In the last couple of weeks, St. Maarten people have seen yet another government fall, making it six governments in seven years. While we have only had Status Aparte for a short time, I believe it should be very evident to the St. Maarten people, the Kingdom and the world that our present politicians, with the exception of three, lack the maturity, transparency and integrity to operate in this new system of government. Even in the face of our greatest crisis as an island, it is abundantly clear that our older politicians will never be able to put COUNTRY ABOVE SELF. They have turned the constitution upside down and in the process have caused even more suffering for the people, many of whom are already showing signs of Post-traumatic stress following Irma. OUR PEOPLE HAVE NOT GOTTEN ANY HOPE SINCE IRMA ROCKED OUR LIVES.
Irma devastated the island and now the people are having to relive their trauma over and over while the politicians fight to control the cookie jar and who will get to manage the reconstruction. In particular, it is heartbreaking to see our elderly mopping up their homes daily from the rain as they try to prevent mold build up and rats taking over. To see the stress on their faces as they try to save any mementos of their past life is so distressing.
In all this political turmoil, they all talk about the people's suffering but when will we hear of a short-term plan to STABILIZE THE ISLAND for the next 6 months. It is imperative that we stop the further decay of our social structure before we see unrest and increased crime. This would give the island's economy time to self-regulate from the insurance payouts as wells as time for the island to work on a long-term vision and structural plan for the NEW ST.MAARTEN. A long-term plan in which St. Martiners will once again become the focal point in rebuilding a strong middle class including reintroducing them into the private sector. A long-term plan which will address our ever-increasing social decadence, overpopulation, destruction of the environment, unlivable minimum wage and last but surely not least our St. Maarten Identity. This long-term plan must be done in synergy with the French side counterparts so that we can relive this island as ONE ISLAND, ONE PEOPLE, AND ONE DESTINY. As Irma reminded us, “The Gale does not stop at the border”(Source Felix Choisy).
Recently in Parliament, it was made clear by the Minister of Finance that the island is facing great budget deficits for the next three years and has no reserves. With that in mind, I would suggest the Council of Ministers and the Parliament work on that short-term plan to bring immediate relief in two specific areas in our community: THE UNEMPLOYED AND UNINSURED HOMEOWNERS.
As we are sort out the political instability and seeing that all parties are now in agreement with the Integrity chamber and Border control conditions set forth by the Kingdom, we ABSOLUTELY need to expedite an official request to the Kingdom for funds to stabilize the most vulnerable persons in our community.
UNEMPLOYMENT SUBSIDY: By now our Government should know how many persons are unemployed. A subsidy can be given to the unemployed for the next six months. The amount of the subsidy per person or per family would have to be decided based on our minimum wage and based on the cost of the basic food basket. I would say at least Ang 900 per unemployed with an additional Ang 150 per child. Please keep in mind this is money which will circulate in our economy if the proper measures are taken.
We should be proactive and assist those businesses who are being forced to layoff workers due to loss of business. Government should subsidies part of the employees pay so that the company can keep those workers on their payroll. This would be a lot less burden for Government in the long run and prevent work apathy.
UNINSURED HOMEOWNERS: The uninsured homeowners should be assisted to make temporary repairs in cases of major damage and final repairs in cases of minor damage. It is imperative to make as many homes livable again so that persons can return home and regain a better mindset. This would also reduce the amount of temporary housing needed by government. Priority should be given to senior citizens and single parents.
These repairs can be carried out by the Dutch Military which was already carrying out such temporary repairs and they can enlist helpers from the unemployed persons who can work in that field or have the desire to do so. It may actually be a great learning opportunity for many of our youth.
Some would say why not use the local contractors but they should realize that contractors are already overburdened with the amount of insured home and business owners needing repairs. Besides this is mostly temporary repairs until proper assessments and structural repairs can be made. This will also reduce the need for more bureaucracy and having to set up monitoring institutions in the short term. In the long run we can implement a proper Building Code to reduce the level of damage and increase the survivability of persons and homes the next time the island is hit by a category 5 plus hurricane.
So I am calling on our Ministers and Parliamentarians to end the people's despair. Please make an official request for funds from the Kingdom to stabilize the island in the short term. OUR PEOPLE NEED HELP AND THEY NEED IT NOW!!!
Claude Chacho Peterson