SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministers of Finance of St. Maarten Ardwell Irion and his team, with the information and recommendations gathered by the Emergency Support Function’s (EFS) and their relevant teams and task forces, prepared the St. Maarten Support Relief Plan – SSRP. Together with the relief and programs, the plan includes the cost of the plan, which forms part of the request to The Netherlands and totals ANG 254 million for the first three months.
The SSRP covers “direct relief,” which includes a payroll support program, income support program, a soft loan program as well as an under-employed program for an amount of Ang 108.44 million. For the unemployed, the established unemployment benefits will continue. The SSRP also includes funds to compensate for the loss of government income for an amount of Ang 89.2 million which is needed to enable government to carry out already existing but now expanded programs, a food vouchers program and a food boxes program for the most vulnerable groups, meals for the elderly and psycho-social care.
For the additional healthcare expenses, an amount of Ang 56.28 million has been budgeted and is intended for additional healthcare expenses as well as support to SZV and the St. Maarten Medical Center. The request has been prepared in close consultation with the CFT and with guidance from the IMF. Making sure public health is prioritized and covered is a top priority. The Ministry of Finance was also sure to factor in expenses directly related to COVID-19 and flattening the curve.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on St. Maarten’s healthcare system and economy, as it has done to countries worldwide. Being a tourist-based economy, closing borders and “locking the island down” has directly affected the economy. St. Maarten has not yet recovered from the financial repercussions of hurricane Irma. This, in combination with the slow season and no timeline for the recovery of global tourism, makes the island more vulnerable than most.
The government acknowledged that it is imperative that adequate measures are taken to absorb the economic and social impact of this new shock and to achieve rapid recovery of the economy. They also acknowledged the importance of supporting businesses and those at risk of losing their job.
Having followed the guidelines of the CFT where possible, it quickly became evident that further assistance would be necessary in order to support the economy through this health crisis. The government has approached The Netherlands for their support, in the form of a request for a grant as opposed to a loan. A grant will provide for the recovery after this crisis and enable the country to borrow for the necessary investments aimed at growth, allowing for a future with less financial dependency. This will also allow citizens to focus on their health more so than their finances.