Anti-poverty group urges Heyliger to focus on alleviating poverty

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform will be sending a letter to formateur Theo Heyliger urging him to include poverty reduction as one of the priorities to be addressed by the new governing coalition.

The Platform will also be requesting a meeting with Heyliger in his capacity as formateur. A letter to this effect is expected to be sent out today, Friday. This was one of the issues the Platform raised at a press conference held at the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) office in Madame Estate on Thursday.

The Platform wants to meet with the formateur to update him on their quest for the new governing coalition to prioritise the eradication of poverty in the upcoming four years.
“As formateur you can play a significant role to investigate which majority can prioritise the reconstruction of homes and business establishments, the rebuilding of the economy, but also which majority wants to prioritise the eradication of poverty in St. Maarten,” the letter to the formateur reads.

“As Anti-Poverty Platform we have lobbied and requested political parties to commit to signing and executing a Declaration to Eradicate Poverty. So far two of the four parties with seats in Parliament – the Sint Maarten Christian Party (SMCP) and the United St. Maarten party (US Party) have committed to eradicate the poverty in this upcoming parliamentary period.”

The Platform said poverty eradication should be prioritised because Transparency International in its Integrity Report of 2014 on page 22 concluded that 75 per cent of the households in St. Maarten live in poverty.

“This conclusion was based on the St. Maarten Census data of 2010 and the NIBUD minimum reference budgets established for the island of Bonaire. The cost of living in St. Maarten is much higher than the cost of living in Bonaire. Households in Bonaire and thus also in Sint Maarten cannot survive with a household income of less than NAf. 4,000 or NAf. 2,222 a month,” the Platform said.

It said also that the most recent government Household Budget Survey of 2015 for St. Maarten concluded that 94 per cent of the households in the country have to survive with a household income of less than NAf. 4,000 per month.

“This 94 per cent is an increase of 19 per cent over a period of five years. After [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma, with so many persons who lost their job or had their income reduced, the poverty situation among the households became worse and the percentage of households in poverty has increased,” the letter read.

The letter is signed by co-coordinators of the St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform, which includes WITU President Claire Elshot-Aventurin, St. Maarten United Non-governmental Federation SUNFed President Alberto Bute and Jessurun in his capacity as President of the St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association (SMSPA).

Source: The Daily Herald