Published On: Thu, Dec 7th, 2017

Gracita: “Clarity needed soonest as well as direct support for our people.“

PHILIPSBURG – Leader of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Gracita Arrindell, states: “The holiday season has arrived quietly. For thousands of local households this means little or no season at all. For the first time in a very long time in our social-economic history, to experience that sadly many of our citizens will not be able to sit around their kitchen table to enjoy quality time with their families, close friends and neighbors. Mind you, many are in this situation through no fault of their own. With the closure of so many business that cater to our main pillar of our economy, the tourism industry, the impact of the devastation of hurricane Irma is felt deep within the social fabrics of our nation. It’s heartbreaking to say the least.’

Arrindell added: “Three months further, many uncertainties remain, many questions left unanswered. Two examples that keep raising its head in the public arena are: 1. Who will be receiving part of the reconstruction funds from Holland and from the European Union a.o.? By extension, will any part or some of those funds be qualified as a grant or a loan to government? Will businesses that qualify be able to tap into those funds? To what extent will the ordinary citizen who needs it most and who qualifies to receive assistance, will he or she or that family be able to receive such and if  yes, how much per person or per family.?

The second example (there are more) is the question: Why is the gateway to our island Princess Juliana International Airport so slow to recover and re-open? The surrounding islands are capitalizing on our slow pace of decisiveness. The longer our airport remains in this state, the longer it takes to create trust among the industry to get us back on track and better.”

Gracita continues: “Both questions deserve a direct and unambiguous reply from those in the know and authorities in the decision making process.”

Arrindell added: “Food for thought. Regarding the application of funds to, for example, our most vulnerable citizens, an idea can be for Parliament, SZV and the Social Welfare department to establish a temporary unemployment law in collaboration with the community councils for one year. Each employee who is a legal resident of Sint Maarten for the past (for instance) five ( 5) or ten (10 ) years, and lost his or her job as a result of hurricane Irma can be made eligible for temporary unemployment benefit. Assuming that we have indeed six thousand  (6000) persons who have lost their jobs or will loose their job in the very near future as a direct result of hurricane Irma. If those 6000 persons can become eligible for one thousand US dollars (1000 ) dollars monthly unemployment allowance per month, this would be an expensive injection, but an injection nevertheless of 72.000.000 for the year 2018.”

“Mind you, this would mean, just over 10% of the Dutch recovery funds straight into the economy of Sint Maarten. Families can feed their children and have a dignified period ahead of the more structural decisions to follow by government, and pending the recovery of our tourism infrastructure. A welcome side effect may well be the prevention of an increase in crime.”

At the same time, government must be a real facilitator and not an obstructionist or competitor to bona-fide businesses that are locally established and to those who care to open shop on Sint Maarten. Government needs to facilitate the business community to create jobs, not to place unnecessary administrative burden on initiatives and encourage entrepreneurship, especially in times like these. Cut the red-tape once and for all.”

“The airport and other critically important infrastructural entities, must be up and running soonest. It is completely unacceptable that our airport has not even started it’s reconstruction process. People must insist on clarity of explanation. Nothing less.

Arrindell concluded: “In times of crisis and great uncertainty, support is absolutely necessary for all citizens, not only for a select few who qualify regardless of background, and clarity is equally important to give hope and build back trust.