PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. addressed members of the press in Wednesday’s, May 10, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
He first reported on his visit to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Spring meeting last month. The IMF keeps two meetings a year: one in Spring and in Winter, in which countries from all over the world attend to participate in discussions, and to gather information as far as developments economically in the world go, and to have meetings with the IMF.
Minister Gibson said from the meetings, he gathered that this year the United States’ economy is growing somewhat. The expectation is that they’re going to have a GDP growth of about 3 percent. “As it goes with the economy United States, so it goes with many other countries, who are dependent on the United States including St. Maarten,” he noted.
Although it appears that the United States economy and GDP will grow somewhat this year that is not the same with Europe. According to the Minister, Europe’s GDP will grow anemically, “Because of all the challenges that Europe faces including refugees as well as Brexit, and everybody’s in a wait and see as to how that’s going to develop…and how Britain will extract itself from the European Union.”
In his personal opinion Minister Gibson feels that, “St. Maarten too will grow meagerly. The expectation is that it will not go below zero percent growth, but it will be somewhere between zero and one percent growth for 2017.”
In his meeting with representatives of the IMF, “they have indicated that they would like to come to St. Maarten for a pre-article 4 visit, and they would like to come in June or July next year. We’re going to have the full blown article 4 visits from the IMF that they do on a regular basis,” the Minister said.
“I was pleasantly surprised as to how well informed they are about the developments on St. Maarten and very keen on certain things that need to be accomplished and achieved. One of them is the agreement that we have reached that we’re now implementing with the Pension Fund, and the raising of the pensionable age to 65, which makes that fund again attractive or at least feasible because there was quite some concern in the past about the ability of the fund to meet its obligation, if the coverage did not meet the 100 percent mark,” Minister Gibson explained.
Besides the IMF, Minister Gibson also visited Beijing, at the request of the developer of the Pearl of China and Caribbean project in St. Maarten. “He happens to be the Secretary General of the World Eco-Agriculture Summit that is held annually in China, so he extended an invitation for me to visit China on occasion of that conference. And also to be able to talk about the Pearl of China project,” the Minister informed.
The idea of the World Eco-Agriculture Summit is its becoming increasingly difficult for the world to feed the world’s population. “And that is going to be a major problem unless steps are taken to ensure an adequate supply of food. World wars can be triggered because of the absence of food…and you would see that there are steps being taken by China where they purchase land, purchase properties,” the Minister stated.
“The predictions are food is going to become more expensive, the scarcer it becomes because of Global Warming. The more it’s going to cost, so we too need to think about projects and programs to curtail those increased costs. We don’t have the land mass as many other countries and other islands in the Caribbean, but we should think seriously about doing things such as growing our own backyard garden, growing our own tomatoes, sweet peppers, carrots, because pretty soon the prices of these items are going to go through the roof,” Minister Gibson continued.
“And if I can plant, then I don’t have to buy the stuff that I plant or grow. The stuff could be reduced, might be a drop on a hot plate, but it’s something rather than nothing as opposed to having one money leaving the country for things that we probably could do ourselves to limit it not only from an economic point of view, but limited also from a point of view of Global Warming and where the world is heading,” the Minister observed.
“So the World Eco-Agriculture Summit in China was meant for that purpose. To have a dialogue on how to achieve actionable results and practical solutions to develop a more sustainable and just approach to agriculture and to ensure food security globally,” Minister Gibson concluded.