Published On: Sun, Apr 19th, 2020

Whorehouses and casinos

Hilbert HaarHilbert Haar

Payroll support! That’s what all struggling companies, small and big, on St. Maarten have been waiting for. But now it turns out that a lot of companies will not get a penny. This appears from a long list of exemptions – fourteen categories, representing an unknown number of companies.

I have no idea how much thought the government put into this list but it seems to me that its authors could have done a better job.

Hotels are not exempt; this may seem logical given the fact that St. Maarten relies heavily on income from tourism for its economic survival. And the idea that it could be a long time before tourists are coming back probably has inspired the government to include this category in the inner circle of payroll support beneficiaries.

That supermarkets are exempt stands to reason, as long as these companies are generating an income from the sale of their products. But once people’s purses are empty, supermarkets will also quickly go into a vegetative state.

The exemption list mentions wholesale and retail trade as a category but it remains unclear whether this applies only to supermarkets or to all retailers – including jewelers and for instance clothing stores.

Publishing and broadcasting are also exempt; the island’s only newspaper and serious online news outlets will have to figure things out on their own. It almost feels as an attempt by the government to stifle the free flow of reliable information. Who knows?

Trucking and garbage collectors also miss the payroll support boat. Is this maybe because garbage collectors have a guaranteed income from their contracts with the government? In that case – fine, but what happens when the government runs out of money? Will the garbage then pile up on the streets and become a paradise for vermin? You don’t want to think about it.

As a final note, I’d like to point out two types of businesses that are not on the exemption list: whorehouses and casinos. Are these essential services that the country badly needs? Or maybe, just maybe, the good people at the government administration building simply forgot to put them on the list?

I have no idea what is going on here; fortunately there are many press briefings on the horizon, so maybe we will get some answers to these questions soon.


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