Prime Minister Clarifies Presentation to Parliament Regarding Plans of Approach for Departments

The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams clarified to the public over the weekend her presentation to Parliament last Thursday. The Prime Minister, during her weekly Radio Program One on One with the Prime Minister, commented on various subjects which came up during the session in Parliament, including issues related to the Plans of Approach of various Departments within Ministries, the issues ongoing at the Census Office including Issues Related to Dutch Passports and the retaining of qualified personnel for Government Departments; “It is very important that the public realize the background and realities of what is going on aside from all of the politics they are being faced with and last Thursday’s Parliamentary meeting is no different. The discussions in Parliament stem from the days of the Constitutional Change from before 10-10-10 that are still ongoing today. We realized that for those departments that needed to be upgraded as a result of Constitutional Change a special cooperation was needed and was eventually agreed upon, the so-called Plans of Approach. The Institutions or Ministries that form part of the plans of the approach were our Councils of State, the Justice Ministry, the Ministry of VROMI and the Ministry of General Affairs. In the Ministry of General Affairs the two departments under focus were the Census office and the Legal Affairs department. In the Plans of Approach it was also stated that every three months a progress report would be issued: every quarter departments would have to report on how far they were able to get with regards to upgrading and strengthening.
“There is therefore also a progress committee that looks at the progress and implementation reports from the Departments and makes up a progress report. This is then discussed by the Ministerial Consultation comprised of the Prime Minister and the Kingdom Minister of Interior Affairs. Initially this was done for two years and has further been extended for extra four years in order to fully comply with the Plans of Approach.
“Parliament requested the thirteenth and fourteenth report for the Plans of Approach for the Ministry of General Affairs, with one of these departments, that of Legal Affairs, no longer forming part of the plans because we have completed all of the set forth requirements. Yes there are still some challenges with regards to the Department such as filling vacancies with competent local experts and keeping them there. The Government of St. Maarten is dealing with this in different ways, one through an incentive policy for persons that work for the Government: as they accomplish a few years in Government part of their study loans will be paid for, something that was implemented since the time I was Commissioner of Education. We have also started several professional training courses for persons already working in Government, giving them the possibility of continuing to work while still having the ability to upgrade.
“As I explained in Parliament yesterday on where we are and why we are doing certain things we need to be able to reflect. Before country status there was a lot of criticism. Our Census office used to be accused of many things, with allegations of fraud being especially worrisome. During the Island Territory days there were even interventions and investigations at the Census office with a lot of issues playing at the time. Based on that the Census Office was decided to be monitored and the plans of approach were established for that. An important aspect of this was the cleaning up of the registry as was training and digitalizing the information of the Census Office. I was happy to Report to Parliament that the Census Office will soon also be excluded from the Plans of Approach. This does not mean that the upgrades will stop but that we are not officially monitored. With VROMI as well the activities which have been ongoing will also soon be excluded from the Monitoring, with should be excluded in 2014.
With regards to the Ministry of Justice practically every department was put under Monitoring. There too different Justice Ministers worked on fulfilling those Plans of Approach. And the only departments now remaining are the Police and the Prison, and that it why it has been decided that the resolution for the cooperation agreement had to be extended, “explained Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.