A New Year’s Message Government Commissioner, Alida Francis St. Eustatius, January 1st , 2024

There is nothing like one year ending and a new one beginning to forcefully drive home how quickly time passes by. Yet, nothing reminds us of all the possibilities that lie ahead like the dawn of a new year. 

So as 2023 races to an end, let us prepare to ring in 2024 with dreams and aspirations that will lift us way above any dark cloud, beyond the reach of any storm.

2023 was a year filled with challenges and victories. There were times of anxiety and periods of calm. There were moments of despair and an abundance of hope. There were lots to worry about and plenty to celebrate.

There was anxiety over critical issues such as the cost of living and health care. There was despair over the loss of some of our valuable players and committed contributors. And, there was worry over so many other matters - big and small ones, important and unimportant ones, personal and public ones.

And yet, despite the dark clouds of distress, desperation and distrust that sometimes hung over us, we achieved a lot in 2023, although we can so easily forget how much we have done and how far we have come. Here are some examples of our extraordinary achievements.

  • We secured an apology from King Willem-Alexander for slavery past
  • Statia was the first in the Caribbean and the first Dutch Caribbean municipality to be a UNICEF Child Friendly Cities candidate
  • We signed a new St. Eustatius Agreement with the national government
  • There was steady progress improving the management of public finances
  • The restoration of democracy entered the final stages
  • There were infrastructural improvements, including the formal opening of the new Airport Boulevard and the commencement of the renovation of the Orange Bay road
  • Social minimum was finally established
  • We opened a branch of the Joint Court on our island
  • The start of Legal Desk for Statia, Saba and Bonaire was announced by the Ministry of Justice & Security
  • The start of phase three of the STUCO solar park
  • A bill was approved by the Council of ministers for the introduction of the Citizen Service Number (BSN) and login tools for digital government in Statia, Saba and Bonaire
  • Statian youth were recognised and empowered by their peers in the Most Remarkable Teens initiative

These are but a few of the major successes in a brief period of time for a rather small island. Yet, I am encouraged by my conviction that our best days are ahead of us. To paraphrase the former Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, if as Statians we keep our hopes high, our courage strong and maintain great faith in our people, our dreams for this beautiful island will never die.  

I see great opportunities in 2024 in the cultural heritage sector. With funding becoming available through various sources as a result of the apology, there are opportunities to invest in our cultural heritage institutions and in capacity building that will serve as a catalyst for the further development of tourism.

I see opportunities coming out of the preparations for the 250th anniversary of the first salute, and I see opportunities in training and education for civil servants, in digitalisation of key services and enforcement of legislation if we must ensure a safe and secure St. Eustatius

As we continue to build the infrastructure, I see opportunities in tourism as we become more entrepreneurial. And I see so much more.

There is an old saying that the sky is the limit, but for Statia, I believe there are no limits to what we can achieve, how far we can go, or how high we can climb. I see a future full of greatness; I see a tomorrow that is loaded with grandness; I see a new year filled with goodness. I see a Statia that punches way above its weight. But to get there we must embrace the opportunities, not abandon our responsibilities; we must celebrate our successes, not amplify our failures; we must enhance our strengths not glorify our weaknesses.

William James, the American philosopher and psychologist wrote: “There is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking.”

I believe if we as Statians form permanent pictures in our minds of a progressive, positive and passionate people, we will work priceless wonders and dream things that never were in 2024.

I wish all of you a bright and prosperous New Year 2024.