Published On: Tue, Apr 14th, 2020

Jimmy Challenger: “Use our downtime to plan Economic Reforms and review Disaster Management Preparedness.”

Jimmy Challenger“On an annual basis our country confronts the hurricane season, some of which have brought disastrous damage to our shores, including Hurricane Irma in 2017. As a result of these super storms, our economic activities come to almost a complete stop for weeks and even months – restricting mobility and business activity for our one pillar tourism economy.  And now, we are also experiencing the effects of global pandemics, an additional extreme and direct impact on our social economic way of life.”

Challenger continued: “I, like many others in the country, remain very concerned about our future as a nation. While international relations, regional support from our Caribbean brothers and sisters or support from our Kingdom partners can reduce the impact of a hurricane with provision of monetary and/or relief supplies – a pandemic whereby the world is affected is of a different beast, and way more difficult to tame. We must begin to plan differently and prepare for our annual hurricane seasons, and economic shocks caused by any health or war crisis around the world that would directly impact our economy.”

“Our country urgently needs Economic Reform and Disaster Management Protocols that reflect our new realities within the kingdom and world for that matter– and now is the best time to do this. We must use the downtime caused by the COVID19 pandemic to plan and execute economic reforms and disaster management protocols and procedures in consultation with all our (local) stakeholders in the private and public sectors.  We cannot simply rely on the Dutch Government to continue to be our first line of defense to supplement our budget or raw materials needed post hurricane disasters or world events that could negatively impact the Netherlands or any other kingdom partner from responding to our local needs straightaway.”

“Let me clear, I am not saying that we should not rely on our Kingdom Partners or Regional brothers and sisters in the Caribbean – what I am saying is, we must be able to respond more adequately from our own resources first – monetary and/or raw materials.  This would require better planning, budgeting and stock piling, and allocation of (human) resources more effectively.”

“St. Maarten’s Economic Reform and Disaster Management Plan must include our brothers and sisters on the French side of the island – where applicable – with specific attention to the following six areas of concentration:

  1. Data Collection: Improve our collection of Data in all private and public sectors, including the allocation of “Social Security-Numbers” and “Government Bank Account” for every resident – for better analysis, decision making and distribution of any monetary benefits that may be applicable.
  1. Entrepreneurship: Provide better and Increased Support to Local Entrepreneurships to ensure their Viability – with emphasis on diversification of our economy and job creation and (international) trade. An initiative that must include Public and Private Sector Financial Support and Incentives that make sense. It has to be more than just grants and loans at 0% financing.
  1. Citizens and Business Contributions: Modernize our Tax and Social Insurance Premiums Collection Processes to be more transparent, improve compliance, better allocations for unemployment relief as a result of (natural and health) disasters. The introduction of a national social identification number is a must.
  1. Government Budgets and Government Owned Companies: Reorganize our Government Budget to reflect higher provisions for Natural Disaster Management, with emphasis on cutting costs in areas of less importance, and generating of new income streams that reflect our new realities. Review the interrelationship partnering opportunities of Government Owned Companies and services in the interest of the country.
  1. Education and Organization: Invest more in Education and Reorganize Our Population Centers of Influence to make them more effective during times of disasters and unforeseen economic hardships. Place our people in key positions because of their experience – in areas where they can make the best positive impact – to improve our nation.
  1. Safety and Security and Reserves: A local territorial army is essential to support the police force and other emergency services. In addition a formal district management plan has to be adopted to reflect accessibility of resources and restrict movement when required for our own protection. The government should implement a national stock pile of food and other resources such as gasoline for times of extreme need to support and protect the people. The reserve should include monetary savings that could only be used when a state of emergency / national disaster has been declared.”

“Infrastructure Requirements: Implementing these six aforementioned interconnected steps will result in a better oversight of the infrastructure requirements that our population requires. From roads, to bridges, to schools, sports facilities, internet communication networks, and any other essential facilities required for the proper running of the country.”

In conclusion Challenger stated: “We must turn away from full reliance on the Netherlands to solve the vast majority of our monetary shortfalls during disasters and begin to develop our resources on the ground in a more effective and efficient manner. And if we don’t believe that this is necessary, then we should give up the country status and revert to becoming a full dependency of the Netherlands – Municipality of the Netherlands.”

Jimmy Challenger holds a degree in International Business Management and has been working in the Financial Sector for a period exceeding 15 years. He remains vocal on our island’s challenges and continues to provide possible long term solutions in the interest of our people.