The first full calendar year as a country is behind us.
At this time it is usually expected that we cast a fleeting look on what is behind us as we contemplate on what is before us. In looking behind, we must guard against dwelling too long on what should've been, as all our focus is needed to look and plan ahead. To be truthful, in St. Maarten's case, the look back does not reveal any big bangs or "shock and awe" type of events.
While some might regret this, I see it differently. Shock and awe could have also been created by events that could have had a dramatic and negative impact on our country. This we have not had and I am grateful for that.
Yes, we have had our share of struggles and squabbles, some near calls, but nothing close to the upheavals that rocked other countries, near and far.
To suggest that we even approached such chaos , would be ungrateful and bordering on selfish wishing for self-fulfilling prophesies.
Still looking back, what is undeniable, are the small and stable steps we have made during this first full year as country.
This is evident as we look back on the government organization in general and the new ministries and departments in particular.
I experienced our constitution coming to life, slowly but surely. This document represents the people and their government. It establishes freedoms and limits, bedrocks against any undemocratic tendencies.
Government workers throughout the organization have stepped up to the plate and many have gone beyond the call of duty to ensure the successful start as country. But we are not there yet.
Government's decision-making has become much more transparent, with the publication requirement for all ordinances, national decrees and ministerial decrees.
Dialogue has taken on new meaning, as the Parliament of our country set out to hear and dialogue with organizations, big and small, with respect for the opinion of others.
In the area of foreign affairs, we have planted seeds, the fruits of which we will reap in the coming year and beyond. In the area of health care, the institution created to succeed the former SVB e.g., has hit the ground running. Gone are the long lines and the even longer waiting time for services.
With the termination of Dutch development aid on the horizon, St. Maarten has established its own NGO financing platform, a vehicle to properly guide social funding to the most needy in our community.
The Community Helpdesk Initiative has taken shape and the first one in St. Peters is up and running.
The last months of 2011 have been in the light of many infrastructural projects. This is to continue in 2012, where we will also see new projects coming on stream, such as the hospital expansion, school and road constructions.
Tourism is slowly on the rebound and the additional airlift into St. Maarten is a sign of such.
It was pleasing to witness a stronger police presence on our island during the holiday season, a sign that the much needed expansion of our police force is underway. Nevertheless, fighting crime committed against residents and visitors remains a top priority of government in this new year. I commend the citizens who have assisted the police force with information that was helpful in solving acts of crime. I trust that the police force in handling this information will protect those citizens to ensure an even further strengthening of the trust between the police and the citizenry.
Investments in St. Maarten, from government's perspective, must be with the ultimate objective to contribute to the further economic growth of the nation and thus the overall wellbeing of our people.
At the same time, we take note of the mixed predictions regarding the global outlook for 2012. There is some optimism, at least as far as the travel and tourism industries are concerned. We know "a thing or two" about this industry and should pursue growth opportunities and growing markets relentlessly.
Predictions for the US economic growth, still our main source market, put this growth anywhere between 2.0 and 3%, notwithstanding its internal budget woes and it is generally expected that the US economy will hold its ground against a predicted continued, possible escalated European recession in 2012.
Global peace remains fragile, with turmoil in many parts of the world that should be viewed with great concern by all nations of the world.
It is these outlooks that St. Maarten faces and must contend with as we welcome a new year. A year of many uncertainties, yes, but also opportunities if we focus on what is important for St. Maarten and the roads that will take us there. For every individual, personal or professional, there is with every beginning, whether a new year, a new month, or even a new day, the opportunity to start anew, with renewed vigor and determination, not dwelling for too long on what you should have done, but rather on what you will do.
So it is for our entire nation:
SLOWLY BUT STEADILY, STAYING THE COURSE.
Happy New year!