~ Brug questions whether the Minister of Health Social Affairs and Labor bypassed his jurisdiction and acted unlawfully~
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On Wednesday, November 15th, 2023, URSM candidate Richinel Brug, made a press statement regarding what he deems a political game that the Minister of Health Social Affairs and Labor is playing. “I was baffled to read the press statement of the Minister in which he boasted about a pilot breakfast program his Ministry will be executing for the coming three months starting Monday, November 13th. One cannot ignore the fact that this timeframe coincides with the last few weeks leading up to elections.”
“A pilot program with the aim to actually alleviate poverty within our schools should not take place for such a short period of time, with such a small sample group that does not represent the actual student population on Sint Maarten. It would be almost impossible to gather accurate data to be able to properly assess the outcomes of this program. That is of course, assuming that actual desirable outcomes were established at the start of this program.”, stated a disappointed yet not surprised Brug.
Brug also questioned whether the Minister of Health Social Affairs and Labor did not bypass his jurisdiction and acted unlawfully. Article 7 of the law on Compulsory Education, states that it is the responsibility of Government to provide a meal to every student attending school, whose parents are not in a position to provide such.
“This law falls under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Education. The press release of the Minister of October 25th, 2023, did not referenced a collaboration with the Minister of Education who is legally in charge of establishing the National decree containing general measures to regulate how this meal program should be executed. The Minister goes as far as to state that ‘the business tasked with the execution of this pilot program is responsible for designing a menu that ensures that each meal is balanced and rich in essential nutrients, as this breakfast will be carefully curated to meet nutritional standards, offering a variety of options to cater to different dietary preferences and restrictions’ (source: Government of Sint Maarten website).”
“Why would the executing business be in charge of determining what is considered a ‘healthy’ menu in this Government pilot program, that if deemed successful, should be replicated by the business(es) that actually win(s) the bidding process?”
“Why did this pilot program not go through a bidding process in the first place? The cost to create and deliver ‘a healthy breakfast that meets nutritional standards’ for one hundred and sixty (160) students daily, and make some level of profit as a business, differs significantly from the cost to create and deliver a breakfast that simply contains for example a sweet bun and a juice that isn’t a hundred percent juice or milk.
“Why were the different businesses on Sint Maarten that have executed such meal programs in the past on behalf of for example the Red Cross (that have accumulated the knowledge and experience and know the ins and outs of executing such a program) not allowed to take part in a bidding process, to ensure that the business winning the bid would be the best business to execute this pilot in a way that would be as cost-efficient and effective as possible?
“Lastly, let us not forget that from 2014 to the passing of Hurricane Irma Goddard Catering (on behalf of the Princess Juliana International Airport) executed a nutritious breakfast program that provided meals to all students in all Public schools that even included a vitamin. A project my person worked on as a faction member of former Member of Parliament Romain Laville. Why were they not part of this pilot considering their experience with this program, in particular on matters such as packaging of the meals, waste in schools, etc.?
Poverty is a serious issue on Sint Maarten. It is not something to play politics with a few weeks prior to elections. It is for this same reason that on Friday, August 25th, 2023, (before even being elected) I presented a National decree containing general measures regulating a subsidized meal program for all schools on Sint Maarten. It is time we elect Government officials who govern with integrity and who actually care about the suffering of our people.”