Published On: Fri, Jan 27th, 2017

PPA-leader Arrindell joins the public debate again

GREAT BAY – “In the game of politics in St. Maarten there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies; only permanent interests,” Gracita Arrindell, leader of the extra-parliamentary political party People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA) said at a press briefing yesterday morning.

Seconded by her treasurer Ed Gumbs, Arrindell addressed a broad array of topics, thus joining the public debate for the first time again, after the party’s defeat in the September 26 elections. And while Arrindell says that she opposes new taxes like the departure tax that is currently in the pipeline, somewhere in her presentation she repeats a campaign-idea: the introduction of a property tax to replace a long list of other taxes. That way, everybody will pay her or his fair share, she reasons.

The PPA-leader brought up several main issues “that really bother the hell out of people.”

The first one is power supply. The constant outages fly in the face of promises of better service. “We need an off the grid back up system,” she says, adding that the government should, before the end of the year, come up with a clear response about the waste-to-energy project.

Ed Gumbs and Gracita Arrindell 20170126 - HH

Photo caption: PPA-leader Gracita Arrindell and treasurer Ed Gumbs during yesterday’s press briefing. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar

Ten years is a feasible term to solve the problem with the dump, Arrindell said later.

The party’s second beef is with the traffic situation. It calls for the establishment of a traffic task force “and some hard choices to turn things around.” Arrindell suggests the introduction of electrical cars and with it, the construction of charging stations.

Furthermore: “Give the idea of one giant roundabout from the new causeway bridge throughout Simpson Bay and Cole Bay serious thought.”

The third issue is financial. Arrindell noted that, “It is no secret that St. Maarten has defaulted on its loan payment to the Netherlands in 2015.” She also said that the interest rate on the extended loan is much higher.

In fact, the loan has an interest rate of 0.5 percent – described by Minister Gibson in October of last year as “favorable” – and the loan has now to be paid off in seven years instead of fifteen years. The first installment of 5.2 million is due in 2019.

Arrindell suggests training civil servants in financial management to make sure that financial information about the government’s household becomes available in a timely manner. The General Audit Chamber of the former Netherlands Antilles “wiped the floor” with St. Maarten in its reports, and noted that existing debts were not included in the budget.

A fourth issue is the dump: “It must go,” Arrindell said, like many others before her. She referred to an article in Today of April 11, 2005 – that’s almost twelve years ago – where Learning Unlimited students said that their main concern for their future were the dump and safety.

“Must we see yet another generation growing up seeing that dump affect people’s health? The time to act is now.”

Arrindell had some other issues on her mind: fixing a wall at the Kruythoff roundabout that has been broken for ten years, water on the roads, especially in Simpson Bay, and turning Clem Labega Square into a city park.

The post office has to go from its present location and be replaced with a multi-level parking garage.

And while all this feels more like campaign speech than a practical contribution to actual solutions, Arrindell remains undeterred and determined to put her party back in the debate during this governing term.

“There are three more years to go and I wish for a stable government. I am not one to gloat, hoping that the government will fall. But we intend to be involved in the public debate.”

Part of that debate will be the PPA’s idea to turn the plantation house on the Mary’s Fancy property into the governor’s residence. Furthermore Arrindell suggests the establishment of a state secretary for government owned companies.

Oh, and about voting rights for Dutch citizens living in the Caribbean countries in Dutch parliamentary elections? “No,” Arrindell says. “That is not effective.” Or – in plain Dutch: ‘Dat zet geen zoden aan de dijk.”

Starting in April, the PPA intends to go into the community with a series of grassroots talks about an array of topics – from education and the budget to legislation, environment and business.