Nieuwjaarsstatement van regeringscommissaris Alida Francis
Fellow Statian Residents,
We have come to the end of a long and tumultuous year, a year that so many of us thought would never end as we navigated the raging and dangerous waters of COVID-19. But as the strong, determined and proud people that we are, we can hold our heads up high and state with utmost confidence that while the pandemic stretched and bent us, it certainly did not break us. Yes, my people, thanks to you, Statia is still standing!
As TS Elliott said: “To make an end is to make a beginning.” Therefore, as the old year ends and the new year begins, we welcome 2022 with new commitments and beginnings, new resolutions and goals, new expectations of ourselves and the aspirations we have in common.
I’m also of the firm conviction that the beginning of every year holds a lot of positivity, good energy, and plenty of hope. It is a bridge to new things, a pathway to learning, living, digging deep within, and discovering the strength and abilities to do things you never thought you could do and push yourself to heights you never thought you reach.
Importantly, it is a route to doing something. Something wondrous, something amazing, something glorious, something good, something for yourself, your family, your country. It is a link to necessary, serious, and great things. And in Statia, we know we can do it.
Due to latest Covid-19 developments we are off to a bumpy start to the New Year with 35 active cases. Our hearts go out to every one of them, their families and loved ones and everyone who is affected because of their infection.
The source of the outbreak is unknown, which is worrying. For the first time since the start of the pandemic we are facing community spread. Therefore, for the coming two weeks the Public Entity has escalated the measures to level 5, which outlines measures to help curb the spread of virus. Our success depends on everyone taking responsibility by respecting the measures that are in place until January 14th, 2022. In other words, your success is our success.
As I indicated earlier, 2021 was a rather difficult year, but as true optimists, we saw opportunity in the challenges we faced and we grabbed it. Therefore, even as the pandemic cast a pall over us, we had lots of progress to celebrate, including important infrastructural projects such as the airport and roads, funded by the national government.
The local government has started the process of lighting public spaces, renovating and modernising government offices. We introduced Microsoft 365 and Statia Academy offering 500 courses and trainings for civil servants.
We improved the financial management processes and reporting, established a project management bureau, cleaned up illegal dumpsites, removed wrecks, drilled wells in support of farmers and built infiltration ponds. And that is just the beginning.
With your support we completed the 11th EDF underground cabling and accessories, resulting in increased stability of the electricity grid. This is why STUCO have been able to maintain the flow of electricity even during heavy rains and thunderstorms. Also, due to improvements in the water production, transport and storage capacity, STUCO has for the first time in five years, been able to supply water throughout the year without having to ration during periods of droughts or major repairs at the water plant or the water distribution system. With achievements such as these while the pandemic was wreaking havoc around the world, all Statia should take a bow!
In telecommunications, EUTEL NV provided increased bandwidth, worked with innovative partners to provide one touch communication, secured an increase in the EZK COVID discount package from $25 to $35, continued the upgrade of its outside plant network and 50 new channels were added to EU-TV, . expanded our building which will be officially launched 2022, constructed a new Internet Café that will be launched in 2022. And it won’t stop there as you will see even further progress in 2022.
Other equally important projects in the social domain were executed on behalf of, and in collaboration with, the Public Entity St. Eustatius, some of which will continue in 2022 and beyond. We are proud of the successes such as Golden Opportunity, Safe House, Phase Two Assisted Living Complex, covering of Cruyff Court, the 12+ Programme, signing of the LOI to build central housing for out-of-school programmes (BES(t) 4Kids), training new swimming instructors, a ten per cent rise in the minimum wage, signing of the agreement with Community Centre to improve facilities, the cooperation agreement with Dykers Foundation to elevate basketball, and the new outdoor fitness facility in Wilhelmina Park.
In the field of transport, we opened and transferred a new FDR airport passenger building and control tower, completed airport security training for personnel, completed aviation safety training for airport stakeholders, improved harbour facilities (shore power and water facilities), updated and implemented airport and harbour security ordinances and, after three decades, we finally welcomed the Makana ferry service.
Across the island, from Concordia to Golden Rock, from Zealandia to White Hall, from Lower Town to Oranjestad, the signs of progress are glaring.
The former British prime minister Winston Churchill is credited with saying in the mid-1940s, as the end of World War II was approaching: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
In the past year, Statian entrepreneurs refused to allow the pandemic to go to waste. I have personally observed a notable increase in the construction of private homes, opening of a five-star resort and a remarkable number of new business start-ups. Statian farmers and fishermen have steadily supplied food for the local market. These outputs are evidence that when times get tough, the people of Statia get entrepreneurial.
This surge in entrepreneurship despite the damage this pandemic has done to the global economy, is an unexpected bright spot. This can be attributed to creative residents who have made use of every opportunity to start their own small business.
Each week it was an honour to process and approve requests for business permits; construction of apartment building, bar & restaurant operations, hotel operational licences, car rental companies, consulting agencies, events planning, dairy products companies, freight forwarding, construction, landscaping, souvenirs, ophthalmologist, etc. The entrepreneurial spirit of Statians truly came even more alive in 2021.
Support local businesses
Another positive outcome was the support of local businesses. For a great part of 2021 travel restrictions impacted the tourism and hospitality sector globally and on St. Eustatius. While Government could only gradually re-open the island for long-stay tourism, residents on the other hand were not that eager to venture abroad for the usual annual vacations. Instead, you opted to holiday at home, proving that domestic tourism is of value to the local economy. What a vote of confidence in ourselves! This, along with the economic support packages rolled out by the Dutch Central Government, helped to sustain the local economy. In 2022, I encourage you to continue to invest and to spend locally.
The coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into a health crisis and an economic downturn lasting for almost two years. It has dramatically redefined what a normal life means. Because it affects every country, the pandemic is far more pervasive than other crises we have ever experienced in our lifetime.
In times of crisis, it is easy to overlook opportunities. The truth is, every crisis, while deeply unsettling, also contains the seeds of opportunity.
I have listed some of the ways we grabbed such opportunities in 2021. In 2022, let us look for every potential that exists, add action to this potential and realise your dream.
As we enter the new year with all our bright plans, it is of paramount importance that we pause and give attention to the way we treat each other and address each other. As we ring out the old and ring in the new, there is fresh promise to usher in a new approach to working together as one and amplify our collective power.
Like a choir of disparate voices blending to make beautiful music, or an orchestra of different instruments combining for a sweet symphony, we must walk side by side, hand in hand, and harness our different qualities to lift each other up, not break each other down.
If we accept that we are different components of the same tree, different parts of the same body, different individuals with the same dream; if we work together, grow together, and evolve together, we will meet the challenges of 2022 head-on and we will overcome.
Let your dreams take flight in the new year!
On behalf of the Public Entity, I wish you Healthy, Safe and Happy New Year, Statia!