Philipsburg JANUARY 20, 2021 -Gracita Arrindell said: the start of a new year is always a good time to take stock of the previous year and evaluate how we can improve on the past. The year twenty-twenty (2020) started and closed with one of the single most critical issues facing much of the world. “This new year will hopefully mark the start of a new era.
We have ten years ahead to look at our lives with a clear vision supported by achievable and coherent plans to deal with this pandemic as well as other pressing matters facing our young Nation. As stated in previous publications, there is an undeniable correlation between how intelligently we handle the pandemic and our ability to stabilize and grow our economy. We must put people back to work with an executable plan”.
“Today we can look back at measures taken and evaluate our actions to present a comprehensive COVID-19 repressive– economic growth -policy to our nation. We must do this now and not in hindsight. Citizens must be better informed as well and have more say in decisions that affect their lives and livelihood. This year is the year for and by the People. It’s a year during which we must solve issues that are in your face up-close and personal ”
‘Inspraak vooraf niet achteraf’’. Citizen’s consultation must be done prior to the implementation of decisions that affect us all and not after the fact or once past the point of no return. Increase transparency and accountability to the people. Deep-clean Sint Maarten and strictly enact litter fines for trespassers”.
Arrindell states: “Again, there is a compelling case to be made in appointing a separate department manned with a multidisciplinary team to research/ coordinate, plan and advise Covid- repressive policies on behalf of the government. The latest government decision to allow this year’s Carnival to take place followed by the public debate about the consequences of this decision warrants the need to install such a department soonest. If this fete is allowed to take place, the negative health and -economic consequences will be catastrophic if common sense fails to prevail. We paraphrase our current Prime Minister in response to the Dutch governments' conditions set to provide liquidity support to Sint Maarten: “ we will be caught with our pants down”.
Gracita also states: “Currently several Ministers and or their spokespersons and other stakeholders updated on pandemic measures while using several and different media outlets. This remains of great concern as often these messages contradict each other or are sometimes even outdated. We certainly understand our small island culture where most Ministers prefer to do the talking themselves rather than delegate to an experienced and qualified entity. Such an entity removes the political element from the issue at hand. Doing this leaves the day -to day management of our people’s business to the Ministers while Parliament executes its oversight duties on the Executive branch. Too many voices and one head can’t work.”
“There are enough pressing issues facing our island in the wake of this pandemic which need our undivided attention. Matters that lie in the hands of our local Ministers and Parliament can be solved without pointing fingers at Holland. For example, our national symbols are derelict and have many unfinished structures, empty beer bottles and screaming ugly advertisements placed anywhere possible. These matters may seem small however once dealt with will give new meaning to small and clean equals beautiful. Areas that need our attention include the following:
- Introduce the unemployment benefit regulation. This public/ private partnership regulation can take away the element of negative surprise for employers and employees after any disaster. Focus on the plights of our pensioners.
- Update our urban- zoning laws. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, several derelict structures remain un-cleared, un-developed and even insalubrious. These include the former government administration building, Saphire beach club and Mullet-bay. The fate of other buildings such as the ‘ Blue Mall’, Westin- hotel, Caravanserai hotel, Mary’s Fancy Plantation remains unclear. At the same time building, 15 stories and -up- are constructed. Is this the direction we are heading towards? Are we ready to cope with the inevitable disasters ahead with the choices made today?
- Update our economic zoning regulations. Why have food prices reportedly increased over 53% over the past years while the government continues to grant more licenses for grocery stores including locations that obstruct traffic and in locations that previously hosted restaurants? These ‘new’ shops are allowed to do business a few hundred meters from yet another grocery store. Also, there’s a noticeable increase of ‘ sidewalk adds’ and liqueur/cosmetic adds on buildings. Additionally, our island is littered with empty beer bottles. Revenues are literally to be found on the streets. It’s time for the government to restart the discussions on introducing the so-called ‘sin tax’ on liquor and tobacco, implement the removal of the income and or profit tax. Increases in ‘number booths’ and stand-alone casinos must be halted. What is the status of the gaming control board?
Our beautiful island is slowly turning into one giant advertising board. Business diversification policy is urgently warranted.
- Implement real bus stops thereby significantly cutting traffic jams. It’s time to bring part of our infrastructure into the 21st century. Identify, purchase land where needed and designate Real bus stops.
Gracita: concludes; “ The first quarter of the new year should give citizens a more unified and coherent action plan from our elected and appointed representatives. Plan, based on a vision that is clear in its intention and deliberate in its actions. Our citizens also have a critical role and say in the direction we want to take Sint Maarten. Together we can. Let’s make it happen”.