The buzz words in the streets today is that the NA-led government is following in the same footsteps of the previous UPP-led government. This time around they are doing everything within their power to destroy one of the last business fabrics that is owned 100% by locals, the operators of school busses.
This NA government is fully aware that by putting the transportation of school children out on bid that many of the bus owners would not be able to participate in the bid. I can remember many years ago that this same party that is leading the government today was a party for the people, by the people and with the people. In those days a Dutch technical assistant could never head a government department. On the contrary, a local had to be the head and the technical assistant part of the supporting staff.
There were talks about public/private partnership to assist local land owners, who didn’t have the knowledge to develop their land to enter an agreement with the government to acquire that type of assistance. But all those great ideas and initiatives have been thrown out the windows and instead replaced with draconian proposals to destroy our own people in the name of good governance or to generate savings when it suits them.
The OSPP has taken note of the fact that our Honorable Minister of Education Ms. Silveria Jacobs has suspended the bidding process for the outsourcing of the school bus transportation. We commend her for that decision, nevertheless we still expect this bidding process to be totally withdrawn and that common sense would once again prevail.
The One St. Maarten People Party is proposing to assist our existing local school bus operators by firstly providing them with a contract for four years. Secondly, that these same school bus operators must adhere to all the requirements set forth in the terms of reference that was issued for the bidding process for the new school year 2016-2017. By providing the school bus operators with a four-year contract they can use it as a means of security to acquire the necessary financing to upgrade their busses to meet those requirements that were outlined in the terms of reference.
Let us preserve the few local entrepreneurs that are still benefiting from this billion dollar economy of St. Maarten. Perhaps it is time for this government to encourage more locals to go into business by establishing a loan guarantee program and not destroy the few local entrepreneurs that still exist.
And if the Minister of Education truly wants to make those critical investments in education with the funds that she was projecting from the savings by putting the school bus transportation on bid, the OSPP is proposing that she table a proposal in the meeting of the Council of Ministers to have NV GEBE change the commercial rates that it is charging all the school boards to residential rates. In that same proposal she must state that all the government-owned companies must adopt various schools to install solar panels to commence during this year’s summer school vacation. Most of the school boards are paying approximately NAf. 26,000 a month to NV GEBE for electricity and water. Between these two proposals the schools would save in excess of NAf. 10,000 a month in utility costs, an annual projected savings of over NAf. 120,000 per school board. Honorable Minister of Education Ms. Jacobs, these savings would certainly be a great help to those critical investment plans you have.