Published On: Thu, Aug 13th, 2020

Getting to a better place

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

It always had to come to this. Protecting public health is an obvious priority to anybody with half a brain but what about protecting the economy?

It is a horrendous dilemma. I recently saw a cartoon showing a bunch of kids standing on a beach where they hear from their teacher: “It’s okay to go into the water now. Only one percent of you will be eaten.”

In the distant past, former Central Bank President Dr. Emsley Tromp already knew what was coming when he Did the CFT set the Kingdom on fire? that you cannot protect public health very long at the expense of your economy.” That was a thoughtful way of saying that some of us have to die so that others can live.

The Daily Herald – let’s give ‘em credit for this – reported this week that according to Tourism and Economy Minister Ludmilla de Weever, 68 stores on Front Street have closed their doors.

When I read stuff like that I’m thinking: Woah, the writing is on the wall. And it begs the painful question once more: how far can you go protecting the public health of your population at the expense of your economy?

If you are into wishful thinking – which I am certainly not – you’d most likely say that protecting public health remains a top priority no matter what. That is the decent thing to think. But is this realistic? Is this even feasible?

St. Maarten is financially at the end of its tether. It is struggling with Dutch conditions attached to further liquidity support but it is in no position to reject them.

When the government runs out of money – as it certainly will without outside help – civil servants will not get paid anymore and critical services (like police, fire brigade, garbage collection, etc) will cease to exist. Those who have the means to leave will go elsewhere – an unprecedented brain drain that will further weaken our institutions. Those who are left behind and have nowhere to go are left to their own devices.

And when hunger overtakes rational thinking, all hell is going to break loose.

But hey, we may be standing at the edge of the abyss, but we have not gone off the deep end yet. For now, protecting public health will remain the number one priority and that is, in a way, something to be grateful for. The sooner we get this corona-crisis under control, the sooner our community will be able to return to a new version of normal.

The message here is: don’t give up. Bite the damn bullet and do everything within your abilities to help us all get to a better place. Your children will certainly thank you for your efforts.


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