SATURDAY, 20 JULY 2013
ST. EUSTATIUS–Many Statians turned out Friday, to catch a glimpse of Mark Rutte, the first Dutch Prime Minister to visit St. Eustatius since it became a public entity of The Netherlands.
All problems and difficulties connected with the island’s small status seemed to be forgotten, as many residents wanted to shake hands with the Prime Minister. Seemingly tireless, Rutte kept smiling and did not turn down any request for a brief conversation or to pose for a picture during the entire length of his visit.
The purpose of this visit was to familiarise himself with the Dutch Caribbean islands, during which special attention was paid to the economic relations between The Netherlands and the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.
Rutte’s delegation included representatives of Royal Dutch Airline KLM (logistics and tourism), IHC-Merwede (technology and logistics), Strukton (infrastructure), De Baak (education and training), TNO (sustainable technology) and MultiPost (logistics and postal services), as well as civil servants of the ministries of General Affairs and Kingdom Relations.
Rutte met with the Executive Council and NuStar Statia Terminal management during his half-day visit. He also visited Duggins Supermarket and witnessed the go-kart races organised by Centre for Youth and Family on the road to Zeelandia.
Prime Minister Rutte was the main guest and speaker during the National Development and Investment Summit held at C. and W. Flanders Community Centre. In his speech, he pointed at the difficult economic times experienced in Statia, The Netherlands and the rest of the world.
“I am well aware that all the changes triggered by October 10, 2010, have only added to people’s uncertainty. In mid-crisis you were faced with a new political structure, a new relationship with The Netherlands and other islands, and a new currency in the form of the US dollar. It’s easy to see how many changes at once, on top of a struggling economy, could cause additional concern and anxiety,” he said.
However, he made it clear that he had not come to wave a wand or sign a blank cheque to solve every problem at once. That is not how it works, he said. “In our kingdom, we tackle difficult problems together and we solve them together.
We take things step by step, we talk to each other and we look for ways to support each other. With the kingdom’s bicentenary celebrations starting this year, I am pleased to see that this spirit of cooperation is alive and well here.”
He said there had been a flood of initiatives such as the formation of a joint Chamber of Commerce for all Caribbean parts of the kingdom and the kingdom-wide conference on a joint strategy for the growing markets in Latin America held in Curaçao earlier this year.
Rutte said he was touring the region with a delegation of Dutch business leaders who all see opportunities to do (more) business here. “In short, our visit is all about the kingdom working together to make money, and this idea seems to strike a chord with many people.
“I am glad to see it, because bolstering the economy also means more jobs for the young generation. They are now at risk of losing out in the labour market and it’s crucial that especially young people are able to improve their prospects through education and work. Both government and employers have an important duty here,” Rutte said.
He said the Dutch government wanted to continue down the road that had been chosen on 10-10-10. “As you know, The Netherlands has taken on responsibility for several issues that are crucial to Statia’s future. We are investing in both the island’s people and its infrastructure, because that’s the basis for a healthy economy.”
He is convinced that economic growth and a stable and well-equipped society go hand-in-hand. “That is why it’s so important that we finish the job we have started, including the organisation and structure of public administration, projects in education and health care, investments in high-speed Internet and new forms of energy, modernisation of the postal system and all the other concrete projects that are ongoing or are in the pipeline.”
To people asking whether the pace of change was not too fast, Rutte responded that it was important to keep moving forward, especially during an economic crisis. “With the new structures we are building we are laying the foundations for new growth and new prosperity, because there’s one thing I am sure about: this crisis will pass like others before, and those who are out of the starting blocks first will be the first to reap the benefits.”
Bron: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten