Published On: Tue, Mar 31st, 2020

Just do it

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

To write that these are challenging times qualifies as the understatement of the century. But here we are, smack in the middle of an unprecedented crisis that has turned all of our lives upside down. The only certainty we have right now is that nothing is certain anymore.

Businesses are teetering on the brink of extinction and when businesses go down their employees go with them. When there is no income and all reserves are exhausted there will be no more food on the table. It’s a bloody nightmare, no two ways about it.

And in the midst of this all plays the painful question what we should save most of all: people’s lives or the economy. Already I read somewhere that soon hospitals will be so overwhelmed that they will have to make choices: who do we accept as patients and who do we refuse?

One idea is to choose patients with the longest life expectancy. If the choice is between a healthy 30-year old and an ailing 90-year old ….. well, the choice seems obvious. But what if that 90-year old is your beloved grandmother? You don’t want to think about stuff like this or, even worse, be forced to take these kinds of decisions.

Yet, former Central Bank President Dr. Emsley Tromp has said it in an opinion piece in the Antilliaans Dagblad:  “No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health.”

I understand his way of thinking. If you look at the economy as a system designed to enable people to have a meaningful job that in turn enables them to support their families it is clear that without a viable economy we’re all gonna be dead sooner or later.

The Hospitality and Trade Association’s push for supporting the private sector makes therefore a lot of sense: it is to everybody’s benefit.

In times of crisis everybody is looking for leadership. In St. Maarten this has to come from the freshly installed government. So far, I am rather disappointed because there has been ample time to put a rescue plan together that outlines the immediate needs of the country and its people; and all we have seen up to now is a draft. This is not the time to argue with the Netherlands about the inevitable conditions that will be attached to rescue-loans (because loans it will be, not gifts).

I expect one of those conditions to be a salary cut for politicians. I just read that the players of pro soccer club Barcelona are giving up 70 percent of their salary to help their club through the crisis. Is a similar sacrifice from our members of parliament too much? If you take 70 percent off the around 20,000 guilders they get every month, they are left with 6,000 bucks. That’s still 2,000 guilders above the poverty line.

Please, let’s not argue about such details. Everybody is suffering or about to go hungry. Just do it, before we all go down.

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