Ombudsman organizes round table discussion on poverty and data gathering

Ombudsman Gwendolien Mossel


PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The lack of data and its effects on proper and effective government planning and policies has been identified in various Ombudsman reports. In the Home Repair report, published in 2019, the overall lack of data in reference to post disaster recovery planning was identified as bottleneck.

In its verdict of 1 November 2022 regarding the temporary national ordinances, in connection with cuts to the employment benefits of (semi) public sector workers, the Constitutional Court also alluded to this fact in relation to the lack of a poverty line. Specifically, the court noted that Sint Maarten has not established a poverty line. The court therefore assumed in its ruling that the subsistence threshold or poverty line is lower than the statutory minimum wage, although it is not certain to what extent this corresponds with reality, due to governments lack of concrete data.

In a recent survey conducted by the Ombudsman in preparation for the aforementioned court proceedings affected persons were requested to rank their present quality of life (the degree to which an individual is healthy, comfortable, and able to participate in or enjoy life events). Approximately 50% of all persons affected by the national ordinances participated in the survey. 87 % of respondents indicated that their quality of life was poor or average, (just) 14% indicated that their standard of life was good or very good. While not a scientific poll, the survey paints a troubling picture, which is an indication of the level of (hidden) poverty on our island.

To discuss these topics, the Ombudsman is organizing a round table discussion on poverty and data gathering on Monday, October 3, 2022, at the Simpson Bay Resort Marina and Spa (Royal Ballroom). The central question during the discussion will be: ‘What type of data is required, to influence proper decision-making on poverty?’

Professionals have been invited to share their perspectives on the subject:
The department of Labor Affairs and Social Services, department of Statistics (STAT), Sint Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform, Sint Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) and the Social Economic Council (SER). Various stakeholders, including government departments and civil society, have been invited to participate in the discussion a well.

The Ombudsman is looking forward to a productive discussion and the participation of all invitees on these important topics.