PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – When 2022 was brought in with many fireworks and festive activities all around the island I wondered if this would be the year of recovery or if this would be another year of drama for the country. Will we allow our future to determine our present decisions and actions, or must our present time take precedence at the expense of our future? Based on our experience it would seem as though we as a country are incapable of creating a situation in which we do not suffer at present while actively enhancing the prospective future.
I believe some good news thus far for the Caribbean islands was the departure of State Secretary Raymond Knops whose own party told him there was no place for him in the new government moving forward. The reasons will as usual remain a secret or very vague, but at least we are in a better place than we were yesterday. We will not miss you sir.
But when we look at the way forward for our country, we need to deal with some very serious matters at hand and one such matter is the budget of 2022. We must decide on what’s best today to reach tomorrow, without allowing today to become unlivable.
Some of the serious issues that need to be considered are (1) the issues of inflation on the island, (2) the ability of the country to repay the so-called bullet loans granted and lastly (the recovery of the economy with the additional variants of the covid virus.
When we look at the unnecessary damage the 12.5% cuts have done to the last of the middle class, it’s clear that based on the new governing accord of the Netherlands they aren’t finished punishing the people of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of theNetherlands. Unless they finally decide that equality means all of us in the kingdom will be treated equally, and not just when it’s convenient, we are still far from home. The constitutional courts showed its uselessness as their verdict was not a verdict but more a yes they are allowed to do these things in a time of need. What was missing is how you are allowed to do things in a time of need and the excuse that there was no data is just mind boggling.
There remains a serious need to assist the Caribbean countries to ensure that the countries do not fall into total poverty. Instead they should create a better economy resulting in minimum wages that are livable, while the inflation is hampering much of such, I would have hoped that a serious look would have been given to the agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries aspect in our country. We have lots of ideas and even capacity but no capital to truly enhance this sector and those types of loans seem to be lost if at all beingoffered. Instead, we are offered more loans to build roads and enhance our infrastructure etc. We cannot eat asphalt or concrete, but we surely can eat vegetables, fruits, chickens, goats and fish.
Our budget must be based on our realities and not on a set of country packages that cannot sustainthis country moving forward. Consensus laws are something of the past and that must be made clear moving forward. It is time to create a new beginning for the country and to stop stating that the country is so corrupted but then again that has been their political mantra to keep destroying the people of this country. I hope this practice will stop moving forward but the proof will be in the pudding. Once you are brave to speak out and challenge them you will be taken out judicially and/or financially. The most corruptive aspect in a country is when justice goes unchecked. Let no one fool you into believing that justice is integer, but that is for another article.
The country needs to find ways to increase itsincome while not burdening the population, but also collect the outstanding taxes of those that aren’t paying it, yet flaunt their money in our faces.
St. Maarten has opened its doors to accommodate the tourism industry, especially by allowing many ships to dock here and even have crews and passengers (including those infected with covid) to be transferred to the aircrafts that took them back home during the pandemic.
Many countries have increased or created a new tax for tourists of say US$ 10,- to US$15,- to handle the environment (climate change) and the pandemic (to make the country safe). It is an income we do not have now but one which we could be able to collect.
Another income is the aspect of water and fuel sales to the cruise industry where not enough is being done to ensure the country can get a much better return on investment.
I believe the government should look into building the various needed spaces such asthe justice wing, the new parliament building and parking for the center of town, the high council buildings, the tourism authority and all other necessary buildings for the government to move away from renting following the concept of rent to own. This can be done through entities like the APS who can fund these ventures once the risk analysis is done and the government meets its rental obligations.
Secondly, considering the low returns on international investments the government must instruct their government owned companies that loans from 3rd parties must meet the criteria of trying to borrow from the local institutional lenders like APS and SZV prior to going to local banks and/or international borrowers. Asset protection must be done locally in these trying times.
The added value of border protection and our serious issues with undocumented persons on the island that make full use of the countries infrastructure, social system and health system cannot go unchecked this year and must be placed on the priority list instead of data protection and only bringing more RST here to continue the hunt for locals to be destroyed. Why isn’t the additional 13 million euro allocated to actual border protection instead of going after more politicians. If we cannot realize the real program them, we have a bigger problem than balancing our budget.
The country’s quest for a new anthem, new educational system, PR to enhance the country’s name abroad, getting the airport to a category 1 airport, our economic diversification, our changes needed to the charter to ensure our autonomy is properly defined and we aren’t recolonized, our recovery through the World Bank and the long duration for completion of those projects, our justice system and its unfair practices, our way forward with Covid in the world of today, our government owned companies becoming viable are just a few of the important things that also need our attention, but we need to agree on what comes first; the chicken or the egg. Serious choices need to be made in 2022 as the reset button will not be able to be pushed again.
Lockdowns are only destructive to any economy and any society and maybe just maybe we should build up the immune system of our people better by doing things that will make that possible like for example exercising and eating healthier and being more active. We must actively make this possible and not wish for this to happen. I say we as the government cannot do this alone.
Lastly, I strongly believe that the motion of MP George Pantophlet for debt cancellation should be one of our new discussion points with the new Dutch government based on the equality aspect of the new governing agreement of the Netherlands. We need to find a way while we implement the much needed reforms that we can start off on a fresh foot and not remain buckled down with debts that we cannot afford to pay, nor should it have been part of our new country status to begin with.
The hopefully former norm that the Netherlands, mostly through BZK, makes the funds available to make Mutual arrangements or Consensus Kingdom Laws, as is presently once again the case with regards to the (Data Protection law) the country packages must be based on the professed Equality to truly become something of the past.
Recently while being in the Netherlands at an expo, Professor emeritus Gert Oostindie a well respected professor in the Netherlands in the field of colonial and post-colonial history, minced no words when he stated that Consensus laws are only made to Recolonize the former islands, now countries!
When I take a look back at the past 2 years and with all I stated above, I can only advisethe country “Carpe Diem”; Seize the day and do not worry about the future. You will not reach tomorrow if you die today!