Minister of VSA address on Labor Day.

It’s an honor to celebrate Labor Day with you today. Today we come together in unity and solidarity to recognize our local workers, our local heroes. To those that have and continue to contribute to St Maarten, Thank you. Without your efforts, there’s no doubt that St Maarten wouldn’t have become the leader in Caribbean tourism that it is today.
St Maarten has endured and overcome many challenging times and despite the blow from Irma, St Maarten will rise again. But, let’s be candid and honest with ourselves, this recovery period will be one of the most challenging times St Maarten has experienced.
Our airport has been badly damaged and apparently still working to resolve its insurance claim, a story which is far too common. Anecdotally, many businesses and residents speak about unresolved or unacceptable insurance settlements. Government also struggles with its own insurance claims.
Our tourism infrastructure has suffered a devastating blow. And as I visit different neighborhoods, without exception, there are homes and businesses that haven’t even begun to rebuild.
While we welcome the assistance from many donors especially the much anticipated 470 Million Euros in assistance from Holland to be channeled via the World Bank, clearly finding the financial means to reconstruct much less build back better will be challenging. Fact is as our economy struggles to rebound, until insurance money flows into our economy and recovery money becomes readily available, everyone will struggle to make ends meet.
Unless of course, you are part of the reconstruction economy. Some have made the transition already either as employees or as entrepreneurs. As government and especially as the Ministry of VSA, we are putting as many programs as possible in place for people interested in participating in the reconstruction economy to find decent and rewarding work.
As Minister, I have worked to ensure that the Ministry has the resources it needs to be able to function and that we have allocations in the Recovery fund for our programs. Programs designed to train and support our workers who for whatever reason can’t find work in the rebuilding of St Maarten, all in an effort to bridge the gap until we can reignite our economy.
The Hospitality training program and PIERS Program or cash for work programs have been developed from scratch after Irma. And while they are still in beginning phases and under evaluation, they are operational. The voucher program and community assessment has begun phase 2, in the communities. And while these are good programs, we know they are temporary and basic solutions.
Whenever there are limited resources and intense competition for those resources, tension is natural.
Add to that the stress which is to be expected after Hurricane Irma. Anxiety, Anger, Fear, Avoidance, Sensitivity, Frustration.
And then there is the reality that hasn’t quite sunken in…..Hurricane season is one month away.

There can be little doubt that these will be challenging times ahead.
But today is a day to celebrate and come together…
And that is exactly the message that I want to bring today.
It is only through Unity and Solidarity will St Maarten build back better.
We have an opportunity to build back better, not only stronger buildings but a stronger economy, one that is resilient to climate change. One that cares for our environment. One that ensures that no one is left behind. One that ensures that everyone can work with pride, dignity and respect.
It would be easy …even understandable that we resort to fighting amongst ourselves… but St Maarten needs us to continue to work together as we have been doing already. Lean on each other. Complement each other. Help each other. Talk to each other. And if necessary defend each other.
I want to thank the Ministry of VSA, they were there immediately after Irma and ever since despite the most difficult of circumstances and in spite of their own personal challenges, they have worked tirelessly to serve the community. I know I don’t say thank you enough. Or good job often enough. Thank you. Good job.
I want to thank the Unions for being amazing social partners. We have maintained an excellent relationship over the past 2 years and I look forward to continuing that relationship.
I want to thank the business community for keeping the faith. I know some have given up and left the island. I know how challenging these days are. And while the first and most natural reaction is to help the most vulnerable in our community, we know you are also struggling for your survival.
And most of all, I want to thank the thousands of workers that have helped to build St Maarten and on whom we are depending to help to rebuild St Maarten better than ever….
I assure you that the Ministry and Minister are here to help. Our doors are open. Ready to dialogue and work together. We stand ready to defend the interests of workers that are treated unfairly. We stand ready to find win-win solutions to our problems. We will stand side by side with all of our partners to fight to restart our economy and to ensure that our people ….all of our people… can prosper and live with dignity.

Have a wonderful labor day… and enjoy the Carnival.

Source: St. Martin News Network