Lately, the terms economic diversification and sustainable development seem to have become catchphrases amongst current and aspiring decision makers. These terms are often used, but their implementation is sadly seldom truly pursued.
In order to really develop sustainably and successfully diversify St. Maarten's economy we need to accept a few facts; St. Maarten is only sixteen square miles, there is a limit to the extent of physical growth, a carrying capacity (in the sense of construction); Not every square meter of concrete poured or vegetation cleared is a sign of progress; A limit to physical growth, due to our relatively small landmass, does not at all mean a limit to economic growth nor does it restrict us to a one pillar economy. Having said that, St. Maarten's economy will to a large extent, continue to be dependent on tourism, all the more reason to care for our natural resources wisely.
With foresight, innovation and proper management of our (natural and manmade) resources St. Maarten can diversify its economy in a wide range of sustainable ways.
Allow me to offer a brief example of economic diversification which will create long-term jobs and at the same time address environmental issues. St. Maarten's garbage management challenges, for instance, offer a wealth of possibilities. Dozens of trucks dump what our society has cast away as garbage in the middle of the Great Salt Pond every day. The definition of garbage is in essence; a product, an object which no longer functions properly or has been drained of its content and has therefore lost its usefulness and its (economic) value. The truth is that, thanks to modern day technology, what is regularly seen as "garbage" is for the most part no longer useless and therefore not garbage, but rather a resource, a product in itself, which can be reused for other purposes or to produce new products.
Case in point, tens of thousands of glass bottles are imported to Sint Maarten on a monthly basis, many of these could be locally collected, prepared for reuse, shipped back to the bottling company they originated from, crushed for reuse in construction or to make other glass products.
Another example is Electronic waste, "E-waste" which basically refers to used mobile phones, tablets, laptops, computers, televisions, fridges, and all other electronic material which is deemed to be "garbage" and thus thrown away. As it now stands most of the E-waste generated on St. Maarten ends up on the landfill. This type of garbage, however, often contains copper, lead, precious metals such as silver, gold and other valuable material which can be almost continuously reused if handled correctly. It is mind-boggling that the life cycle of so many products which are constantly reused in other countries simply stops on St. Maarten. Reprocessing and reuse of these discarded resources would obviously require certain facilities to be put in place thus allowing for the opening of associated businesses and as such would generate a significant number of permanent jobs. Interestingly enough international studies have concluded that reuse and recycling programs create an average of ten (10) times more jobs per ton of "waste" than land-filling or incineration does.
I believe that the primary responsibility for stimulating sustainable action, in this case the management of the waste-stream, lies with government. Government must implement and enforce legislation setting criteria for the import, sale, re-collection and export of products which if left unmanaged could become a burden to St. Maarten's waste management infrastructure after usage. Aside from legal requirements, incentives must be put in place to encourage businesses to implement sustainable management practices, reuse material and care for the environment.
As a longtime sustainable development advocate, above mentioned initiatives and associated legislation are amongst the causes I will continue to champion if elected to Parliament on August 29th, 2014.
Please consider visiting and liking my page at www.facebook.com/thompsonsxm where I will be regularly posting my thoughts on where St. Maarten should be headed.
Moving forward positively,
Rueben J. Thompson
Candidate number four (4)
United Sint Maarten Party