I read with interest statements from UP Party MP Franklin Meyers that St. Maarten’s citizens have not benefited from the political changes since 10-10-10 and this statement raised my eyebrows. The people did not benefit because every proposal that was submitted by the OSPP to help the people– make them business owners in their country, help them become home owners, put our young people to work, etc. got ignored or thrown out by the various governments and MP’s that have ran the country for the past six years.
MP Meyers have been part of these governments so I cannot understand why now it is a shock for him to discover that the people have not benefited and realize that it’s time to treat this as serious business. Where has the MP been that he did not notice during the time he has been a member of Parliament that the people are not better off? Where have all these elected officials who are again making promises been over the past parliamentary year while the people of St. Maarten have been crying out for help?
It is of course commendable that MP Meyers have realized that this behavior cannot continue although his reasoning for arriving at that conclusion seems as self-serving. The MP is apparently worried that if Parliament continues with this business as usual mentality he and other elected officials may become targets. Note: The MP did not say we should do more to help the people or get serious about the people’s business because that is what they have entrusted us to do. The MP said MP’s run the risks of becoming targets apparently because of the level of public dissatisfaction so now because of this he proposes taking the people business seriously.
As far back as 2013 I wrote to the then Chair of Parliament Gracita Arrindell proposing the introduction of a loan guarantee fund that would in essence negate the problem of our young people being unable to start a business to help themselves because they can’t get a bank loan because of a lack of collateral. As the name suggests the government would basically act the guarantor under that program for an aspiring entrepreneur who can’t fulfil his dream not because of a lack of knowledge but because he can’t guarantee that loan. The proposal was not even discussed in Parliament let alone implemented. So how serious are these people about helping our people? And how can the people not be frustrated and disillusioned? They have every reason to be.
On February 10 2015 I wrote to President of Parliament Dr. Lloyd Richardson noting that there has been a lot of talk about unemployment amongst our young people and that as a nation we should all be concerned especially with many of our young people getting involved in crime. In that letter the OSPP proposed to establish the van Hugh Law to be named after our former Minister of Social Welfare Health and Labor , van Hugh Cornelius de Weever and adapted from the Lei di Bion.
My letter went as far as to explain that “This law as it is written will exempt the employer from paying part of the payroll taxes if he employs a young person between the ages of 18-30 years. There are many other conditions attached to this law for the employer and the employee. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel . This law can be amended to fit our needs here in St. Maarten to put our young people to work.”
Nothing was done about this, the proposal never even made it to the floor of Parliament. So how serious can these elected officials be about offering representation to the people of St. Maarten? On February 28th 2016 I wrote again to Parliament, this time with MP Sarah Wescott-Williams as the chair of Parliament, suggesting proposals to bring relief to the people.
In those motions we addressed issues such as the establishment of a general pension plan for all workers; the establishing of a local sports lottery to generate funds to develop sports (this would make it possible for teams and individuals representing St. Maarten in a sporting activity to receive the much needed financial assistance); putting an end to taxing old age pensions.
None of these were even considered as solutions because it’s a “them against us” situation:
My party didn’t propose it so I am not going to support it. How long can we continue with this attitude? People need to realize that they are running a country and their decisions impact for the better or worse the lives of all who live here. Our MP’s need to stop play acting at being MP’s and actually do the job they were elected to do.
Lenny F. Priest
Leader of the OSPP