Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour New Year’s Address 2012

AUDIO INCLUDED IN THIS STORY: A New Year often brings a renewed sense of commitment to improving the various facets of our lives. Both personally and professionally, every New Year provides a new lens through which we tend to see things differently.


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I see that Change is happening quickly around us- as a newly established nation, St. Maarten is tackling enormous reform issues that will impact generations to come. I encourage us all to remain ever mindful of the words of President Kennedy: There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-term risks and costs of comfortable inaction. I believe that we are all motivated by the same goals- to secure the future of St. Maarten. It is how to achieve these goals that we may sometimes disagree about. During this Year I pledge to support brave and responsible policies that include a long-term vision for sustainability; I will continue to make my Ministry transparent and accountable to the people for whom it serves. I realize that it is not entirely about policy- our attitude, character, and approach are all a part of what needs to be a new era of politics in St. Maarten.

In the coming year I personally plan to recommit to my health- and I am encouraging all of you to join me in this endeavor. Over time, my definition of health has broadened immensely, as well as my belief as to how to improve it. Beyond the commitment we must make to ourselves to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods, we must create a social and physical environment which promote healthy lifestyles: An environment where people are living in loving homes, have a strong sense of family, social responsibility, and a belief that success of any kind can be a reality with determination. It is in this environment that all people, adults as well as children, have the greatest chance of succeeding in adopting life long healthy habits- both physically and emotionally. This Ministry is committed to the prevention and urge all residents of St. Maarten to explore our Get Checked St. Maarten campaign to discover how it can help them improve the quality of their own lives. This commitment continues with the improvement and expansion of a competent, accessible health care system that provides the services needed most in St. Maarten. Health care is a trifecta- patients, health care providers, and government- we are all accountable if a system fails to meet the needs of the society which it is meant to serve. I urge all residents of St. Maarten to take control of their health and see their physicians regularly. I encourage health care providers to give the time and attention that is necessary for each patient to feel cared for. As a representative of government, I urge Parliament members to support health care policies that provide our citizens with access to the best that modern medicine has to offer. We. Simply. Must. The effects of poor health are far reaching; there is an indisputable link between the health of a nation and its potential for prosperity.

The effects of the global economic crisis continue to impact our prosperity in St. Maarten and undoubtedly the recovery process will test our strength. In order for our nation to recover from our current economic challenges and return to a pattern of growth, our workforce must collectively move towards the brave resolution of problems. There is a set of Japanese principles that are often quoted as the pillars of business practice: We must always do our sincere best, place importance on integrity, and not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains. I believe that St. Maarten will well be on the road to becoming a prosperous nation by adhering to these principles, committing to corporate social responsibility, solving problems with patience, and paying fair wages to hard working people. I urge businesses to cultivate a deeper sense of compassion and create a workplace culture that brings out the best in all workers. As a workforce, we must take pride in achieving our objectives in a timely fashion and doing our part in strengthening outcomes in the places where we work; we are all stakeholders in the economic future of St. Maarten.

In the same respect, Government is a stakeholder with respect to individual well being in a social context as well as the well being of society. We must pay particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, or living in poverty. The famous sociologist C. Wright Mills differentiated between Private Troubles and Public Issues- private problems happen to one person- its potential to affect us all makes it a public issue. Difficult times can fall upon us all, and the government must play its part in providing a helping hand when its citizens are need. As we continue with social policy reform in the coming year, It is my sincere hope that the assistance process is streamlined to make guidelines very clear and services expeditious and readily available to all those who qualify. We will continue to research a sustainable pension reform that will effectively protect employees from a loss of benefits should there be a change or loss in job status. These are ambitious systematic changes being presented, and evidence based decisions must be made in order to protect the integrity of our governmental system and taxpayer monies. I invite all St. Maarteners to be part of the change- I have had the privilege of hearing extraordinary ideas from people of all walks of life, and I look forward to creating and supporting reforms in the coming year that truly reflect the voices of the people.

Being at the head of the Department of Public Health, Social Development and Labor is both a privilege and a great responsibility. It is with sincere and humble gratitude that I serve my people and my country, as we ALL do every day. I resolve this Year to do for you what I ask YOU to do for yourselves and for St. Maarten- I will do my sincere best. It is my belief that our country as well as our individual selves must pursue a dream, or an ideal, to grow and develop and have a fulfilling future. I wish you and your family the very best in achieving those dreams as well as a healthy and prosperous 2012.

Hon VH Cornelius de Weever

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour

Government of St. Maarten