PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – “I was taken aback by the notification by the different agencies charged with the food assistance program that this programs ends this month. I have to nevertheless, express my gratitude to the volunteers and organizations who assisted with this program. But fact is, while the political posturing continues between the government of the Netherlands and the governing coalition on St. Maarten, recipients of the food assistance program are being confronted with the fact that this program will come to an end at the end of April, so in the next 2 weeks.”
This fact alone raises several issues, such as:
1. State Secretary Knops announced in March that the food assistance program was being extended until July 1, 2021. While this is only 2 additional months, it was also announced that the additional time would allow the local governments to devise a structural program for relief to families in need. At the time it was announced that an additional 15 million Euros was designated for the program to run until July 1st.
What happened to the extension of the food assistance program?
MP Wescot continues: “In the past few days there has been a lot of bickering about the relationship between the Netherlands and St. Maarten, the petition to the UN, the draft COHO law, implementation agendas and liquidity assistance etc. etc., but in the meantime those most in need are being told this food program is ending and no further information has been forthcoming from our government, of whom it is said that they will take over this program.”
“Is the government of St. Maarten really working on a structural program for those persons who relied on the Dutch-funded program for assistance or is the government reluctant to admit that they need to fall right back on the Netherlandsagain?”, the UD MP queries.
It is reported that approximately 4800 households have benefitted from the program which was coordinated by the Netherlands Red Cross and the SMDF, assisted by several other NGO’s.
“If we are serious about devising a structural program, we must have the information collected by aforementioned agencies from the nearly year long food assistance program.
What are our current numbers in terms of unemployment, of welfare recipients etc?”, are some of the questions the MP hopes to receive answers to.
These are matters that should have the undivided attention of government. Structural programs should be devised that are based on data and numbers, with the objective that everyone deserves a dignified living.
“Maybe we have never had to think in this manner before, because of our collective resiliency(that word again), but the times we live in prove that for many, pulling oneself up and out, can no longer simply be assumed”, MP Wescot opined.
The UD faction therefore calls on the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Mr. R. Panneflek to provide clarity and assurance as to the continuation of the food assistance program without delay, and provide parliament with an overview of the results of the program thus far.
MP Wescot wonders whether there is any geographic and or demographic information available resulting from this program.Questions such as, “Where is the need greatest?” need an adequate response. Is it amongst the elderly, amongst women, immigrants?
Our population census is long overdue, but that is the kind of information the government needs, to underpin policies and laws”, the MP concluded.