PHILIPSBURG--The drafting and updating of new economic legislation to promote economic growth in St. Maarten and the increasing of efforts by Government to ensure fiscal and business compliance are among the many proposed measures included in the draft National Economic Framework document.
The 53-page document was presented to private and public sector officials at the National Economic Summit held at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel on Friday. The document was discussed and stakeholders present gave their input.
According to the working-document, a country's legal system and its approach to economic growth are most important factors that determine a country's economic success or failure.
"A legal system that fosters economic innovation and growth while simultaneously protecting the rights of the citizens is essential to any form of economic growth. A quick scan of St. Maarten's current economic legislations shows room for improvement. St. Maarten's present legal system does not align with the country's current economic environment," the draft reads.
"Many laws are antiquated, decades old, leaving legislative and policy gaps. To remedy this, the legal system in relation to the national economy must be fully analysed. Mismatches in legislation and economic vision must be identified and remedied with the writing and implementing of the relevant legislation."
Other proposed policy statements included in the draft document were that Government will dedicate resources towards tourism diversification and investment promotion, and will promote inter-ministerial cooperation to ensure an holistic development of the country's economy.
In remarks at the opening ceremony of the forum, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Claret Connor told attendees the summit was to start the process of crafting St. Maarten's national economic vision. He said the intention was for stakeholders to share their thoughts, views and experiences to help the country design its national future.
The country's National Development Plan, he noted, is built upon four pillars of sustainable development: culture, environment and infrastructure, social and human development, and economy. "While no pillar is more vital than another, the economy as a pillar is essential to realising the greater mission of the National Development Plan and St. Maarten's progression as a country," he said.
The Department of Economy, Transportation and Telecommunication, in consultation with the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, has been leading the discussion on economic planning.
"Economic planning is not a quickly executed task. The process of shaping a national economic vision is not an easy one. It requires foresight, inclusivity and a keen understanding of the needs of all partners. Rather than shy away from this task, EVT [Department of Economy, Transportation and Telecommunication – Ed.] has taken the first steps by drafting a National Economic Framework," Connor explained.
The minister said the framework had been a year in the making. "In that year, EVT assessed the realities of our economy, its constraints and its gains. The Department has asked questions, consulted with stakeholders and compiled the beginnings of the working document you have today."
Friday's session was to "widen the discussion" and build upon the draft with the intention of creating an holistic vision that incorporates all stakeholders' desires.
The areas of economic constraints, competition and foreign trade, and investment promotion, amongst other issues, were discussed at the Summit.
Connor said St. Maarten's comparative advantages were central to developing its future. "We must identify these advantages and find ways to build upon them while adding to our existing products. Niche tourism, marine activities, agriculture, financial services and logistics are all areas identified in the National Economic Framework as viable options for St. Maarten," he noted.
TEATT Secretary-General Miguel de Weever said he was happy to see parties gather to discuss and consult towards the development of the national economic vision for the country. He said the success and realisation of policies required the approval of decision-makers and the approval of decision-makers required and was best achieved when stakeholders supported the policy.
"The support of the vision enables the Government and the organisation to focus and prioritise towards the realisation of the vision. It is for this reason we are here to obtain feedback and input from you, the stakeholders, towards the development of the Economic Vision, and obtain support and preferably consensus to increase the probability of support in the decision-making process," De Weever said.
"Let us not underestimate the importance and relevance of having one shared comprehensive vision. It is catalyst to investments and investors, as it will be clearly the vision and direction of the government. This will be the basis on which incentives can be designed, jobs can be created and Government can increase their revenue."
He urged attendees to participate in the consultation process at the Summit as an opportunity to influence, shape and mould the economic vision of the country. "It is a time for us to look at what we have done, what needs improvement and how to go about things in the future (same or different) as it relates to our policy perspective going forward."
He urged participants not to dwell on problems identified during the discourse, but rather to look for and identify solutions. "For it is the solutions and our willingness that are going to determine the success of our future," De Weever said.