Jaime Saleh: Good Governance ‘powerful building block’ on St. Maarten


DAWN BEACH--Good governance is "a powerful building block" in the sustainable and democratic development of St. Maarten. It has political, economic and cultural dimensions, but also moral and ethical imperatives, former Governor of the Netherlands Antilles Professor Jaime Saleh told government and private sector representatives on Friday.

Saleh was the keynote speaker at the second annual High Councils of State Symposium at The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort and Spa. The session, titled "Thoughts on Good Governance," was attended by Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt, Members of Parliament and the Council of Ministers, among other dignitaries.

"Good Governance is the bedrock of sustainable development of a society based on sound domestic policies. It is characterised by sustainable economy, efficient government, effective civil society, successful private sector, democratic and participatory involvement of the citizenry, effectual mobilisation of resources, equitable distribution of resources, and last, but not least, adherence to the rule of law," Saleh said.

Democratic institutions and the rule of law, he continued, "are easy to establish, but difficult to sustain. A political society, which shares their underlying values and constantly manifests commitment to them in political attitudes and activities, is required to sustain them.

For that reason the High Councils of State – the Advisory Council, the General Audit Chamber and the Ombudsman – "are so important," for they ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, transparency and accountability, and maintenance of the rules of law on the part of the government.

"The Higher Councils of State are requisite institutions par excellence for maintenance of the checks and balances and requirements of good governance within the democratic system of all the countries in the Kingdom, and in our case particularly in St. Maarten," Saleh said.

Good governance is most of the time also connected with the term "legality." The legitimacy of an act of governance should be "distinguished by its legality, for it is possible that such acts are acceptable within the range of law, but may be considered illegitimate according to the values and norms of a civilised society."

Saleh said problems of legitimacy of acts of governance could reach "serious crisis levels" when what had been considered legal no longer was so considered based on these values and norms.

Here, he pointed out, legislation for the screening of ministers, as is topical in Curaçao, is not necessary. "At the moment someone puts him available for the job as minister, he or she must be a clean person. You don't need a law to have that."
The same stands for people in the private sector. "You have to be a clean person ... not because the law says it, but because my ethical values require that from me."

Elements of good governance require the rule of law, transparency, equity and inclusiveness, responsiveness, consensus-oriented approach, effectiveness and efficiency, accountability, and participation by the people.

"Good governance is responsive to the present and future needs of the country and its society, exercises prudence in policy-setting and decision-making, and that the best interests of the whole society are taken into account."

A good and effective administration of the government policies covering all aspects of good governance requires "a professionally competent, capable and honest public service with political leaders and civil servants with integrity, capacity, knowledge and wisdom, who are working within an accountable rule governed framework and in which the principles of merit and the public interest are paramount and not matters of political friendship."

Saleh said good governance was an ideal difficult to achieve in its totality. Governance typically involves well-intentioned people who bring their ideas, experiences, preferences and other human strengths and shortcomings to the policy-making table.

"Good governance is achieved through an ongoing discourse that attempts to capture all of the considerations involved in assuring that stakeholder interests are addressed and reflected in policy initiatives."