My Fellow Saint-Martiners,,
The year 2009, perhaps more than others, will bring new and bigger challenges. The world economic crisis affects nations upon which we depend and to which we are linked, the USA, Europe and France in particular. Because of these links and because of our openness to the rest of the world, we will experience, the effects of this crisis. By how much is yet to be determined. We are known, however, to be a resilient people, who have always been able to bounce back from set-backs. Now is the time to make this resolution: Let’s live according to our means and needs, and not according to our wants or the means of others.
A new year is also synonymous with new opportunities.
We must arm ourselves with the strength and intelligence, needed to face the challenges and profit from the opportunities.
We all do not agree on everything. I am convinced, however, that what unites us is surely more important than what divides us. We must try hard, every day, to let unity prevail over division. That’s my biggest wish for Saint-Martin, in 2009.
Before I get to the heart of my address today, I would like to recognize the institutions of the Collectivité, beginning with all the Territorial Councilors. Allow me to thank you for the quality of the work that we have been able to accomplish. History will remember the huge advances that we have made together. It is really a privilege for me to preside over the meetings of the Council.
I would like to present my regards to the members of the CESC. Despite some difficulties that we will correct, I remain persuaded that your contribution to the reflection of our future is indispensable.
I hold the Community Councils in high esteem. Their investment in finding solutions in order to make their sectors a better place to live has earned my respect.
I would also like to acknowledge the Junior Territorial Council. I have a lot of hope in your contribution. I reiterate the confidence that I have in you and the rest of our young people. Keep up the good work.
I would also like to thank my collaborators and the members of the personnel of the Collectivité, in all their areas of responsibility, who work to execute our territorial development policy. In 2009, they will be asked to work harder. They will be asked to be more dynamic and show greater imagination in order to accomplish our objectives. They know our requirements and I have confidence that they will use all of their capacity in the service of our enterprise: The Collectivité of Saint-Martin.
It is in this perspective that I address you this afternoon, my fellow Saint-Martiners, and that I extend my most sincere wishes for a fruitful and prosperous 2009.
In preface, I would like to emphasize a basic precept of our development strategy for Saint Martin. Our objective is the well being of our citizens and the development of our human resources!!! The actions that I will elaborate in a moment come out of that precept.
We are confronted today with recurring problems which we are forced to resolve. In response to the problem of insecurity, we will focus our efforts in the area of prevention, especially, in conjunction with the associations that work in the domains of sports, professional training and integration. We will support the sports associations such as the basketball, volleyball, athleticism, rugby, cycling, football and swimming, in particular, who already work with numerous young people.
A special congratulation to the young athletics, that accompanied Mr. Calvin Bryan to Guadeloupe over the weekend. They performed in an exceptional manner and have made Saint Martin proud.
I would also like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of the volunteers who give their time, their energy and sometimes even their money to help these youngsters, who really need them.
Prevention is also the programs of insertion and the work insertion programs. ACED and the other associations that do important work in this domain will not be forgotten. I have already requested of the various services that they look for the necessary co-financing, notably from the Fonds Social European and the FEDER to help these associations continue the important work that they do.
Prevention is also public lighting and the video surveillance system that has been programmed to be in place by the last trimester of 2009.
Teaching also participates in prevention and is a subject that takes up a lot of our attention. The major problem is that the island does not produce enough teachers. I believe that a window of opportunity has been opened to us in 2009. I am requesting that young people who have a licence and who are interested in teaching to contact Ms. Aline Hanson the principal of the Sandy Ground School. I have asked her to coordinate a program to help our young people prepare for the teaching exam. We will do everything in our power to help you past your exams. I will intervene at whatever level and institution that I have to so that those who have passed the exam will be posted in the schools here on Saint-Martin.
In response to the public sanitation problems, especially, as it concerns over flowing sewers on the public roads. The problem of the sewage network is a huge and expensive one to resolve, but it is true that it is not normal that sewage should be overflowing for days and that no one from public works intervenes to fix it. That is why as of today, Monday, the Collectivité put into place a 24h emergency number that residents can call.
The number 0690 401 401 can be called by anyone who sees a sewage that is running over, a dangerous pothole or other situation that requires the intervention of the public works department.
The second part of my speech is in response to current events such as the Octroi de Mer and our fiscal policy as well as the current crisis that touches the entire planet.
Concerning the Octroi de Mer, the State engaged itself to resolve the problem of the short fall that the Collectivité would have as a result of the cancellation of the Octroi de Mer through a mechanism that has been deemed unlawful by the Constitutional Council. The Executive Council in its meeting tomorrow will examine this question according to three propositions:
· The guarantee of a part of the taxes that are to be recovered for a total of 10 M€ (the amount of the Octroi de Mer) through a 12 part payment system
· A recourse before the Administrative Courts, which the Organic Law authorizes us to take, to request that it deliberate on the interpretation of the law as it pertains to the compensation of the Octroi de Mer by the State
· A demand that the Management contract relative to the means that are supposed to be put into place by the State for an effective recovery of taxes be respected. I would like to say this very clearly, however, that the competence of the elected officials who took part in the Commission d’évaluation des charges cannot be faulted for their efforts on the Collectivité behalf. This matter is a judicial battle for which the responses will be found in the courts instead of in an imagined competence which certain politicians have given themselves. I am not persuaded that they, by themselves, during the negotiating sessions would have made the French Government and its administration buckle.
On another point — Our government subscribes to a fiscal policy that is adapted to the context of Saint Martin. It is because of this that we have decided as a responsible government, to elaborate a fiscal system that encourages investment. That is why our strategy is to favor indirect rather than direct taxes. That is the crux of the fiscal program that we have begun and that will be continued in 2009.
It is in this spirit that the Wealth tax was annulled, because it would have directly penalized the native Saint-Martiners, because it was based on family possessions rather than on a family’s revenue.
This means that local families who possess land, but, who have little or no money would have been subject to this tax. So a family who took 20 years to build their home could have had to sell that same home to pay the tax!
As it concerns the current world crisis and more particularly, its effects on Saint Martin — The Collectivité intends to respond with pragmatism through a plan that is put together within the frame work of the National Stimulus Plan that was initiated by the President of the republic. This plan includes a special fund for the Overseas Territories and Departments which we will take advantage of to help our territory through this crisis.
And now, my fellow Saint Martiners, within the spirit of transparency, that governs our team, it is my duty to present to you the general outline of this Stimulus Plan, which we are negotiating with the State and which has been elaborated with the help of all of the Vice-Presidents. It is financed up to 40% by funds made available by the State. This will be complemented with funds under the Operational Program 2007-2013, that are co-financed by the European structural funds. We should not forget that Saint-Martin is eligible for 23 million Euros from the FEDER, 13 million Euros from the FSE and 26 million Euros under INTERREG. We have to do our work and mobilize these funds to develop our country.
The Plan to stimulate our economy is constructed around four axes that are integrated within the fields of competence of each Vice-President.
Five mechanisms will be used in this area:
1. A revitalization of the Tourism sector
Our island will not recover its attractiveness to visitors if we are incapable of renovating and upgrading our hotel park, create new structures but also develop infrastructure such as cruise ship facilities, yachting marinas and water sports facilities …
To these two actions should be added the need to revitalize the sales and promotion of our island. In addition, we must focus on the diversification of our tourism product, especially by developing concepts such as disabled tourism, health tourism and a product that caters to seniors.
Other areas that are considered as priorities by the Collectivité include:
· The development of the waterfront and the expansion of Marina Fort Louis so that it can accommodate mega yachts. A first phase of the project should be launched in 2009 at a cost of 5 M€;
· The rehabilitation of Marina Port La Royale and the moorings in the lagoon for a total of 200 000€
· The renovation of hotels for a total of 1.2M€
2. Support for Businesses through:
· The creation of artisan zones in French Quarter, Cul de Sac and Marigot. These zones will provide affordable business space foe small entrepreneurs;
· Complimentary financing of the Saint Martin Initiative program that helps to fund the creation of micro-businesses;
· The creation of a Guarantee Fund (FONDS COM) to help businesses improve their cash flow
· The creation of a Risk Financing entity that will be able to invest in the capital of small businesses
· A special defiscalization plan has been created for local businesses to help finance investment in projects on Saint Martin.
3. INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC ENTERPRISES
Medical projects and other public service projects will be accelerated and will benefit from the necessary guarantees from the COM.
4. Support for Employment
We will put in place, a program entitled "Emploi Tremplins" in order to favor the permanent placement of persons who are without employment and are in a precarious situation. This program will be financed by utilizing 1 million Euros that became available after the cancellation of the Employment Premium. The program will be carried out under the following terms:
· A remuneration that will be paid to the employer for 3 years
· An Aid program to help train the employee will also be given over a 3 year period
After a qualification evaluation that will be done by the ANPE, a personalized training program will be developed for each employee that is hired under the "Emploi-Tremplin". The Collectivité will pay the cost of the training.
5. Development of Information Technology and Communication-
We will engage, as of this year, in civil engineering projects for the deployment of a high definition network through the use of fiber optic cables. This deployment will guarantee that the entire island is covered by a HD network so that we can guarantee access for the entire population to educational and cultural programs.
Within the framework of this plan, our team has made a voluntary choice, to develop a strategy that is designed to stimulate public sector projects in order to support our local economy. The program includes:
1. Construction of Public Buildings
a. The central kitchen 6M€
b. The school restaurant for the College and Lycée of Marigot 4.5M€
c. The Mediatheque and the Archives of the Collectivité 6M€
d. The Sports and Cultural Center in the Spring 2M€
For a total of 18.5M€ that will be co-financed by the Special Investment Fund.
2. The improvement of public infrastructural networks
a. Construction of the Reservoir on the Mount of the Accords 4.5M€
b. Improvement of the sewage network 7M€
c. The road network
i. The Galion Road 300 000€
ii. The Concordia Road 300 000€
iii. The former Department Roads 600 000€
1. Marigot/Sandy Ground
d. Rue de Hollande 1.4M€
e. Rehabilitation of the Ravines in the Spring and in Colombier 3M€
3. Economic stimulus through home construction and rehabilitation
· A policy of the housing rehabilitation in partnership with the State will be commenced
· A policy for the construction of single family home at competitive pricing will be commenced. The SEMSAMAR will begin a construction program of 50 homes of this type in 2009
4. Development and upgrade of the Grand Case Airport
a. Improvement of the existing installations through the securing of and the expansion of the parking lot
b. The implementation of Public Service Delegation for the management and development of various infrastructure at the airport
Thanks to the national stimulus plan and the modification of the platform in the Codes for public markets, the local enterprises will be able to respond more rapidly requests for bids on public projects.
SOLIDARITY AND FAMILIES
The total projected budget for social services is 13.8M€. We have decided to add a supplement of 300 000€ specifically for insertion programs such as:
· projects carried out by associations that employ young people that have difficulty in entering the job market
· innovative projects of insertion in the non-developed sectors. This program will be put into operation under the future "Prevention Club" that is designed specifically for young people outside of the normal circuit
· the support of associations presenting specific projects for the insertion of young people
All of these areas of action contribute to the improvement of the purchasing power of our residents and as a result also to the island’s economy.
Another grant of 200 000 Euros will be allocated for:
· Help with home improvement projects
· Aid programs to help individuals and families acquire homes
I would like to once again reiterate my determination to carry out a policy that supports the acquisition of knowledge, the elevation of the level of qualification and the know-how of our population.
As of the debate on the budget orientations, during the month of December, we engaged ourselves to include on the Collectivité’s preliminary budget for 2009 a total of 7 million Euros for education and professional training. In 2009, our training centers must respond to both the qualification and training needs of our population. Our budget projections, as a result, have been augmented by 20%.
Within the framework of our stimulus plan, an additional ½ million Euros will be allocated to the Human Development Department:
· First, 300 000€ will be allocated to the program "Cheque Formation Emploi Durable" that is designed to use training to permit persons who are threatened with being laid off to keep their jobs, or retrain themselves in another field or profession;
· Second, 200 000€ are allocated to the creation and installation of public facilities (playgrounds, community centers …) for the benefit of the population and in order to amplify social links and intergenerational interaction. Local businesses and artisans will be favored for these projects.
My fellow Saint-Martiners, there you have a somewhat detailed presentation of our stimulus plan. I wanted during this time of wishes for the New Year to inform, you, the population in as detailed a manner as possible about this STIMULUS PLAN. A plan that concerns all of us and for which I am asking each and everyone for their support in order for us to carry out this ambitious program.