PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Monday said that his over 200 questions on the 2022 budget are “people centric” considering the amount of suffering being endured in the country. “People don’t want to hear frivolous nonsense, they want to hear how they will be helped,” the MP said.
He went on to share stories of police officers that he know personally are struggling to buy basic food items and persons who have asked for small amounts of money to buy a US $20 cylinder of cooking gas. Most of this, the MP stressed, can be attributed to the cut in income and benefits the current National Alliance government has enforced.
The MP asked several questions relating to civil servants in particular, framing all of these questions with the phrase “since government cut their income and benefits.”
“Will civil servants get a reduction in paying for road tax considering their income and benefits were cut? Will civil servants get a special deal at GEBE for a reduction in their utility bills? Perhaps no fuel clause charged to them? Since government cut their income and benefits. Will a special voucher program be setup for civil servants at select super markets? Since government cut their income and benefits. Will government allow civil servants to have side jobs to offset what was cut? Under the current policy they cannot have side-jobs,” the MP said, also asking why some civil servants receiving their incremental payments and others not.
“This will not be a good Christmas for many. I refuse to believe that a government that knowingly made the lives of their workers harder, have not come up with ways to ease their suffering in the season. That would be cruel and heartless,” MP Emmanuel said.
He further pointed out that Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) are also suffering in the country and questioned government on its policy statement that it will improve the role and performance of SME’s. “The question is how? What is government’s market development program for SME’s? Will the government provide tax holidays and/or tax breaks for SME’s? Will the government create a fund or a subsidy initiative for SME’s?” he asked.
“Is government planning on organizing and subsidizing conferences and other collaboration events, as well as trade shows where SMEs can participate? Government can sponsor this initiative which can be very effective in helping SMEs attract customers and business partners. Is government taking steps to help SMEs enter export markets in order to expand and diversify? To me it is in the interest of government to offer a grant so to speak for SME’s whose products has export potential,” the MP said.
MP Emmanuel said the government cannot simply copy and paste a manifesto into a budget document without properly explaining how it will achieve things for the betterment of our people and the economy of St. Maarten. He also used the opportunity to request the post COVID economic recovery plan of the government if they have one and ask the government when its new Tourism Master Plan from 2022 to 2027 will be ready for discussion.
“The government mentions that it is committed to the realization of a country with a strong multi-pillar economy. Well then detail for us the other pillars are that government has identified and what steps have been taken to achieve this multi-pillar dream. Every Caribbean nation is now moving away from only blaming COVID for everything and focusing on new initiatives and business investments. What new developments in attractions are there to attract visitors to the destination? And is there any new major investments coming online? These are the tangible things we want to hear about as we try to keep pace in a region that is leaving us behind,” the MP said.