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Stakeholders reconvene on EVT Economic Framework

Source: The Daily Herald 13 Jun 2015 06:23 AM

PHILIPSBURG--Stakeholders reconvened on Friday morning for a follow-up session on the draft National Economic Framework that was presented three weeks ago by the Department of Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication EVT.

The EVT team has been collecting and compiling feedback in the meantime and the goal of this second session was to share overall feedback and discuss goals, methods and avenues.

Along with taking additional feedback, one of the results of the meeting was the establishment of expert "sub-workgroups" for a number of sectors, with the aim of the groups being able to execute visions as outlined in an "holistic vision document" that would be preceded by sector-specific discussions and research between private and public bodies: telecommunications, tourism, marine, creative, agriculture, finance and real estate.

Through demand on the part of the audience, environment was also added to the list.

Robbie Ferron, one of the more vocal attendees, told Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Claret Connor and the EVT team that he expected the "big hitters" in government as well as the private sector to join these groups.

"This is the chance to prove yourselves," he asserted, this sentiment in line with that of many stakeholders, of the private sector in particular, that the first session felt like a repeat of past, shelved initiatives.

The groups will be key to progress, according to TEATT Secretary-General Miguel De Weever, and will counteract the chance of the framework remaining unfulfilled as feared. He also cited continuous public-private communication and synchronisation of government ministries as ways of facilitating progress.

In response to this proposed way forward as explained by De Weever, stakeholders pointed out that some visions were obvious and did not need further in-depth research before execution. Examples given were improving road and telecommunications infrastructure, which "should have happened yesterday."

The group agreed that short-term goals should be dealt with simultaneously while research is being done on viable long-term development options.

Applause broke out for a comment by St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) President Lorraine Talmi that, first and foremost, "obstacles to low-hanging fruit" needed to be removed. For example, the finance sector is easily held back by subpar Internet availability, and although destination weddings are encouraged, it is difficult for tourists to get married through the Census Office.

Ferron said he believed the document did not reflect the present or soon-to-be difficult economic situation and "makes it seem as if investment is there for the grabbing," while it is not that easy to establish or manage.

The Department plans to produce an Economic Vision document in September, its Selection of a Thematic Area in October, and Findings and a Plan of Action in December or January.

Another document was supposed to be handed out at the follow-up session, but the EVT team said they had received some feedback only up to a few days prior and still were awaiting more. The team believed the later feedback would not be reflected in the revised document. They said they had received many follow-up calls, e-mails and meetings, and would continue to collect feedback for the time-being.

The list of persons willing to join the sub-workgroups is also open for expansion and EVT said stakeholders could contact the team to sign up or nominate another person.

The compiled feedback shared during the meeting included suggestions of more private-public cooperation, better education and training for the labour force and a database of unemployed, prioritising legislation for immediate economic impact, consulting with the private sector in regard to legislation, reducing "red tape," transitioning to "e-government," improving transparency and access to statistical information, implementing other forms of incentives besides tax holidays, covering a wide range of businesses in fiscal reform, supporting the marine sector and overhauling tourism, making subsidies available for agriculture, improving prices and services in communications, and improving infrastructure.

The meeting was held at Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort.

Claret Connor mentioned 1 time
Miguel De Weever mentioned 1 time Corner Stone Solutions NV