Chamber program 2012

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Chamber program 2012

  1. 1. Chamber Program 2012 “New Country, New Approach” January 13, 2012The first year of Country Sint Maarten, since October 10, 2010, was a year oflearning and adaptation. In fact the past year served for Government and theStakeholders to adapt to the new system and to learn how to act as a country withinthe Kingdom of the Netherlands and without the traditional layer of a FederalGovernment.In this process of change, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as the umbrellaorganization representing the private sector, must utilize its unique position of beingan Advisor to Government to help and assist in a more effective and result drivenmanner, with the ultimate goal being: more sustainability and further improvement ofthe Economic Development of Sint Maarten.For the last few years, the Chamber has embarked on multiple initiatives, some ofthem have been completed, and others are in their final stage of implementation. TheExecutive Board wishes to finalize all these initiatives on the Chamber program forthe year 2012, while dealing with all current affairs related to the private sector.The priorities of the Chamber achievements for 2012 can be divided into 3 sections:Chamber Internal Affairs, Chamber Local Involvement and Chamber Regional andInternational participation.N.B. The list of priorities listed below is not in any chronological order as the Board needs to approvethem and establish timelines and deadlines for their realization. I. The Chamber Internal Affairs: Now that the physical revamp of the Chamber’s facility is completed, the managerial positions filled and the registry software installed, what need to be done in 2012 is as follows: 1. The GAMMA Software: Considering the multiple pressures to share the data with certain government entities, the Chamber registry software must be completely finalized as soon as possible for the Board to determine the final conditions for its accessibility by third parties. The Executive Board considers that this year’s MIS committee (to be chaired by Mr. Ajay Rawtani) must prepare, in collaboration with the Director, the Office Manager and the IT Manager, an assessment of the situation and a plan of action. 1
  2. 2. 2. The Chamber Personnel:The Executive Board considers it urgent that a review, an evaluation and thetraining of all the Chamber personnel must take place as soon as possible todetermine the different tasks and responsibilities of the employees.The Director is instructed to prepare of job descriptions of each Chamberemployee, and to identify an independent person/entity to do the evaluationand prepare the TOR for the training of the personnel. While the personnelare being trained, a salary scale will be established based on performance.3. The Collection of the Chamber dues:An efficient system of collection must be put in place for the collection ofmembership dues after which a registry clean-up must be done to be able tohave the most accurate data.The Executive Board would like to suggest the approach of hiring 2 or 3 localunemployed youth and to train them for this task. The team will also have thenecessary tools, such as uniforms and transportation. The Director ischarged with the preparation and submission of the different offers for theuniforms and the transportation vehicle.4. The Chamber Ordinance & Standing Order:The Federal Ordinance, under which the Chamber functioning is regulated,dates as far back as 1945 and amended several times through the years, thelast amendment dates as far back as September 1979. Now that we areCountry, we need to start preparing a “Country Ordinance”. In the plannedordinance we can adjust certain aspects according to the Sint Maartenspecifics. Once approved by the relevant authorities, the Ordinance will alsoserve to place the Chamber in its rightful position, as no mention was madein the Country Constitution.The Executive Board thinks that this initiative must start by having a Notaryto make an interactive presentation of the existing Chamber laws to theBoard. This way, while learning about rights and obligations, all BoardMembers will have the chance to expose their thoughts andrecommendations. Notary Francis Gijsbertha was identified to carry out thistask and the Director was instructed to initiate the process.5. The Registry Regulation:In December 2009, 2 sets of laws were approved by the then Parliament ofthe Netherlands Antilles. Some parts of the laws were implemented sinceJanuary 2010, other parts still pending and must be finalized as soon aspossible. The most important part to be finalized this year is the obligation of 2
  3. 3. businesses to include the Chamber Registration number on all their company letter heads, invoices, bills of order etc. The Executive Board has identified September 1, 2012 as the deadline for businesses to comply with this part of the law. This date was chosen as it corresponds with the termination of the country phone code 599 and its permanent replacement with 1-721. This way, it will be cheaper for businesses to comply with 2 regulations with one cost. The Director was instructed to start preparing a plan of approach, including an information campaign.II. The Chamber Local Involvement: In representing the Private Sector, the unique position of the Chamber as Advisor to Government allows its involvement at the local level to be more effective and more productive. This can be done through the Chamber representatives in the several committees and through ad hoc interventions. 1. The Advisory Committees and the Standing Committees: Provision is made in the Chamber Rules of Procedure to permit the review and update of the different committees (Art.16, Art.17 and Art.18). At this stage of the Country, the Executive Board considers it necessary to review and update all the committees and their representatives and to establish more regular and efficient ways of communication between the Board and the representatives. 2. Collaboration with Government Apparatus: A definitive approach must be established and approved by the board with regards to the most legal and ethical way of sharing the Chamber Data Base. This process must be solely motivated by the willingness to help government in having their data base updated to seek, among other things, the Broadening of the Tax Base. The Executive Board considers that it is time for the Chamber to increase the collaboration with government in all areas to help improve the economic climate. Besides the sharing of data, other ways of assistance could be the initiation of sectoral surveys, the first ones could be in the Marine sector and in the Condominium/Timeshare sector. The primary intention of these surveys is to ensure that all businesses operating on the Dutch Side are registered at the Chamber, while the results of the surveys, once shared with government, will help to better regulate the economy. 3
  4. 4. 3. The Business License Advisory:Since the decision taken a few years ago to have this task fulfilled by theChamber management instead of the Licensing Committee, the Board hasnot been informed of any major hiccups or difficulties.Nonetheless, at the indication of the Director that no requests werereceived by the Chamber since November 2011, the executive Board find iturgent to review the entire situation and make a realistic assessment forthe Board to take a decision accordingly. The Director will contact VOSECto inquire about the requests.4. The Labor/Work Permits issues:In conjunction with the business licensing, and in light of the high rate ofunemployment, especially among the youth, it is high time now to alsoassess the situation and advise Government accordingly5. Further Assistance to Local Small Businesses:In continuation with the initiative that started last year with the Small Hotelssector, further assistance is needed from the Chamber, especially withregards to soft loans through the Development Bank OBNA and/orCommercial Banks.In expediting the identification of the different possibilities, the ExecutiveBoard is of the opinion that the Chamber must also take a proactiveapproach with the commercial banks and encourage them for moreinvolvement. E.g. the training program that the WIB did in the past thatincluded training courses for local small businesses.6. The Chamber Business Directory:Determined to be an additional tool of information, locally and regionally,the business directory should be re-commissioned.The Executive Board is of the opinion that this initiative should not cost theChamber anything in the first place and that it should be implementedthrough a transparent public bid, with specific terms of reference allowingthe Chamber possibilities of monitoring and control.7. Cost of Living and Cost of Doing Business:The cost of living is an issue that has been frequently raised, especially bythe employee’s organizations. It has also been a concern of the Chamberthrough the years, as the maintaining or the decrease of the cost of livingwill give more buying power to the employee’s salary. The cost of doingbusiness is of greater importance to the Chamber as the business 4
  5. 5. community is often complaining about. As these costs are ultimately carriedover to the consumer, the effects are even greater to the entire society.The President has indicated that this year, the Chamber must look at thissituation diligently. One of the avenues the President is strongly advising tolook at is the food basket and increase it in quantity and quality. He tookthe example of Curacao who just implemented the addition of fruits andvegetables to their government controlled food basket.For the cost of doing business, in continuation with the past efforts of theChamber to have some relief for the business from GEBE, more areas ofconcerns must be added such as telecommunication and interest rates thatcould encourage more local investments.8. The Consumer Protection Act/Authority & BBB:The Consumer Protection process initiated by SBDF is also an additionalavenue for the Chamber to engage in, along with SBDF and Government,as it was indicated to Parliament during the meeting last year.In consideration of the increased number of consumer complaints theChamber has been receiving, the President is of the opinion that it is nowhigh time to join forces with SBDF (the project owner) and Government toestablish this mechanism that will primarily serve, not only the protection ofthe consumers, but most importantly to protect the reputation of SintMaarten as a shopping destination.The other consideration, the President is advising, is the establishment of aBetter Business Bureau that will be tasked with the dissemination ofinformation on best practices with regards to the further protection ofbusinesses and the consumers. For that purpose, a section of theChamber will be remodeled to serve as a Chamber Desk where informationwill also be provided for the visitors and potential investors.9. Security, Crime Prevention and Youth Vocational Education:The security issues our business community is lately experiencing areintertwined mainly with the present high youth unemployment. As much asthe Security Camera System that the Chamber has now been championingfor years is an important tool of prevention, it is also equally important tohave a proactive role with government and the businesses in creating morejob opportunities through Training and Education for the unemployedyouth.With the experience as Chairman of the Security Committee, the Presidentis insisting that this year the Chamber should play a bigger role in the crimeprevention through training and education. The multiple opportunities that 5
  6. 6. exist in several sectors must be conducive to much more youth training, employment and entrepreneurship. One of the ideas the President is strongly recommending that the Chamber should explore is the encouragement of youth to be more involved in studying hotel management, hospitality and culinary arts. This can be done through the University of St. Martin in similar way what the Hotel Academy is doing in CuracaoIII. The Chamber Regional and International Participation: Considering the international economic difficulties the United States and Europe are presently experiencing, Sint Maarten must seriously look at another pillar to add to the Economy. What could be considered as a realistic new pillar to consider is becoming a “Supply Platform” similar to what Panama has to offer, an E-Zone Park offering goods to the region. With the reputation of Sint Maarten, its geographic location and its sophisticated infrastructure, the Chamber can lead this process in partnership with government and the business community. 1. Trade Shows and Trade Missions: Now that we are a country, the work done in the past 7 years through the Chamber affiliation with CAIC can be further sustained through the official support of government to the private sector. In fact, the involvement of politicians in the attendance and organization of Trade Shows and Trade Missions often leads to more economic cooperation and development The Executive Board considers this is a priority and believes that the first mission should be to Panama. This will permit to the Chamber and the members to learn about the distribution platform Panama presently enjoys. In this initiative, the Chamber will also try to make use of the offer made by Copa Airlines of 10 round trip tickets and to assist us in the logistics of the mission. A decision was taken to approach the Tourist Bureau for assistance to start the talks with Copa Airlines. Such initiative will certainly open additional opportunities from the South American market. In the same effort, the President is recommending that the Chamber should seek additional ways in promoting Sint Maarten as a “Shopping Destination” for the Caribbean. This must be done by talking with the regional airlines like LIAT and RedJet for them to consider lower fare for passengers and cargo. To achieve optimal results in this initiative, the Chamber is collaborating with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Tourism and the Tourist Bureau to conjointly seek the best possible approach to achieve this goal. 6
  7. 7. 2. Regional Economic Summit:In furthering Sint Maarten exposure to the rest of the Caribbean, holding aneconomic summit, consisting of prominent business persons andgovernment officials, will certainly open multiple opportunities for the localbusinesses and for Foreign Direct Investment.In line with the Chamber decision to host the CAIC 7th Annual PrivateSector Meeting with the region Ministers of Economy in Sint Maarten thisyear, the Executive Board thinks that it could be a good idea to include aRegional Economic Summit. Decisions were taken to inquire about theprojected dates of the CAIC event and to establish a special committee tobe tasked with the early planning. One of the possibilities that must beexplored is EU funding through INTERREG, if the summit is organized incollaboration with the Chamber of Commerce of the French Side.3. Additional Funding Support:With the funding from the Netherlands, especially for the Social EconomicInitiative (SEI) is being phased out by the end of 2012, additional sourcesof funding need to be explored for the sustainability and the furtherdevelopment of the economy. Other funding possibilities from theNetherlands and from other sources must be identified.4. Advice on CARICOM & OECS Relations:With the latest decision taken during the Kingdom meeting in theNetherlands on the autonomy of the different countries in their foreigneconomic relations, the Chamber must further emphasize to Governmentthe urgency to finalize the association with CARICOM. Possibilities to alsojoin the OECS must be explored and advised to government.In following up with the Chamber Advice to Government to apply for anAssociate Member status with CARICOM, a decision was taken to forwarda letter to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on the issue and to alsorequest a meeting with her to have an update and further discuss anybottlenecks.5. The Dutch Caribbean Association of Chambers:In following up with the state of affairs on the creation of the DCAC, alongwith the chambers of Curacao and Aruba, certain pending issues must belooked at and determined, e.g. the official language of the association.After indication by the Director that the process is presently stalled waitingon the reaction of Aruba Chamber, the Executive Board has determined 7
  8. 8. that this will be the occasion for the entire concept to be reviewed anddecided upon by the Board.One of the most important points that raised much discussion last year wasthe official languages of the planned association; the majority of themembers were of the opinion that although Dutch is the language, theEnglish must be also considered. This is very important as Dutch andEnglish are the 2 official languages of Country Sint Maarten and that mostof our business community are not well versed in Dutch6. Relationship with the French Side:Restart the dialogue with the French Chamber of Commerce to seriouslyseek ways of collaboration in the development of the island as a whole.A decision was taken to organize a meeting with the French Side Chamberto determine a realistic approach toward more effective ways ofcollaboration and cooperation.7. Public Private Partnership:Revive the decision taken by the Board in early 2011 to have a moreeffective approach to the establishment of a Public/Private Partnership withGovernment.Considering the latest decision of the Kingdom partners during theirmeeting in the Netherlands, to give autonomy to each country in theirEconomic Foreign Relations, the Executive Board is of the opinion that theChamber must explore all the possibilities to continue the deliberation onthe Public Private Partnership possibilities. A decision was taken to have ameeting with Mr. Bert van Geel, who is assigned by Foreign Affairs Ministryto assist Sint Maarten with its foreign relations, and explore all possibilities.In this regard, the President is suggesting that a new committee isestablished “Regional & International Relations Committee” that willenclose the CAIC task and all other future opportunities in the building ofthe regional and international economic development of Country SintMaartenAdditionally, for the establishment of a more effective and coherentpartnership with Government, the creation of a “Public Private PartnershipBureau” within the Chamber’s offices, is the best way to go. 8

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