SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday released his New Year’s Message on January 1, 2021. His national address reads as follows:
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Wherever you are, Marie-Louise and I bring you warm greetings from our capital city Philipsburg on this New Year’s Day.
As the New Year 2021 begins, let us thank God for bringing us this far. Let us thank him for watching over our country and ask him for his continued guidance going forward.
We are living through an extra-ordinary global health and economic crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has presented us, with a serious and urgent challenge; the challenge to overcome and rebuild A Stronger Sint Maarten. Our challenge is as such a clarion call to secure our future wellbeing.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
Looking back, 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Sint Maarten’s journey as a country within the Kingdom of Netherlands. A Sint Maarten journey rooted in our pursuit to improve our wellbeing as a people. In my speech to commemorate the anniversary I stated that the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, coupled with the impact of hurricane Irma in 2017, have wiped out years of socio-economic gains in terms of economic growth and employment.
2020 is as a result best characterized as a year of unprecedented disruption to our lives:
- The virus has affected the health of over 1400 persons and taken too many lives;
- It has placed a heavy strain on our health care workers and disrupted access to primary care;
- It has disrupted the education of our children;
- The required guidelines, such as social distancing, to contain its spread are affecting our social interactions, our traditions, and our way of life;
- It has resulted in a major fallout in international travel causing our tourism based economy to shrink by almost 25% and businesses to cut back or close;
- It has as a result caused many among us to take pay cuts, to lose jobs and to seek assistance from government or food banks;
- It has caused the existing budget deficits to increase further, resulting in government having to cut expenses and borrow money from the Netherlands;
- And the response to these challenges has resulted in tensions between social partners and caused further strain in our relations with the Netherlands.
More than ever, we were reminded of how much we depend on each other. On how much our actions influence one another. The coronavirus is therefore clarion call for the world as a whole and for us a people.
As we begin this new year, we are all aware that the disruption to our lives is not over. In addition to social distancing, many among us are struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile the liquidity of many businesses as well as government have dwindled and dried up. We as such face an uphill climb in the year ahead. Difficult as that climb may be, I am convinced that we will make it to the top.
As we continue to respond to our clarion call, I encourage you to reflect on one of my favorite gospel songs: “we shall overcome”. I encourage you to do so because I am confident that we, like generation of Sint Maarteners before us, will find inspiration in the driving force and promise of the words: “we shall overcome”.
During the past year we have seen that driving force at work through our men and women on the frontline. Courageous men and women who continue to risk their own lives to protect our life and livelihood. Courageous health care professionals, law enforcement officers, firefighters, other frontline employees, and volunteers, who remind us every day that the protection of our wellbeing and our country is our common purpose. Throughout the year I was inspired by their sense of responsibility and duty. I therefore thank each of you for your invaluable service to the people of Sint Maarten and for answering our clarion call.
Going about our daily lives, I see most of you, as good citizens, looking out for each other, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks. I therefore salute you for doing your share in responding to our clarion call.
Reflecting on the past year I trust that we will learn from our good and not so good experiences; and that we will continue to build and improve on the progress we have made thus far. As we continue our journey this year, let us therefore as one people rally to answer our clarion call:
- Let us build on the knowledge that we are better prepared to contain the spread of the coronavirus;
- Let us draw from the positive results of the cooperation between health care professionals and organizations at home and within the Kingdom;
- Let us build on the lessons learned in the process of securing financing to provide liquidity to households, businesses, and government services.
At this critical moment in our journey I encourage you, as individuals, corporations, civil society, and government, to join forces to recalibrate our social economic development. This with an emphasis on public and private sector initiatives:
- To strengthen the financial resilience of our country;
- To upgrade existing safety net for the vulnerable among us;
- To expand investments in public health and health care;
- To allocate resources to develop and retain our scarce human capital;
- To foster investments in the upgrading of our tourism infrastructure and in new types of jobs and businesses such as in the digital economy; and
- To secure investments to upgrade our critical infrastructure such as telecommunications, water and electricity, the airport, and the harbor to support and facilitate future growth.
A socio-economic recalibration aimed at rebuilding a sustainable economic base, securing our place in the rapidly evolving digital economy, and restoring Sint Maarten’s position as a premier tourist destination and regional commercial center.
To achieve this we, all of us, must come together and work together today, tomorrow and each day thereafter. We can do so with the knowledge and resolve that we have climbed difficult hills before, and we overcame together. I therefore believe that “we shall overcome” this challenge stronger together again. This by walking hand in hand at home and by constructive cooperation with Kingdom and international partners. And for that I am, as always, counting on my trust in the boundless strength and resilience of “We the People of Sint Maarten”.
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
In closing, as the New Year 2021 begins, let us once again thank God for bringing us this far and ask him for his continued guidance. Thus, as we look back on a year of unprecedented disruption, and forward with hope to the next and beyond, let us individually and collectively take up our responsibility to answer our clarion call to overcome and rebuild a stronger Sint Maarten, for ourselves and future generations. As your Governor I hereby pledge to continue to work with government and other stakeholders towards the answering of our clarion call for the rebuilding of our beloved country, St. Maarten.
With that pledge, I hereby on behalf of Marie-Louise and myself, wish you a year of health, happiness, and growth.
Thank you, God bless you, and May God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.
The Governor of Sint Maarten
drs. Eugene B. Holiday