The chairman for the committee for Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication MP Rolando Brison, Faction Leader of United St. Maarten Party (USP), has called 7 meetings on a range of critical topics. “The ministry of TEATT is the arm of government charged with ensuring our economy and its related support structures continue to function to the benefit of our country and its citizens. Similarly, the Committee of TEATT of Parliament is charged with conducting investigations into matters related to this ministry. It is after all Parliament’s job to hold the Ministers accountable, and the TEATT committee will do its part to ensure the Minister of TEATT fulfills his tasks in the best interest of the country. While we have seen some information being disseminated by Minister Stuart Johnson mainly consisting of rudimentary plans, wishes and observations, the Minister’s presence at these meetings will be a more ideal venue to not just read “what” the minister plans or hopes to do, but HOW specifically the Minister will ensure the many urgent items related to our economy are going to be addressed,”
In the first committee meeting of TEATT held last month, several MP’s lauded the initiative to have an exploratory meeting that helped identify some of the urgent investigations the committee will conduct. The TEATT Committee, which reports to the Central Committee of parliament, will prepare decision lists for the Central Committee to handle further, and forward these directives to the Ministers.
The St. Maarten Tourism Authority
In the first TEATT committee meeting, it was expressed by members that the fact that the STA presentation was postponed was very unfortunate. “This request to postpone was by the previous Minister, so we hope the new Minister will ensure that such an urgent item is pushed back any further. This country will ultimately fail its marketing effort if the legal and executive structure of the tourism department is not changed to fit competitive realities. Thus, as was agreed by the TEATT committee, we are immediately calling this meeting once again to hear the Minister’s vision of the STA going forward, and to hear from the STA Foundation their concept on what the STA law should can look like so that parliament can initiate that legislative process.
TEATT committee will conduct a preliminary investigation into what the current status regarding pre-clearance is, what legislative and budgetary needs the department of civil aviation has, and how prepared the country is for the upcoming ICAO and FAA audits that ultimately could make or break aviation in for the island if these audits are failed. “We need to know that the Minister is fully prepared for these crucial audits, and that he has afforded all the necessary support to the department of civil aviation” stated Brison.
Recent media reports indicated that the US has not heard any progress regarding Pre Clearance and thus the program is in jeopardy. “This is very much contrary to the statements by the TEATT Minister during the budget debate that ‘all was still moving forward in terms of pre clearance’. Someone is not telling the full story here, and the Minister will have his chance to tell the committee and the public what is truly happening,”
Other meetings that are being scheduled include the current status of data collection by government, the promotion of small business development on St. Maarten, the plans for the ministry with regards to Agricultural development, sustainable development goals and environmental protection practices in tourism product development integrated into the policies of TEATT, and the 2019 budget for TEATT.
Committee for Country Expenditures
Brison, who is also the Chairman for the Committee of Country Expenditures, called 2 meetings for that committee as well. “There is quite a backlog (over 2 years) of incoming documents addressed to the committee for country expenditures, so a meeting has been called to decide on the handling of these documents. In addition, we have invited the general audit chamber to present their 2017 annual report, and to give us an update on their findings related to the tenuous situation that exists regarding the lack of approved financial statements for the country,” said Brison.
Before meetings are called, research is done, problem definitions are made and the objective of the committee meeting are made clear. Brison worked through the month of July to do the necessary background research on the topics before sending out the meeting requests immediately after the end of recess. The TEATT committee will facilitate the preliminary investigations for parliament and the population and business community can rest assured that the committee is working hard to address the urgent issues of our economy and tourism from both a legislative and executive perspective. Most meetings are expected to be open to the public, so that citizens and stakeholders can also be apprised of these matters.
In order to effectively conduct all these meetings, it was decided by the committee to meet every week, even on the Wednesday’s of so-called “Non-meeting” weeks. “I was very pleased to read that Minister Johnson would be happy to meet at any time in the national interest of the country; these meetings are clearly of urgent national interest and we require the presence of the Minister to answer the queries of the committee” said Brison. The proposed time for meetings will be on Wednesday’s at 11:30AM, giving the minister some time to leave the press briefing and attend parliament.