PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel is of the opinion that once elected and appointed representatives of the people focus on providing real economic opportunities which leads to a better standard of living, “maybe then lottery booths might disappear from the landscape.” Until then, he argues, the lottery booths offers “life assistance” that the country does not.
Emmanuel said it was all well to count lottery booths in the country, but instead of decrying the booths, the amount of booths should expose the glaring negative picture in the country. “According to the United Nations poverty committees, people don’t just consider the lottery as cheap entertainment, but also as a prayer to escape from poverty,” the MP said.
“Here on St. Maarten we have the tax inspectorate putting liens on the accounts of senior citizens who have pensions that they can barely survive on. These are people who have worked their entire lives to live in peace in the later stages of their lives. They are now under pressure from aggressive tax collectors. Then along comes one of the lottery companies and offers the senior $500 to construct a tiny lottery booth on an empty spot next to their house. This senior can barely make ends meet. Do we really expect them to turn down the money?” Emmanuel asked.
He continued: “The same goes for a small business that is suffering under the yolk of the turn-over-tax. If they can make an extra $800 just by having a lottery machine inside the business or a booth connected to the building why wouldn’t they? We act as if economic opportunities are great on this island. Taxes are killing our small businesses and our seniors and we expect them not to find ways to have a semblance of a decent life.”
The MP also pointed out that the lottery companies legally employ hundreds of people. “It isn’t just foreign people in booths. There are local people in booths, local people in head-offices, local people running the day-to-day business. People who make a living, who have families,” the MP said.
“I have said it before and I will stress again, when people feel they have a chance of actively lifting themselves out of poverty and if they felt more ownership over their economic situation they would be less prone to create “home banks” or turn to the lottery. Our people cannot save a dime because cost of living is so high. So many people believe that there is one lotto ticket that will solve all of their problems.
“We should focus on how to provide a better standard of living for the people who voted for us to do exactly that. Quality education, adequate healthcare, reliable support services and an economy that works for our people are the fundamental elements we should devote our energy to,” the MP concluded.