PHILIPSBURG:— On October 17th was International Day for Eradication of Poverty. In observing the Day :
a. the SMAPP came out with a video documentary: “One Year After IRMA: Help Still Needed! A press release was issued and Some interviews were sustained.
b. The government of SXM kept silent in all languages. No press release was issued. Nothing was done to reflect upon what is the poverty in Sint Maarten and what should be done. If it was not for the reporter of PJ3 the voice of SXM – Steven Cyrillien we would not have known what the Ministries are doing to eradicate the poverty on SXM
c. Analyzing the answers given by the Ministers of TEAT, ECYS, VSA, VROMI who were at the weekly press conference we can conclude the following:
o All ministries are working to alleviate the poverty. Only some people will get help by getting a job to earn something,
o None of the ministers spoke about increasing the minimum wages, the social allowances, and social pensions, to a livable income
o None of the ministers said that the government is going to guarantee the more than 13.000 households, the more than 94% of the households of SXM, a household income of more than 2222 USD a month not to be in poverty
o Min Stuart Johnson of TEATT works to get the economy back on track. Prioritizing help the airport and the harbor so that tourists can come to the island, which will benefit the economy and create more jobs. No prioritization of full employment and of a diversified economy.
On which track he wants to bring back the economy?
The track that has been paying the workers for donkey years unlivable wages?
The track that did not guarantee full employment and decent work to all, but has kept so many persons unemployed and out of the labor market?
The same old policies he seems to promote, flying all over the world to promote tourism, instead of coming with policies that will create full employment and decent work with livable wages
No word of the Minister of TEATT on policies to bring down the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Sint Maarten, as a matter of fact he even allowed the STAT department to discontinue to provide us with statistics to see the increase in the price index since hurricane Irma.
o His colleague Minister Wycliffe Smith of ECYS the party that signed to commit to the eradication of poverty said that to eradicate the poverty the ministry of Education was:
Making sure that all children are educated
Establishing a committee to raise the level of teaching
The minister did not explain why school leavers cannot find a job, and why students who went abroad come back only to be told that there is no job for them here in Sint Maarten. So what was wrong in the education system that he is going to change?
The minister did not announce what education policy he has for the adults and the parents of the youngsters who cannot get a job, is it because they did not get a proper education?
o Minister of VSA Emil Lee, repeated the same story as Minister of TEATT:
Reopening the airport, he said brings people to the island which is good for business, but with the airport open so many years and business profiting of the tourists visiting our island, why is it that 94% of the households have to live in poverty with less than 2222 USD a month insufficient to survive?
To eradicate the poverty the minister mentioned an emergency support training program for people with reduced workweek and others to a maximum of only 100 workers, while the Labor Survey of 2017 showed that 19.500 people were already without a job before Irma struck Sint Maarten. Where is the labor policy to guarantee all persons without a job to become employable as he calls the program?
To eradicate the poverty the minister said to come with a universal health insurance. For years we have been hearing that we will get universal health care system a National Health Insurance, how will that increase the household income of the 94% poor and needy households? The draft NHI announced an increase of the sickness insurance premium from 12,5% to 14.5%, in other words impoverishment of the workers who are already poor and needy!
Providing medical assistance is a program that the minister claims also eradicates the poverty. We disagree with the minister. Helping poor and needy people with a doctor card because of their poverty income of less than 1500 ANG or 833 USD a month to cover their medical expenses, does not increase their household income to 4000 ANG or 2222 USD a month.
The reintegration shelter program of one halfway home in Suckergarden is helping the people who lost their home for 6 months with a possible extension of 3 more months. This program is paying social workers to inform these homeless persons and help them to request a social allowance = financial assistance to a maximum of 70% of the minimum wage which is not a living income, to ask for medical assistance a PP-card which does not increase their monthly household income, or refers them to a roofing program, where most people have more serious home repair needs.
No word of Minister Lee of policies to increase the poverty wages, the poverty social allowances and the poverty old age pensions!
No policies on how he is going to guarantee the 94% households a monthly income of at least 2222 USD a month not to be in poverty!
Alleviating poverty of some is still keeping those few people in poverty. Alleviating poverty situations of some does not take all the 94% out of poverty! That is not poverty eradication!!
o Minister of VROMI said that the other ministers did not leave much more for him to say.
In other words Minister Miklos Giterson is in agreement with the poverty alleviation arguments of his colleagues
Speeding up the building permit of the hospital and the building permits to rebuild the hotels does not eradicate the poverty.
This brings us to our 2nd agenda point of today’s press briefing.
All of this public exposure of the incapacity of the Ministers could have been prevented if they have engaged in a social dialogue with the Anti-poverty Platform.
a. We have asked all political parties before the Parliamentary election of February 2018, to commit to the Declaration to Eradicate the Poverty in which one of the points is a dialogue with the Anti-Poverty Platform to realize the eradication of poverty. Two political parties responded: the SMCP publicly signed the Declaration and the USP send a letter that they were willing to commit to the eradication of poverty. None of the other parties the DP, the UP neither the NA responded and did not commit to eradicate the poverty!
b. In February 21st, 2018 we asked the governor as the Kingdom government representative on Sint Maarten for a dialogue as follow up on a presentation we gave him exactly one year ago. He send our letter with the request to the Minister of Public Health Social Development and Labor Minister Lee. Until today we did not receive an answer, neither were we invited to dialogue about the poverty eradication and the violation of our human rights in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
c. March 1st, 2018, we asked the governor to make sure that eradication of poverty would be prioritized in the new governing program. The governor send our letter and request to the two informateurs. These two invited us for a meeting, but nothing of our suggestions to eradicate the poverty were explored with the political parties to see which coalition could be formed to eradicate the poverty.
d. Formateur Theo Heyliger on March 22nd, 2018 was formally asked by us to prioritize eradication of poverty in the negotiations to form a new government and in the governing accord and subsequently in the governing program.
e. The governing program came out on June 25th, 2018, after three months of internal negotiations without a dialogue with the Anti-Poverty Platform: no eradication of poverty mentioned in the governing program, only a study to determine the poverty line in Sint Maarten was announced.
f. A letter was sent on August 18th, 2018 to the Council of Ministers and the Parliament of Sint Maarten requesting a meeting for us to dialogue on the adjustment of the governing program to still include eradication of poverty in the plans of the government for the new parliamentary year. Until today no meeting was scheduled for us. Whereas we have seen a manifestation of sympathizers of a certain political party icon from the coalition marching in the street with their petitions which they delivered to Parliament and the Minister President, A central committee meeting was called based on this letter of the group that marched, but until now NO MEETING CALLED WITH THE CO_COORDINATORS OF THE ANTI-POVERTY PLATFORM
g. It is as if the Kingdom Council of Ministers, the Sint Maarten Council of Ministers and the Sint Maarten Parliament shun the Anti-Poverty Platform and evade all dialogue with the Anti-Poverty Platform, with as a consequence the embarrassing answers of the Ministers on the International Day of the Eradication of Poverty and the clear arrogance of the politicians of the coalition to keep the people in poverty: No eradication of poverty and they do not want an open dialogue with the Platform.
h. Policies must be brought to get to a solution, that the over 17,000 workers according to the labor survey prior to Hurricane can get a monthly income of Ang 4000, – or US$ 2222.- to keep their household out of poverty!
This is “insult to injury” as the workers representative demanding to do something to eradicate poverty for them.
This is also a refusal of Prime Minister Leona Marlin and the Council of Ministers to meet with us and also MP Sarah Wescott-Williams to call a central committee meeting
3. UD-SMCP coalition not for the poor and the needy, after 100 days in Government! (next week)
4. The issues of the SMCU by Bro. Ludson Evers.
5. The issues of the WITU by Sis. Claire Elshot-Aventurin.
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