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• zaterdag 18 september 2021 16:30

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DH | ‘Pandemic exposed vulnerabilities of St. Eustatius’ small community’

~ Executive Council’s New Year’s message ~

Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij (right) and Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis.

ST. EUSTATIUS–“Another year is over, and what an interesting one it has been. As an island and public entity, we have faced a number of challenges, the main one the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has exposed several vulnerabilities of the island’s small community,” said Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij and Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis in their New Year’s Day message.

“While we worked with relevant stakeholders to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus a series of additional crises presented themselves – the virtual halt of tourism arrivals, the burning down of the Tourism Office and the shortage of drinking water, to mention a few.”

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‘Important milestones’

Despite the many challenges faced by the government and the private sector, the commissioners mentioned a number of successes and “important milestones,” such as the establishment of the Central Dialogue, in which representatives of employers and employees are represented, and the General Audit Chamber was established.

Felica Viola van Zanten Assisted Living Complex was completed and inaugurated. The contract for Phase Two to construct an additional 10 units was signed last week and construction starts early this year, they said.

The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Lynch Plantation Primary School is the last of four primary schools to be upgraded. Plans to construct a new Gwendoline van Putten Secondary School will take effect in 2021.

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Where healthcare is concerned, Van Rij and Francis mentioned the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport, St. Eustatius Health Care Foundation (SEHCF) and the public entity to draw up a plan for improvement in healthcare. The Ministry of Public Health provided a Hospitainer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In close collaboration with the Health Insurance Office ZVK and SEHCF we were fairly successful in managing referrals abroad for acute medical emergencies in a safe bubble. This continues in 2021,” they said.

“The Dutch Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate EZK and Social Affairs and Employment SZW have already rolled out two emergency packages to assist businesses in these economically challenging times. A third package will be implemented in the first quarter of 2021.”

Construction of the new passenger building and control tower at F.D. Roosevelt Airport continued uninterrupted and they are scheduled to be inaugurated in April.

Two pilot programmes are ongoing as part of an agreement with Dutch housing corporation Woonlinie to renovate existing and to construct new social housing. “Negotiations continue in 2021,” the commissioners said.

The Cherry Tree and Jeems Road projects continue and they are taking shape. “Construction of new roads will commence in the first quarter of 2021, guaranteeing employment for local contractors and workers in the construction sector.”

The harbour revetment was completed and plans to pave the container area will be implemented in 2021.

Statia Utilities Company STUCO has constructed a brand-new water plant, new water tank and installed new pipelines that can withstand a category-5 hurricane.

Return of democracy

A new Island Council has been installed and the Executive Council is working to ensure that the elected representatives have proper accommodations and support staff to carry out their tasks in accordance with the criteria to ensure the gradual return of democracy, Van Rij and Francis said.

The website of the public entity has been refurbished, “as it is the most important tool used to communicate the policies and decision making of government. The community is encouraged to make ample use of this site

www.statiagovernment.com,” they said.

The ban on single-use plastics has taken effect as of January 1 in a phased approach. The Loose Roaming Animal Project has started and will continue in close cooperation with animal owners, farmers and the community.

The St. Eustatius Emergency Operating Centre (SEOC) has been turned over by the contractor; and the public entity in collaboration with National Department Caribbean Netherlands RCN Information and Communications Technology (ICT) department will make the building ready for use.

The public entity registered an increase in the number of business licences and building permits that were issued last year. “This is a clear sign of confidence in the local economy. These are all very positive developments,” the Executive Council said.

‘Valuable lessons’

“Although we have done well, considering the circumstances and the different crises we have been through, we have learnt some valuable lessons. One valuable lesson is that dialogue and inclusion are very powerful tools to be able to guide us all through the different crises. There is always room for improvement. We can all work on doing something just a little better. When everyone does that, the results can be amazing … and our focus will be on even further improving dialogue and inclusion.

“During the new year 2021 as public entity we will focus on building a robust organisation, developing the individual and collective skills of civil servants, improving internal processes, improving service to the Statia community, working towards the further implementation of the ‘12 criteria’ and improving strategic thinking. This means we should push the bounds of ambition and possibilities of what we aspire to achieve for Statia and Statia’s residents.

“It is our duty as a public service to do this, instead of settling for what are convenient, safe and easily attainable goals. Otherwise, we will not be offering Statia’s residents outcomes that are aspirational, bold and stretched targets.

“The public entity extends warm wishes for a bright and prosperous 2021,” Van Rij and Francis stated.

Bron: Daily Herald

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