~ Still no economic recovery plan ~
PHILPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel have urged government owned companies and related entities not to rush into enforcing cuts on its workers until it is determined how the government of St. Maarten plans on moving forward in implementing cuts to income and benefits. “It is left to be seen if the National Alliance (NA) and the United People (UP) party will stay on this course of putting people in the poor house,” the MP said.
The MP was reacting to a circulating brief apparently from TelEm CEO Kendall Dupersoy to the union representing TelEm workers SMCU, in which Dupersoy is informing the union that financial measures will have to be imposed in accordance to the three laws on reduction of income. According to Dupersoy, TelEm has to be in compliance by November 22.
“I’m sure the CEO of TelEm is doing what he thinks he must do in accordance to the law, but I simply cannot reconcile these actions to hurt people with the fact that this government threw its hands up and could not come up with alternate solutions than cutting people income and benefits,” the MP said.
MP Emmanuel was the only MP to vote against the laws. He only voted on the ordinance to cut his own salary. “The government do not know how it will deal with the implementation of the laws which they say are temporary. They have no clue how or when they will pay civil servants. And so I urge TelEM and others not to rush into making the lives of their personnel harder. Ask the government what its plans for these “temporary” are,” Emmanuel stressed.
While the workers have to continuously make personal sacrifices and endure hardships, the MP noted that the CFT has again advised the government to find ways reduce personnel costs by some 11 million guilders. “How will government achieve this? Does this mean letting workers go? Because we see that there is no hiring freeze in government. So how will 11 million guilders be cut when 12.5`% in cuts and income didn’t yield any savings?” the MP asked.
MP Emmanuel also stressed once again that the government has yet to present a realistic economic recovery plan for the country. He said what little the government has said about economic recovery, “lacks clear direction, ministerial accountability or methods to measure any success.”
“The government’s economic plan could be summed up very quickly; ‘High season looking good.’ That’s it. No long term plan, no plan to recover from external shocks, no plan on attracting new investment. The only thing the tourist office can show us is which magazines St. Maarten appears in. Government has no plan, they have wishful thinking. Our aggressively competing neighbors are outpacing us by far,” the MP said.
“In the meantime, the people of St. Maarten will be paying back loans for years to come. The CFT recently reported that based on liquidity support received, it is anticipated that government’s debt will increase to Naf 1.4 billion by the end of this year. This will bring our national debt quota to 79% of our GDP. Mind you, a “normal” debt to GDP ratio is 60% or below. At 79% it means that our economy literally has no financial leverage. In fact, the World Bank in its annual reports said that a ratio that exceeds 77% for an extended period of time may result in an adverse impact on economic growth. Therefore when a ration is high (like St. Maarten) a country is likely to exhibit slowdown in economic growth. And here we are with no plan,” the MP said.
To compound matters, the MP said, St. Maarten is also suffering from a serious lack of competent leadership which does not help investor confidence. He said St. Maarten is now more famous for its government condoning wrongs by its members, than being a leader in Caribbean leadership and innovation. He questioned why any investor would have confidence in St. Maarten.
“The honorable Economic Advisor of Barbados Dr. Kevin Greenidge recently said that when we look at economic modeling and economic growth, one of the key factors that generate investor confidence is confidence in a leader and in leadership. People don’t just give you money for giving you money sake. They give you money when they think you have a plan, when they believe what you are saying is correct, when they could see that you are serious, you are committed. Tell me, do we feel that way about our government leadership?” the MP concluded.