United St. Maarten Party unveils ambitious 2024-2028 agenda for national improvement

United St. Maarten Party unveils ambitious  2024-2028 agenda for national improvement

PHILIPSBURG--United St. Maarten Party (USP) has laid out its comprehensive plan of action for the year 2024 and beyond. The party already initiated the execution of the outlined restructuring plan in 2022, emphasising its commitment to ongoing refinement and formulation in the subsequent years. The strategic execution and implementation of these plans are set to span the entirety of the party's presence, whether as a coalition partner or in the opposition.

USP’s primary objective is a collective pursuit of comprehensive improvement in social, financial, economic and infrastructural restructuring for all residents. This sequence first prioritises the well-being of those born and raised in St. Maarten, followed by individuals who migrated and contributed to the region’s development.

Additionally, the party aims to accommodate those who choose St. Maarten as their home. The manifesto is rooted in crucial and core topics that demand immediate attention to witness a tangible difference in the lifestyle of the country’s people.

The key focus areas include the revitalisation of revenue-generating sectors, economic diversification, reinstatement of a healthy social-economic employment quota across different age groups and ensuring safer living conditions for children, youth, the elderly and the entire workforce.

The restructuring of infrastructure, coupled with comprehensive efforts to enhance overall wealth and employment opportunities, will be strategically addressed based on the level of execution and effectiveness. USP is dedicated to navigating these critical aspects to bring about positive and lasting changes in the lives of the people in this country.

Financial audits

USP advocates evidence-based financial management for St. Maarten's prosperity. The party highlights the urgency of a comprehensive financial audit to address the mismanagement of St. Maarten’s resources, which has led to a troubling state of poverty, social crises and stagnant growth. Despite possessing a robust billion-dollar economy, the misallocation of funds has hindered the country’s progress since before 10-10-10, USP concluded.

In its stance, USP emphasises the need for evidence-based decision-making, advocating for a thorough audit to pinpoint the root causes of financial leakage. This approach aims to understand fund outflows and implement effective remedies. The party calls for a shift from assumptions to factual results and figures to inform decision-making.

Once the actual financial status is determined, USP proposes plan adjustments to address gaps in coverage. Its country plan outlines new revenue-generating streams to diversify the economy beyond its current dependence on tourism. The party envisions St. Maarten tapping into untapped areas such as producing self-made cosmetics and edible products from locally grown produce as significant opportunities for economic growth.

Constitutional amendments, new legislation

Following the determination of St. Maarten’s financial status, the execution of low-hanging fruits becomes imperative through the reinforcement of existing laws or the introduction of amendments and new legislation. The primary focus is on enhancing citizens’ overall living conditions, with a keen emphasis on price control, fostering a healthy and safe environment, and promoting job creation and stability.

In the first two years of its tenure, USP is set to implement immediate, tangible improvements, focusing on infrastructure and environmental enhancements. These low-hanging fruits aim to

address pressing issues and lay the foundation for a more sustainable and tourist-friendly St. Maarten.

Infrastructure and environment

The party's multifaceted environmental agenda encompasses critical aspects such as beach ownership, waste management, accessibility and overall cleanliness. Key initiatives include a thorough review of beach ownership legislation, ensuring the collective ownership of beaches, shorelines, parking spaces, and access points by country St. Maarten.

USP is steadfast in its commitment to pushing for the long-overdue finalisation of the Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI ordinance. This comprehensive regulation covers essential elements like garbage collection, sewage management, building regulations and zoning. Its completion is vital to prevent the deterioration of crucial natural features such as beaches, lagoons, ponds and green areas.

A visionary step is the proposal for the step-by-step revitalisation of Great Salt Pond, presenting a dual opportunity for the beautification of the town area and the creation of job opportunities. USP envisions a more inclusive landscape with accessible sidewalks designed for wheelchair users and individuals with disabilities, along with a levelled parking lot to improve safety and convenience.

The party emphasises a comprehensive preservation effort through a district-wide walk-through to update the monument list. This includes adding landmarks and old trees not currently listed. The objective is to safeguard cultural heritage for future generations and to elevate tourist attractions.

Economic diversification

St. Maarten’s potential as a tourist destination remains largely untapped, according to USP. While tourism is a significant revenue generator, the party contends that more can be explored to bolster the country’s economic landscape.

USP is actively promoting the establishment of small personalised hotels, viewing them as direct income generators that can foster economic participation at the grass-roots level. Additionally, the party sees vast opportunities in untapped areas, specifically the production of self-made cosmetics and edible products using locally grown produce.

“St. Maarten has the potential to offer much more than what has been explored so far,” says USP. By venturing into these untapped sectors, the party envisions enhanced economic prospects for the local population. Employment security and job creation are expected to follow suit, with a commitment to prioritising born St. Maarteners and legal residents in job placement. To safeguard jobs and preserve cultural identity, USP plans to implement legal frameworks inspired by successful models from neighbouring islands.

Price control, data collection

USP is proposing a series of financial measures aimed at immediate impact on the economic sector, with a focus on organised price control. The party seeks to re-establish a working relationship with Curaçao, utilising inspectors flying in every six months for rigorous controls on prices of goods and products at various locations. The strategy is designed to ensure transparency and impartiality, addressing concerns about potential irregularities on the island.

The proposed approach involves a comprehensive financial status verification process, including audits and investigations of both government and non-governmental organisations. Government institutions will undergo financial audits to enhance transparency, and the Tax Office will play a key role in collecting data to determine the country’s revenue and expenses.

Additionally, USP aims to categorise revenue generators through legal employment and identify non-collectable sources, such as illegal employment and non-tax contributions. This comprehensive analysis will help determine financial surplus or leakage, contributing to a more stable economic environment. The party emphasises the importance of these measures to ensure financial accountability and stability for the benefit of St. Maarten.

Welfare of pensioners, elderly

USP seeks to address the welfare of pensioners and the elderly through proposed legislation. The party proposes a law that focuses on pensioners’ payouts or non-taxable income, with an effective date set for July 31, 2024. This legislative initiative will follow discussions on the parliamentary floor on sexual abuse of children and will be officially registered on the National Gazette for formal enactment.

Emphasising a commitment to legislative efficiency, USP aims to pass one law every quarter. The laws are prepared and readily available for swift implementation, with the entire process expected to take three months. The specific law addressing pensioners’ payouts will be handed over after dealing with the initial three laws.

In addition, the party is proactively engaging with the business sector, particularly supermarkets, to benefit the elderly. A proposal is underway to create a dedicated section in supermarkets where seniors can purchase specific products at reduced prices. To facilitate these purchases, government would issue a special elderly discount card.

Child protection, community development

USP is spearheading crucial legislative initiatives aimed at safeguarding children and fostering community development. These proposals, submitted for parliamentary consideration, showcase the party’s commitment to creating a secure environment for the youth and enhancing community infrastructure.

Firstly, USP is a proponent of comprehensive legislation addressing sexual abuse of children. The proposed laws, submitted in March 2022, seek to improve the safety of all children in St. Maarten. Central to this legislation is the establishment of a registry of predators. By providing a legal framework, the proposed laws aim to empower law enforcement and the court system in effectively addressing and preventing sexual abuse of children.

In addition to child-protection measures, USP is advocating for the creation of centralised community centres in each district. The proposed community centres include a library to support intellectual development among the youth and a cinema section focused on educational, historical, spiritual and overall knowledge enrichment for individuals of all ages. Community centres will be equipped with a certified doctor’s office operating 24/7, along with a linked pharmacy, to enhance healthcare accessibility and contribute to residents’ overall well-being.

Agriculture as a strategic income source

USP promotes the elevation of agriculture as a secondary organised source of income. Crafted in alignment with a comprehensive master plan authored by Pamela Gordon Carty, this visionary strategy seeks to bring about substantial changes. The key objectives are reduction of import dependency, job creation, health improvement and instilling pride in local ownership and land cultivation, fostering a cultural shift towards sustainable practices.

Addressing the unique topography of St. Maarten, USP proposes reassessment and optimisation of the hillside policy. This initiative aims to integrate agriculture projects into hilly terrain, providing sustainable solutions for farmers and contributing to the broader economic and agricultural development of the country.

USP is advocating for the exploration of economic opportunities in seafood farming, encompassing the cultivation of lobsters, fish, shrimps and conchs. This sector is identified as a potential catalyst for job creation and additional revenue streams, playing a pivotal role in economic diversification.

Protection of job functions

USP’s strategic approach involves ensuring the protection of specific job functions across various levels of job creation. By establishing a safety net, the party aims to minimise the impact of future unemployment increases. This initiative seeks to prevent individuals from descending into despair due to job loss, considering factors such as educational limitations or age restrictions.

USP has submitted a law effective since July 2022, emphasising that every business in St. Maarten must comply with the requirement to provide employment opportunities for graduates. The law specifies that graduates should secure employment at existing companies according to the descriptions outlined in the country plan.

Highlighting the importance of fair compensation, USP advocates for the re-evaluation of minimum wages in each economic sector. The proposed re-evaluation takes into account the sector’s contribution ratio to the overall revenue of the country. Specific attention will be given to roles such as cleaners and garbage collectors, acknowledging their critical role in maintaining better living conditions.

Enhancing the rule of law

In a strategic move to fortify the rule of law (rechtstaat) and enhance the justice system in St. Maarten, USP has a series of proposals set to shape the legal landscape over the next five years.

USP is committed to a substantial revision of the draft penal code. The party proposes amendments that prioritise fairness, equality and the safeguarding of citizens’ privacy. The proposed changes aim to establish a legal framework that ensures impartiality, preventing preferential treatment of any single entity, particularly the Prosecutor’s Office.

USP proposes translating all laws into English within 5-6 years. This initiative focuses on enhancing accessibility and understanding of legal processes for the broader population. To support language standardisation in the legal system, USP suggests allocating transition funds. This financial commitment underscores the importance of linguistic clarity in legal proceedings.

The party advocates giving preference to local lawyers in new legal entities. This move is designed to emphasise local empowerment in the legal community. The party also calls for appointment of a Prosecutor General for St. Maarten, ensuring policies align with local needs.

USP calls for a revision of the Kingdom Charter and the constitution of St. Maarten to address contemporary needs and challenges. Efforts will be made to reinstate laws removed during the 10-10-10 transition, particularly those serving as protective mechanisms for the people of St. Maarten.

Effective governance framework

USP’s proposed adaptation of electoral laws reflects a commitment to enhancing the democratic process, ensuring accountability and addressing key issues related to political transitions, early elections, ministerial appointments and media responsibility. These efforts aim to strengthen the foundation of the electoral system and contribute to a more transparent and effective governance framework.

Key reforms include establishing numeration entitlements for politicians, defining rights and procedures for early elections, and enhancing the screening of candidate ministers. Notably, the

review addresses the retention of party-acquired parliamentary seats, safeguarding against individuals walking away with seats if declaring independence.

USP advocates a comprehensive code of conduct and gift policy for parliamentarians. This strategic initiative aims to proactively address potential conflicts of interest and uphold integrity of Members of Parliament (MPs).

The code of conduct will meticulously outline key aspects, including the permissible maximum monetary value of gifts accepted by MPs, guidelines for outside employment or duties, and other functions that MPs may engage in. This measure is crucial to prevent any compromise of parliamentary duties for personal gain and to establish clear ethical standards for elected representatives. USP’s commitment to transparency and accountability is reflected in this effort to ensure responsible and ethical conduct among parliamentarians.

Decolonisation process

In the realm of decolonisation, USP stands in solidarity with the Constitution and Decolonisation Committee’s review of Article 73 of UN resolution 945. The party affirms support for Pro Soualiga Foundation’s position, advocating for comprehensive preparations at the country level before moving towards independence. USP emphasises the importance of negotiating on “equal partner” terms, protecting freedom of expression and upholding basic religious norms.

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