Trade mission

November 29th and 30th were slated to be the first Trade mission organized post Irma. Sint Maarten was invited to attend, as an interest to invest in St. Maarten/do business in St. Maarten was expressed, which was perceived to be a good initiative that could aid with the rebuilding efforts. With the intention to convey the message that we are open for business COCI joined the St. Maarten delegation and participated in the congress and match making forum. The mission was to be concluded with a panel debate themed: “Rebuilding the Leeward Islands”. Representatives of the BVI, Anguilla joined the panel discussion and openly shared their experiences and their vision on how rebuilding, preparedness and recovery in the future should be a joint Caribbean collaboration. Understanding our region, having the expertise, and mindful of our weaknesses and strengths, we must from within the region aid each other the honorable Minister of BVI eloquently expressed. A sentiment fully supported by the St. Maarten delegation. The Honorable member of the second chamber of the Dutch Government Mr. Bosman elaborated on the role of the Kingdom in aiding the Islands which sustained damages by the hurricanes. Out of the matchmaking queries it was very evident that all were interested to know when the aid would be released to St. Maarten and how it would be distributed. These questions could not be answered, and no timeline could be provided to those interested in this. We did however respond trying to counter the evident image most had from the one-sided publications on the devastation, our recovery and current state in the Netherlands. All who visited the table of St. Maarten where quite surprised to learn that the portrayal of our country in the Dutch media to date is not consistent with the current state of affairs. In the media portrayal of the destruction, clean up to be undertaken, supposed high percentage of people living without water and electricity, 90% of homes destroyed and the fact that the dependency on tourism makes the country not viable to maintain its status within the Kingdom is propagated. The current situation in St. Maarten which is misrepresented by the above is not disseminated and as such a pitiful portrayal is maintained disregarding the progress made. It is clear that the attention given to the aid from the Dutch Government to the country for its reconstruction, has garnished an interest in St. Maarten. Whilst interest is the country is positive, for our resilience and strength as a people and nation will only be solidified, one must wonder if the interest would be there if no aid discussion had ever occurred. Regardless of the discussions on aid, which format, when and by whom to be ironed out by the respective government officials of St. Maarten and The Netherlands, we must be cognizant of the fact that no aid can and should be expected within short. That with structuring how aid will be given, who will be in charge of approval and monitoring of projects, substantial time will pass before any funds will enter our economy. This means that as a country we must continue to do what we have been doing since the hurricanes impacted St. Maarten in September. We must continue to work together until our goals are achieved. If and when the aid comes this will positively enhance our achievements and possibilities for sustainable growth. In the mean time we must within the Caribbean region collaborate, exchange information and further aid one another to address and redress the impact of such disaster, so we may continue to be better prepared to counter the impact of hurricanes and recover faster from the passing of a hurricane. COCI shall through its advisory role champion a closer collaboration within the region on all matters affecting this region and shall work to establish a close working relationship with its counter parts in the region in an effort to establish a regional forum and coordination on disaster preparedness, management and recovery.