Grisha to have Quick Scan of TEATT, Says Economy “Far from its Best Shape”

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GREAT BAY —Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT), Grisha Heyliger-Marten, has signaled that she will have a quick scan done “to give a more realistic picture of what our current (economic) situation actually is.”

In her inaugural address Friday, May 3, 2024, the new TEATT minister, the 12th since 2010, said, “it does not take a rocket scientist to see that our economy is far from its best shape.” 

“True, we have faced some unprecedented challenges in the last decade, including the incredible devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the global shutdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But we can’t blame our present predicament on those two events alone,” Heyliger-Marten said.

Stressing the importance of the Princess Juliana International Airport to the island’s economy, the Minister said it is “not only the main gateway to our island, but it is also the heart of our economic activity.” 

In her opinion, despite the destruction the airport suffered at the hands of Hurricane Irma, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, “seven years of waiting for it to finally get back on its feet is just too long. It is time to do whatever is necessary to restore our airport back to its glory days.” 

Turning to other sectors, the Minister said that the island is losing ground in the cruise sector as well; and “TelEm has fallen to the point of laying off employees, while the problems at GEBE, the electricity and water company has resulted in astronomical bills and constant load-shedding and even blackouts.”

Similarly, she said, gasoline prices have become “prohibitive” and inflation has “blasted off like a rocket into space.” Food prices have also skyrocketed.

“This is how the ordinary man and woman is experiencing our economy today. This is how tough things have become for every person, resulting in social ills like growing youth unemployment and an increasing number of people – men as well as women – begging.

“I am not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom here,” Heyliger-Marten continued. “This is unfortunately the situation on the ground. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well with us. It is time to tell ourselves the bitter truth, for indeed, it is only the truth that shall set us free.”

Given all of this, the Minister said there will be no “honeymoon period” for her. “I have to hit the ground working.” She disclosed that she has already begun consultations with several stakeholders and emphasized that “as a policy, constant consultation will be my motto.”

Heyliger-Marten promised to work closely with the Labor Unions, SHTA, the Chamber of Commerce and others and “re-establish a vibrant Public Private Partnership that was a key engine for our economic development in the past.”