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The Autonomy of The Collectivity of Saint-Martin.

It is somewhat comforting to read in a press release from the Senator of Saint-Martin that “The financial and fiscal autonomy of Saint-Martin is a myth”, following the decision of the Constitutional Council of July 1, 2016. It would have taken about 13 years - from 2003 to 2016 – to understand that the Top Elected officials then – Mayor, Regional Councilor, General Councilors 1 and 2 – were taken for a ride by their socio-professional “advisers,” and that in fact, the autonomy wished for by the Top Elected officials was but an illusion. Our Senator is credited in this press release with having stated with courage and fairness the opposite of what the other elected representatives still repeat today with certainty and conviction.
At least, the Senator is admitting what the true reality is. Can we, therefore, hope that the Collectivity will take a more honorable stand in order to put back this part of the island on track and stop its endemic decline? Will the Senator’s “astonishment” and “disappointment“, the President’s “real disappointment” and “feeling of shock” serve as a wake-up call? The ousted President of the Collectivity in a letter to all the elected officials of Saint-Martin called for their collective resignations dubbing the decision of the Constitutional Council as “a violation of our rights “and a blatant “injustice”. He may be right. But his demand seems to be mere wishful thinking, because our Deputy (MP) believes in “the rule of law”. Beyond the harsh criticism directed towards the former president and refusing, as he stated, to indulge in “futile emotion”, “disappointment and helplessness”, he preferred to engage in “a true concerted strategy of all the forces of Saint-Martin, in order to make both Saint-Martin and the general interest winners”. Yet, Saint-Martin has been a loser for the last thirty years and decision-makers have turned their backs on the general interest. Should we consider this approach as naïvely optimistic?
Elected officials, this situation has been going on for 13 years and more. What are you waiting to act efficiently, as expected? Ask the people what they think? After all, you are in this position thanks to them, and on their behalf, in order to defend their “own interests”. Is still time for the Deputy, the Senator and the President to discuss together with a Minister and Advisers of an “omnipotent State” - according to the Senator - only dedicated to take care of its own interests, whereas the Constitutional Council has already pronounced its verdict. Let us stop dreaming!
One month has elapsed since. What do you intend to do collectively? The same project of filling the sea of the Marigot Bay, a project that is in the pipeline since 1997! The rehabilitation of our capital after its loss of vitality has been programmed with your help! Indirect taxes which every taxpayer had to pay in order to replenish the coffers of the collectivity! It is too simple to tax the same taxpayers – who have always paid - the sum of 100 euros for administrative fees on the i income tax since 2015. Income is not extensible in a dying economy. Do you think that with this state of affairs the State and your ”advisers” will stop cheating you? On the contrary, they do rejoice at you eagerness to protect their interests.
Nevertheless, the people is expecting better from you. The people believe that your indignation should not be abandoned. How much longer will you allow yourselves to be controlled remotely by the same “advisers” who have dragged you to the path of disillusion?
Such disillusion was actually predictable since 2003. The Steering Committee was announcing in its press release: ”74, it is power together with means”. The Paris government was sharing competences, yes, but not power. In the presence of the Top Elected officials on the occasion of their visit to the Overseas Minister on the question of autonomy in February-March 2005 (See my book, The Status Scandal ... L’Harmattan, 2006), the Minister precisely stated: ‘Autonomy was not discussed with the voters at the consultation of December 7, 2003 and it would be incompatible with Europe. The competences of the future collectivity falling under the law are too less to justify autonomy, unlike Saint-Barths...It would be a manifest error of assessment, for which we will be blamed, to give autonomy to a collectivity under the supervision of the Regional Chamber of Audits”.
Was the Minister referring to a different autonomy?

Daniella JEFFRY
04.08.2016

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