Since Irma devasted the island of Sint Maarten back in September of last year, we have been keeping timers running on the main page of our UPG website.
These timers are certainly not there for mere fun; they represent the time it takes, in a critical situation, to make the necessary steps to get the basics right, which aid in adequately rebuilding Sint Maarten.
Most of the timers adding days, minutes and seconds as we speak. Predominantly, they depict wasted time.
Only one timer counts down, which are the days, minutes and seconds left before hurricane season 2018 starts. The last timer stresses the urgency to take action. Taking action would cause the other timers stop. Unfortunately, these timers did not stop and are still counting.
The only counter which has now stopped is the one which displays the time remaining before hurricane season 2018 starts; time has officially run out, as of today.
Let us, together, stop the other timers from counting. Let us stop wasting valuable time!
Since UPG has been started, our aim has been to do things to change the social economy of Sint Maarten. At our core we believe that “We get more things done when we work together”. How the people of the island develop the idea of teamwork and cooperation will determine what role Sint Maarten will decide to take for its future.
In this article we will outline issues that are hindering the development of the legal infrastructure as well as the national economy of Sint Maarten. What we have noticed is that people are reluctant to work with each other to accomplish activities on a greater scale. We are becoming more intelligent but working less with each other.
Our perspective is to study and understand the value that can be added when we develop the skills that are needed for cooperation. By doing that we will develop the social aspect of the economy. In further articles and postings we will build on this foundation by providing the tools and resources that are needed to turn theory into practice.
Sint Maarten is a relatively small island, that is divided between two governments and legal systems. The management of the infrastructure of the island is also divided. Both sides have their own electricity grids, telephone providers, financial industries, water distribution systems, waste management systems and governments. Compared to other islands in the region the cost to maintain the basic infrastructure is relatively speaking twice as much because of division between two island governments. We do not see the division in itself as a problem what we have noticed is that an awareness is lacking as to what social and economic consequences this division has. Having to provide for the same thing twice slows down the progress of the island as a whole. This way of thinking is seen in many parts of the society. It can be seen with several organisations addressing the same issue when they can work together under an umbrella organisation and be more effective or companies and sectors competing with each other when in actuality we are competing against the region and the rest of the world.
We need to pool our resources and work together. We have observed that the people themselves are not aware of the benefits of cooperation on a large scale. Too often development is hampered by people being fearful to change, people lacking trust in one another and people thinking what is in it for me. Becoming better at making more money or becoming smarter do not address these issues. The result is, very intelligent people for one reason or the other have underdeveloped skills of working together and it is costing us.
Social cycles that lessen value
Instead of understanding our law we create new law. Now there are more rules to be followed. Because people do not understand them they also are not followed. This creates a cycle of increased legislation where the effectiveness of the legislation diminishes. This is also done with the national economy. The economy of Sint Maarten is based primarily on tourism. With the increase of technological developments the island can make use of e-commerce and services to diversify the economy. However most industries remain primarily geared towards tourism. Not much has been done with initiating the steps that will lead to a diversified economy.
Quality of the working population
One of our goals is to assist in improving the quality of the work population of Sint Maarten. We have seen that the people of the island are capable of making money, we have also seen that the value of the island is also based on the people that live and work there and the culture of these people.
There is a lot of work to be done
We have chosen to partner with pre and post graduates of the island. They have grown up in and recognize the social issues that are affecting economic development on the island. During their time abroad during studies they learn about finance and law based on examples from other cultures and other countries/islands. When graduates remigrate to the island, despite having the theoretical basis to understand complex models, they have difficulty in applying their knowledge to finding ways to improve the island. What is constantly reinforced is the idea of this how the island does things so get use to it. When we should be saying how can we improve and develop what the island is doing.
We are addressing this disconnect between the people abroad and people on the island by connecting the two. By working on actual issues that are affecting the island during their studies we will help them to remain connected with the culture of the island at the same time they will be able to see issues affecting the island from an outsider’s perspective and develop out of the box approaches to get things done.
From a legal perspective we understand that the law can be used to help society develop. We define what actions are allowed, under which circumstances these actions are allowed and also the consequences of not following the rules. However the law, as a written document, is useless if people do not follow the rules. We are interested in understanding what it takes to motivate people to do something and this can mean that laws might have to be created or adjusted. In many cases with trust and respect the same goal can be accomplished without resolving to making use of the legal system. All perspectives needs to be considered if we are to have an effective legal system.
Understanding how money works is important. There are many people and companies who can benefit from becoming financially educated. We want to connect the people who have the ideas with the people who need them. Thus far we have seen that we will have to create a platform to address financial literacy. We will have to categorise information and make that information available for the general public and the business community. When people are financially educated they are able to make good financial decisions. They will become better at making more use of what they have. Where others see problems, they will become resourceful and see opportunities.
Creating room for specialisation
When the focus is placed on actively cooperating with each other, we become interested in finding out what each other’s strengths are. We start to divide our task among the ones who are best fitted to do it. This frees others to do what they are good at and we become more effective. We begin to specialize, respect each other’s strengths and find creative ways to use our strengths to create economic advantages. We begin to work as a team and change happens.