is a teaching and learning methodology that incorporates all subject elements in the regular rotation of the curriculum. “For example, technology would show up in physical education, which then makes it a connector for all things education,” PFP said. “Currently, the approach has been to provide computers, laptops or digital boards that operate as stand-alone and call it STEAM. It is not.”

General healthcare

Critical to improving general healthcare are continuing medical education (CME) programmes. “This would ensure that you and your loved ones are receiving the best quality of care possible,” concluded PFP. The party remains committed to revising and updating the moratorium on healthcare professionals for specific specialisations in dentistry and mental health.

The above plans will be developed in the first year after the elections, PFP announced. For the next three years of the Parliamentary term 2024-2028, the party prioritises improving financial health for senior citizens. “It’s time we acknowledge that the AOV pension was not meant to be the only income carrying our seniors into their more restful years, and that we take steps to provide current and future generations with the tools they need to avoid damaging their financial


Additional pension

Recognizing that pension is income and therefore taxable, PFP aims to reimagine the approach to the tax on the AOV pension. “For example, it may be possible to increase the ‘Ouderentoeslag’ limit on taxable pension income. At the same time, two different programmes must operate: 1. Financial literacy programs for 25- to 55-year-olds are critical to building respect for one’s financial health; and 2. A research programme to identify, develop and implement an obligatory pension that will exist alongside AOV.”

Special needs education

PFP calls for assessment of public school infrastructure to determine facility readiness to properly receive and work with special needs students. “This includes sensory planning to allow for sensory corners and/or rooms for students who are often over-/underwhelmed while at school. Classrooms should be transformed into a learning experience that acknowledges the different learning styles of neuro-typical and neuro-divergent students. We must admit that the traditional desk rows and ‘sit down and be quiet’ routine is not working.”

Vocational institutions

Vocational professions remain important to a country’s development, PFP said. “As existing experts in specific vocation-based fields retire or exit the field, we must ensure there is a competent and well-prepared workforce to replace them.”

PFP advocates exploring the possibility of rethinking the primary vocational educational institution, St. Maarten Vocational Training School, to bring it in line with the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) concept.”

Inclusive entrepreneurship

Start-ups, small businesses and sole entrepreneurs have the support of PFP. “Sole proprietorships are very often the cogs that turn the wheels of any economy. From the management consultant to the guy that tints your car, a sole proprietorship can be a force for economic evolution, especially as it grows and adds jobs to the market, which is a significant by-product of entrepreneurship.”

To support this business market, PFP aims to adjust the legislation to allow non-Antillean-born Dutch passport holders to establish a sole proprietorship. “Additionally, it is our goal that new sole proprietorships receive a tax break from TOT [turnover tax – Ed.] for the first two years of their existence.”


“We don’t seek to reinvent the wheel; there are local farmers who are already doing amazing things in agriculture in the private sector,” PFP stated. “Over time, the involvement of the government has proven to be more of a hindrance than a help. Let’s fix that!”

PFP plans to assess the current functioning of LVV (Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries), with the intention to revamp and strengthen its current mandate and capacity.

The party sees a need for expanding collaboration with the French side to determine the feasibility of accessing the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), aimed at encouraging new farmers, supporting existing ones, facilitating training and development in innovative technologies in agriculture and encouraging sustainable management of natural resources.

Waste management

Noting that there is no functioning scale at the landfill on Pond Island, PFP stated: “We cannot manage what we cannot measure; with environmental stress brought on by waste generation, it is critical to update the statistics related to how much waste we generate as a people.”

It is essential, PFP concluded, to “establish working protocols with [French] Saint-Martin on environmental policies and solid waste management; improve collaboration with the French side to handle our recyclables; and investigate the possibility of collaborating with the French side on the establishment of a shared incinerator for waste management.”

PFP further believes that long-term solutions for waste management in the most densely populated areas need to be identified. “A solution we have discussed in our consultations, and will officially explore once in government, are liquid waste treatment plants to cover the areas of Belvedere, Oyster Pond and Middle Region/Defiance, as well as addressing the Cay Hill/Belair area, where running grey water is a near-constant nuisance for residents.”

Smart energy

The solution to St. Maarten’s energy challenges will require developing a partnership with a proven expert in a variety of energy and electricity methods.

“Considering GEBE’s current situation, collaborating with a seasoned industry player offers the opportunity to chart a transformative path forward. The strategic focus must be on a comprehensive grid enhancement that ushers in an era of intelligence and efficiency,” PFP stated. “By empowering consumers to generate their own electricity, St. Maarten can not only reduce its dependence on environmentally-harmful diesel generators, but also create an empowered community of energy producers.”

In Parliament, PFP has consistently supported the development of educational programmes and curriculums that promote the history of St. Maarten, as well as protections in the law for historical sites, whether on private or public property.

The party aims to foster cultural openness and intellectual discourse. “A critical element in this will be the St. Maarten Museum and how it can be expanded, empowered, and protected. Moreover, an evaluation of the Monument ordinance, especially the role of the Monument Council and the long-awaited establishment of the Monument Fund, are key in changing our perception of and thus the value of our heritage.”

In conclusion, PFP shared three items that the party considers non-negotiable in any potential coalition discussion. The party will not debate the establishment of the (draft) National Decree containing General Measures (LB-HAM) for Financial Management, in accordance with article 46 of the Accountability Ordinance. This will regulate tendering for the entirety of government and do away with the ad-hoc, haphazard and individual-ministry-driven approach to tendering, thus saving government costly mistakes from overzealous ministers engaging or breaking tendered agreements.

Secondly, the party is adamant about a realistic and tangible review of spatial development and approach to development. There are critical decisions that must be taken when it comes to regulating the country’s approach to development and the impact of this development on its environment for future generations.

The party also stands for comprehensive integrity. “Persons in cabinet positions must be held equally accountable as the ministers and parliamentarians that they are expected to support. The integrity of the office and the level of the development of our country goes beyond the figures that lead it and only reinforces PFP’s belief that a country gets the government it deserves,” PFP said

in conclusion.

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