SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Member of Parliament for the Party for Progress (PFP) Faction, Melissa Gumbs, submitted pressing questions to Honorable Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Telecommunications & Transportation Melissa Arrindell-Doncher, requesting feedback regarding the Ministry’s plans to prepare for the economic impact of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
In a letter dated Thursday, 12 March 2020, Gumbs pre-faced her request by quoting Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Justin Ram: “On 9 March 2020, at the University of the West Indies’ forum, themed “COVID-19: Partnering in the Caribbean’s Response,” Dr. Justin Ram stated that the region’s economies were too fragile to handle both a health crisis and an economic downturn due to the virus’ continued global impact.”
She further stated that Sint Maarten is not exempt from the effects of the Coronavirus, whether the virus is present locally or not. Gumbs questioned whether the Ministry had consulted with private sector stakeholders as yet, such as hoteliers, restauranteurs, taxi and tour operators, on the status of their reservations and bookings for the coming three months.
Gumbs also asked the Minister if consultations had been held with the Port of St. Maarten and the Princess Juliana International Airport to assess the impact of a potential rise in cancellations of ship and flight arrivals. Her letter concluded by asking the Minister what plans are in place for micro-enterprises (taxis, vendors, small-scale attractions) in the event the downturn is as bad as or worse than what is being projected, globally, by economists from a range of countries.
“The type of economic impact that a pandemic can have on a country isn’t a hard punch,” Gumbs states in an invited comment. “It’s a slow burn, so it’s important to gauge if we are already feeling that heat. In light of President Trump’s decision to ban travel in the US to and from Europe, we need to begin considering the effects on our economy as the world continues to experience COVID-19.”