URSM unveils 10-year vision for Country St. Maarten’s autonomy

URSM unveils 10-year vision for  Country St. Maarten’s autonomy

Candidates and supporters of Unified Resilient St Maarten Movement

PHILIPSBURG--Unified Resilient St. Maarten Movement (URSM) has laid out an ambitious roadmap for the next decade, presenting a comprehensive manifesto that addresses key sectors and outlines transformative projects for the future of Country St. Maarten.

At the heart of URSM’s vision lies a commitment to building a strong, sustainable and diverse economy. The party emphasises the need to manage national debt, reduce balance of payment deficits, and maintain a manageable debt-to-GDP [gross domestic product] ratio. According to URSM, the economic future of St. Maarten should be built on natural assets, joint national efforts, and a vision for the country's growth.

Economic milestones

The party's “Ten Years Vision Plans” include crucial economic milestones such as the establishment of US pre-clearance at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). URSM believes this move will not only increase revenue but also solidify St. Maarten’s position as a regional hub and bring stability to the Caribbean’s political dynamics.

The manifesto also calls for the aggressive recruitment of professionals to expand the limited pool of talent in St. Maarten. URSM proposes collaboration with University of Curaçao to offer a fast-track law course for civil servants with master’s degrees.

URSM’s economic vision encompasses transforming the minimum wage into a living wage, assessing social welfare benefits, and addressing youth unemployment. URSM will seek to diversify the economy by establishing a local development aid bank to assist providing loans to encourage the establishment of more small businesses on St. Maarten, thus helping in boosting the economy.

International collaboration

URSM places a strong emphasis on collaboration, both within the Kingdom and internationally. The party advocates for a shared vision with French St. Martin on various levels, including education, justice, economics, social issues, and healthcare. Strengthening relationships in the Kingdom and promoting corporate governance are key components of URSM’s strategy.

Continuous promotion of transparency, integrity and good governance is a cornerstone of URSM’s vision. The party calls for a supervisory role for the St. Maarten Government Accountants Bureau (SOAB) in government-owned companies (GOCs) to ensure transparency, improved services and a higher level of corporate social responsibility.

Community engagement

In a bid to keep the community informed and engaged, URSM emphasises the centralisation of information distribution, improvement of communication speed and a revamp of the communication network. The party believes that an informed public is crucial for the success of its vision.

From economic stability to regional collaboration and governance transparency, URSM presents a wide array of initiatives crucial for St. Maarten’s progress. These initiatives are

grouped by ministry.

Ministry of General Affairs

URSM envisions the establishment of US pre-clearance at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). This strategic move aims to boost revenue, solidify St. Maarten’s position as a regional hub and contribute to stabilising political dynamics in the Caribbean.

URSM emphasises building a relationship with the Kingdom based on mutual respect, understanding, and adherence to the Charter of the Kingdom and the Constitution of St. Maarten. The ultimate goal of URSM is to work towards a Constituent State in the Kingdom based on political democratic equivalency and equality. This vision aims to eliminate any democratic deficit in the Kingdom, assuming responsibility and striving for full-fledged autonomy.

Strengthening relationships with neighbouring islands is emphasised, with URSM seeking associate membership in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and observer status with CARICOM. Improving and enhancing the working relationship with Dutch embassies is a priority to explore opportunities for international trade and economic activities.

Exploring diverse funding avenues, including the national budget, trust funds, private investments, additional Dutch aid, public-private partnerships, EU funding, and UNESCO, is part of URSM’s strategy for securing the necessary resources for St. Maarten’s development.

URSM proposes the introduction of a Resident ID card, consolidating ID, driver’s licence, tax payment status and health insurance information. The party plans to establish Public Service Center outlets in communities, providing convenient access to essential services.

Ministry of TEATT

The Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport, and Telecommunication (TEATT) is tasked with a comprehensive agenda aimed at fostering entrepreneurship, job creation, and infrastructural development.

URSM is committed to stimulating and endorsing initiatives that promote entrepreneurship and increase job opportunities on the island. By providing support and streamlining procedures, the party aims to create a conducive environment for business growth.

Finalising the reconstruction of PJIA is pivotal for ensuring a state-of-the-art airport infrastructure that meets international standards.

To attract new businesses and investors, URSM proposes the establishment of a one-stop-shop. This initiative aims to simplify bureaucratic processes and reduce red tape, facilitating a smoother entry and setup for potential investors and new businesses.

URSM envisions developing St Maarten as a key Internet Hub in the Caribbean. This involves significant investments in improving telecommunication infrastructure, Internet accessibility and connectivity to position the island as a digital hub in the region. The party also proposes positioning St. Maarten as an AMAZON Redistribution Hub.

URSM emphasises the development of quality tourism alongside quantity tourism. This strategic shift aims to attract discerning travellers and elevate the overall tourism experience in St. Maarten. Introduction of a tourist driver’s licence fee and re-evaluating the tourist entry tax are part of the strategy to optimise revenue streams while ensuring a fair and sustainable contribution from tourists.

Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice will embark on a transformative journey to enhance security, governance and the overall well-being of the people of St. Maarten. The ministry’s comprehensive agenda encompasses crucial initiatives aimed at modernising detention facilities, strengthening

immigration policies, and ensuring public safety.

URSM is committed to realising the construction of a state-of-the-art Detention and Rehabilitation Center. This facility will not only meet international standards but also focus on rehabilitation programmes to reintegrate individuals into society.

Addressing immigration policies and border control procedures is a top priority. The Ministry will tailor immigration policies to align with labour necessities, ensuring a balanced approach that supports the island's economic and social development.

To tackle environmental challenges such as car wrecks, littering, and issues related to the dump, URSM plans to introduce dedicated Environmental Officers. These officers will play a crucial role in enforcing environmental regulations and promoting sustainable practices.

A structural disciplinary approach will be implemented to address irresponsible driving behaviour. This initiative aims to guarantee safety on the roads and promote good conduct, particularly concerning motorbike riders.

The establishment of a modern Police Academy will contribute to the professional development of police personnel. St. Maarten Police Force KPSM will take office in a new modern police station, providing law enforcement with the necessary infrastructure and technology.

VSA Ministry

The Ministry of Public Health, Social Affairs, and Labor VSA is tasked with enhancing accessibility, quality and sustainability of medical care. URSM plans to transform healthcare on St. Maarten.

A cornerstone of the plan is the prioritisation of the completion of the new General Hospital project. Collaborating with the Ministry of General Affairs (GA), the VSA Ministry under a URSM government will work to shift construction and financing responsibilities to a shared model in the Kingdom, ensuring a state-of-the-art medical facility for St. Maarten.

In a bid to meet diverse healthcare needs, the proposal includes groundbreaking initiatives such as establishing a Medical Psychiatric Department, a legally-mandated Medical Health Professional Registry, and a cutting-edge Mental Health Care Facility. Specialised units like a Stroke Unit and a Diabetic Care Unit are envisioned, alongside facilities like a Physiotherapy Center and a Revalidation Center.

Recognising the importance of diverse medical expertise, URSM is committed to expanding the pool of necessary specialists. This includes recruitment in areas such as orthopaedic surgery; ear, nose and throat (ENT); ophthalmology; neurosurgery; oncology; pathology; psychiatry; nephrology; neurology; pulmonology; paediatrics; plastic surgery; and maxillo-facial surgery.

A key focus is on fostering a more patient-centric healthcare system, introducing initiatives such as free choice of family physicians, transparent patient registries, and responsible transparency in the Social and Health Insurance SZV patient registry.

The plan advocates for a Home Care Programme, offering support to elderly and physically- or mentally-challenged citizens. Integral to the plan is the establishment of a regulated pharmacy on-call service and a guaranteed accessible dentistry care post for the populace.

ECYS Ministry

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) will be charting a course for significant improvements in education, youth development and sports facilities on the island.

URSM is dedicated to the structural improvement of school facilities to create an optimal learning environment for students. The party also commits to improving sports establishments and developing high-quality sports programmes and activities for the youth. Upgrading sport facilities and including the SXM High School Athletic Association (SHAA) in the high school

education system will ensure comprehensive sports engagement.

A significant reform in the educational system is underway, with English as the primary language of instruction and Dutch and French as mandatory language subjects. This multilingual approach aims to prepare students for a globally competitive landscape.

Plans include the construction of a state-of-the-art library and cultural centre, providing students and the community with access to a wealth of knowledge, literature and cultural experiences.

URSM aims to establish a specialised hospitality school, “Hoge Hotelvak School”, to cater to the growing demand for skilled professionals in the hospitality industry.

The creation of a “Youth City” will serve as a dedicated space for after-school activities, homework guidance, sports, entertainment and art courses. This initiative is designed to engage and empower the youth of St. Maarten.

VROMI Ministry

The Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment, and Infrastructure VROMI is embarking on an ambitious journey to enhance the quality of life and environmental sustainability in St. Maarten.

URSM will spearhead an island-wide clean-up initiative, centralising the programme in an authority dedicated to beautification. The goal is to protect and upgrade the local environment through regular clean-up activities and beautification policies.

To prevent further destruction of hillsides for construction purposes, URSM advocates stringent building codes. This measure aims to balance development with environmental conservation.

URSM is committed to working on a permanent solution for waste management. This includes establishing a waste and sewage management division with a billing department, incorporating waste management fees in the monthly billing cycle. The plan also advocates waste-to-energy, waste-recycling, and waste-incineration initiatives.

Housing needs will be addressed by constructing more social housing and stimulating affordable housing projects. URSM will endorse programmes like Rent to Ownership for middle-class housing and social housing construction projects.

A comprehensive review and overhaul of the management structure and operations of utilities company GEBE will be instituted to improve efficiency and service delivery. This includes introducing prepaid electricity options and encouraging the use of renewable energy sources like solar energy farms.

Ministry of Finance

The Ministry of Finance will take decisive steps to usher in a new era of economic prosperity and social well-being for the people of St. Maarten.

To simplify the tax system and enhance economic efficiency, the ministry will undertake a significant reform. The revised tax structure will prioritise simplicity, compliance and solidarity, fostering a more conducive environment for investment and entrepreneurship.

In a bid to tackle poverty at its roots, the ministry will revisit and revise the basket-of-goods decree. This initiative seeks to ensure that essential goods and services are affordable and accessible to all, contributing to an improved quality of life.

URSM proposes the implementation of a rental-car green tax to promote environmental sustainability. Additionally, a waste management tax will be introduced to fund initiatives aimed at proper waste disposal and environmental conservation.

Recognising the vulnerability of the region to natural disasters, the plan includes the

introduction of obligatory National Disaster Insurance. This measure is designed to guarantee a continuity of income for residents during challenging times.

To manage urban congestion and generate revenue for infrastructure development, the ministry plans to introduce a paid parking system. This measure aligns with broader efforts to regulate traffic and improve city planning.

A landmark proposal involves the establishment of a National Bank or Development Bank (Ontwikkelings Bank). This institution will play a crucial role in financing developmental projects, supporting local businesses, and fostering economic growth.

In a move toward monetary stability, URSM is considering the dollarisation of the monetary unit. This shift aims to enhance financial predictability and promote confidence in the local economy.

Empowered future

As the URSM’s comprehensive agenda unfolds, it promises a transformative journey for St. Maarten, focusing on sustainable development, regional collaboration, and an empowered, transparent governance structure.

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