Gracita: “It’s the Economy, Plain and Simple: Let’s Get Real!”

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Gracita emphasizes: “If you ask anyone out there, at the kitchen table or on the street, what’s the biggest headache affecting their lives, most would say it’s the crazy high cost of living in Sint Maarten. It’s a fact our government doesn’t make money from import duties; we chose to be a ‘duty-free’ island. Yet, living costs are sky-high, making life tough for our people. And with those outrageous energy prices (thanks to fuel clauses), it’s no wonder folks feel like they’re getting a raw deal while busting their backs to earn an honest living and support their families. We need to change this story, and we can, with the urgency it deserves. Let me be clear – introducing import duties isn’t the answer, nor am I advocating for such policies.”

Arrindell mentioned, “Remember when ex-US President Bill Clinton said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’? He borrowed that gem from his advisor James Carville back in ’92. Surprisingly, the quote still hits the nail on the head today.”

“Closer to home, the recent labor market section in the Sint Maarten ‘country package’ paints a pretty bleak picture of our job situation. Split into three parts – Functioning, Bottlenecks, and Building Blocks – this report charts the way forward. It highlights the absence of unemployment insurance, a setup that could benefit both workers and employers. Back in March 2020, I called for such a regulation in a press release titled ‘Unemployment fund regulation needed,’ but it hasn’t happened yet. Our economy still heavily relies on seasonal tourism, and you can see our tourism losing its shine. We urgently need to diversify our economy while boosting the quality of our tourism product and visitor experiences.”

“Also, check out the recent economic bulletin from the central bank CBCS in December 2023; it’s another solid indicator. It gives us a peek into the global economy and how it’s hitting our local scene. The report serves as a guide for local policymakers, showing what it’ll take to keep our economy robust for the long haul. But here’s the twist – it’s kind of strange when our banks are swimming in more cash, and yet, most folks out there are feeling the pinch with less money and spending power.”

“Celebrating a few positive economic signs, while regular folks on the street don’t see much change in their lives, is kind of missing the mark. There are claims that lots of vendors who worked with the government are owed big bucks. We need solutions that dig deep and stick around for the long haul to make a real difference for everyone – citizens and businesses alike.”  

Gracita concluded saying, “No more time for short-term tricks or ‘Tom-foolery.’ Moving forward, we need a Parliament that gets its job and responsibilities toward the people. A robust, transparent economy with solid rules, compliance, and public-private teamwork – that’s what builds a thriving job market that benefits everyone. A new year ahead provides new opportunities”