Published On: Mon, Oct 9th, 2017

Gracita: Local inclusive development plans is critically important

Gracita ArrindellPHILIPSBURG – Gracita Arrindell, Leader of the People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) states: “The reality of the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Irma continues to set in.  Thousands of people are expected to or already have been laid off. We can do two things, sit and ask rhetorical questions every so often or grab the ‘bull by its horns’ and suggest to those in office if they are incapacitated or incapable for whatever reason to create workable job opportunities for many of our people under the present circumstances. What worries most citizens from all walks of life, is why government has yet to submit a request to the Dutch government for reconstruction aid.”

“No matter how often explained in the media by both Sint Maarten officials as well as the Dutch government, the message is not hitting home.  Is anyone really listening? Words and rhetoric does not matter, simply because many cannot see beyond each day. While both sides are working to ensure that the nuts and bolts of the promised aid are clear and un-ambiguous,

“I suggest that a preliminary request supported by the most urgent needs e.g. to retrain thereby stabilize the work force be sent forth. Let us work with what we have”

Arrindell states: “many dismissed or put on half-  work especially in the hospitality sector, should get an opportunity to be retrained short term.

“Those workers who decided to stay in Sint Maarten and are willing and able to be retrained to have a meaning full job and feed their families, must get that opportunity soonest. This requires a quick scan of what is needed most in the job market per sector.  A workgroup consisting of e.g.; Labor and Economic affairs, Education, Chamber of Commerce, SHTA, small business community leaders, Marine Sector, Agricultural sector can still be formed post haste, to present a viable, short term plan ‘of  work and dignity’  for our workers, both male and female, youth and the retired and experienced. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Is the new mantra.”

“This first plan can be financed by the local taxpayer’s money through a adjustment of our local budget.  Once the quick scan is done and we know what type of jobs are needed short term, a subsequent proposal based on that plan can be sent to Holland to assist in the recruitment of experienced persons to retrain our work force, who are in first instance from right here in Sint Maarten, those in the Netherlands, including of Antillean descent, Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, the USA or the Caribbean.

“The Sint Maarten house in The Hague can and must have a significant role  in this plan. The trainers can be financed in part by a portion of the aid to be received from the Dutch government. This most appreciated Dutch tax-payers funded post Hurricane Irma contribution, will give the required transparency and accountability, while pragmatic and result oriented. It will be a win- win situation for all involved void of the grand standing.  Putting food on the table especially for those who need it most, is crucial. The upcoming holiday season, must not come and go, while those who have get more, and those who have nothing are left behind. Unacceptable.

Gracita concludes: “Lastly, but not less important; Cooperation between the French and Dutch side is critical right now to work together and clean up our beaches from the sea grass and under water from the debris.  The beaches are one of our best tourism assets.  We have the machines and manpower to get this done. Small is beautiful and manageable.

Creating and increasing local productive activities is the way forward.  This is a great opportunity to create new jobs, and improve the skills of the existing work force.  It’s an opportunity to diversify and encourage new direct foreign investment opportunities.  Tourism accounts for almost four fifth of our total labor force.  Together with the expected re- building boom, Innovative, transparent, smarter, decision making will help our beautiful island Sint Maarten to  re- emerge  once  again, as the leading top destination in the region.