Governor’s Symposium 2013, Sustainable Development

Building Capital For Sustainable Development

Opening Address

By The Governor of Sint Maarten His Excellency Eugene B. Holiday

DDelivered at the Governor’s Symposium 2013; "Sustainable Development: Challenges for St. Maarten as a Small Island Caribbean Nation".


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning,

It is with great pleasure and sustainable expectations that I welcome you to this symposium with the theme "Sustainable Development: Challenges for St. Maarten as a Small Island Caribbean Nation".

As Governor, governance as a practice to advance the well-being of the people of Sint Maarten, is the domain of my activities. It is therefore my mission to foster and encourage excellence in governance and thus the well-being of the people of Sint Maarten in all its facets. In pursuing my mission it is my conviction that governance that result in sustainable development is the highest calling of leadership. As a result, I shall in the next few minutes share my thoughts with you on the topic "Building capital for sustainable development".

But before doing so I would like to thank all of you for your interest shown by joining us this morning to participate in this symposium. This because my life’s journey has taught me that interest is fertile ground for development and progress.

This because my life’s journey has taught me that interest is fertile ground for development and progress. 

Moreover, I herewith acknowledge and thank all the speakers, from overseas and at home, among which, the Prime-Minister of Sint Maarten, Mrs. Wescot Williams, for accepting my invitation to participate in and speak at this symposium. In particular I bid my Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker for this symposium, Ms. Elizabeth Thompson a very warm welcome. Your presence Ms. Thompson is highly appreciated.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is as I stated earlier my mission to foster and encourage excellence in governance and thus the well-being of the people of Sint Maarten in all its facets. The purpose of this symposium therefore is to generate greater interest for and to fertilize the minds of our people towards more discussion, decisions, policies and actions which lead to sustainable development. That is towards activities which result in growth and development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the prospects of future generations.

An evaluation of the growth and development of Sint Maarten over the past decades yields a complex and challenging picture. To give you a complete overview and analysis will take quite some time. I shall in view of the limited time available and to help frame the discussion for today highlight the following salient points.

Blessed with natural beauty and friendly and resilient people, our small island nation St. Maarten has over the years experienced a robust tourism based economic growth as evidenced, primarily by over 2 million visitors a year, a well-developed air- and seaports infrastructure, extensive accommodations and one of the highest per capita incomes in the region of approximately USD.20,000. Our island has as a result been a source of opportunity for many as evidenced by the over 100 nationalities residing here.

That economic success has not come without a price. The tourism fueled economic growth and opportunities have come with simultaneous increases in threats to local preconditions of progress and development. These threats are manifested in, amongst others:

· First, high youth unemployment of some 27% and the associated social disparities in terms of pockets of poverty;

· Second, increasing pressure on our natural environment in terms of the diminishing marine and green areas such as our ponds and hill sides and the visible waste management imbalances, such as mount dump; and

· Third, a rapidly diminishing tangible and intangible national heritage.

Ladies and gentlemen,

From that snapshot it can be concluded that while Sint Maarten continues to be a wonderful place to live and

visit, there is an imbalance between the individual but interrelated economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of Sint Maarten’s development. It is evident that this situation as outlined is cause for action from a perspective of sustainable development. The complexities of this imbalance create major governance challenges going forward.


In particular the governance challenges entail finding ways to build capital for sustainable development. In that regard it is evident that we ought to redefine our priorities to find an optimal balance between our island’s various forms of capital. That is between:

a. First, our level of economic capital, in terms of our command over and use of financial and institutional resources;

b. Second, our level of social capital in terms of fostering greater social cohesion towards building a stronger nation of individuals and institutions with common and shared values of civic duty and responsibility;

c. Third, our level of environmental capital in terms of preserving and protecting our scarce and fragile eco-systems to safeguard our overall quality of life;

d. Fourth, our level of cultural capital by strengthening cultural and situational relevance and appreciation to anchor our development through our educational systems; and

e. Fifth, our level of human capital, the continued investments in which should go without saying.


That means that as a society we must, cognizant of the importance of the economy in development, allocate a larger share of our resources towards securing greater or more effective investments in the non-economic drivers of growth and developments. It is my view that the way forward will require a fundamental enhancement of our current development model. The envisaged enhancement is the move from our primarily single focused economic development model to a multi focused sustainable development model.


To meet that challenge it is imperative that public and private officials forge a partnership aimed at an integrated economic, social, cultural and environmental development. This calls for us to reexamine public and corporate governance values, goals and strategies to foster more balanced approaches, recognizing the multidimensional nature of development. Critical in that context is the need to recognize the intrinsic value and strength of our islands human and natural resources. To achieve the above I believe that it is essential we introduce a permanent national dialogue platform.

It is with this call for redirection in public and corporate leadership towards building capital for sustainable development that I organized this symposium. I am in that regard encouraged by the efforts of government in cooperation with the various social partners to develop a national development plan with support from the United Nations Development Program. It is my hope therefore that this symposium will strengthen these efforts and generate greater interest and initiatives throughout our community for sustainable development.


At this symposium speakers will address you from a national, regional and international perspective on sustainable development and its challenges. In doing so they shall pay special attention to critical issues such as nature preservation, energy supply, economics and poverty and social cohesion. I therefore look forward to hearing the views of the keynote and featured speakers as well as from the government’s perspective.


I hope that their messages will stimulate greater interest for and contribute to the promotion of national dialogue and policymaking towards a more balanced and sustainable construct of our nation. In that context I wish to open your minds for the discussion this morning with some development scenes of St. Maarten.


With that I hereby declare this symposium open and wish you an enjoyable and fruitful symposium.


Thank you and God bless you!