Democracy is a State of Mind that we should individually and collectively constantly have at all times. It is the perfect way for the community to feel involved in the decision making and for the governing body to fulfil the mandate that they have been entrusted with by the same community.
That Democratic State of Mind has been embraced, developed and maintained in our Kingdom for centuries and we can be proud to say today that the Netherlands Antilles enjoys of one of the most democratic system in the Region. A system that is not limited to elections and the running of Government, it is a system that also has the most involvement of the community in the decision making after the election. By including the Stakeholders in the key Councils, our Dutch system demonstrates a greater level of Democracy and brings Labour and Private Sector to help advising Governments on key decisions involving the wider Community.
The Social Economic Raad is the other most important Council next to the Raad van Advies. While the Raad van Advies deal with the legality aspects, the SER advises on all matter related to Social and Economic Developments of the Country and its citizens. The configuration of the SER is such that every single business or individual feels they are part of the system. The SER in the Netherlands is worldwide known and often visited and taken in example. The SER Netherlands Antilles is of the same model and the SER Country Sint Maarten should not be different.
The Chamber of Commerce is honoured to be part of the Federal SER and proud to be part of the SER Country Sint Maarten. All the Chamber representatives through the years have been actively involved to make sure that the protection and the interests of the business community are constantly observed and taken in account. Myself along with Hubert Pantophlet and Arturo Bute, are particularly proud of being part of the SER and grateful for the experience of the last few years, especially with the latest developments of the Netherlands Antilles, where we have seen an impressive increase in the requests of the SER advices.
The experience learned through the multiple debates and decisions taken by the council has taught us the importance of the SER advices in all the laws that have to be introduced to guide us in our social and economic directions. Even though, at times the SER position differs from the proposed legislation, the members of the council have always acted in complete integrity and independence to best represent their respective sectors and Parliament has always recognise and appreciate that approach.
The main rules to be observed for a well functioning SER and for optimal results in the participative democracy can be resumed as follows:
The legitimacy of this advisory body is guaranteed by the Law.
· Recognition and Respect
Government has to recognize that the contribution of this advisory to the policy making is useful. It has to be more than acting in accordance with the law; it should become a culture in decision making.
All members of the council should act to their conscious and without any personal influence. Even that they are representing a sector, they are Independent Members and often have access to privileged information and should use their discretion not to jeopardize the entire process of Democracy.
As much as an advisory council to Government the SER should have all the necessary financial and logistic supports, the functioning of its task should be completely independent and free from any and all political influence. The financial support should at no occasion be perceived as a tool to diminish the important weight and punctuality of the council advices.
· Fair Representation
Each and all adoptions of new laws, changes or amendments to existing ones, obviously imply a direct or indirect impact on the social and economic fibre of the community. It is therefore crucial that cross sections of the employees and the employers are fairly represented. The experience dictates that this can only be achieved if the main Stakeholders are represented in the council. This way, the intended Tripartite Consultation is complimentary to Parliament Democracy.
If these five principles are observed and enforced at all times, the Chamber of Commerce is confident that another step toward Country Sint Maarten is achieved. Such step deserves the recognition and the respect of all the other partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.