PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform (SMAPP) lobbied for support from Parliament as well as Government to change an extensive list of social inequalities, chief among which is poverty in the country. SMAPP believes all parts of the Dutch Kingdom should have the same levels of care, treatment and participation.
Platform members Raymond Jessurun, Claire Elshot, Theophilus Thompson and Arturo Bute appeared before Parliament in a Central Committee meeting on Thursday. Their combined lengthy presentation outlined everything from wanting the minimum wage changed to instituting unemployment benefits and ending the inequality politically.
The platform has proposed that a maximum old age pension should be US $1,500 and the minimum wage should be changed to a living wage. Social allowances must supplement any household income that is not enough to cover the minimum social protection floor of $2,200 per month per household.
Members of Parliament queried the Platform on where it suggests the money come from for these far-reaching financial changes.
Several MPs also urged the Platform to also take its proposals to Government for review, especially the call to revamp the tax system, end the abuse of the six-month labour contract and to encourage the businesses to take up corporate responsibility by assisting the poor and needy.
The Platform has also called for capping or setting limits for rents, interest rates, lowering food prices, expanding the basket of necessities, eliminating the fuel clause levy from electricity bills and replacing the low-speed and high-priced Internet with affordable high-speed Internet. These are all ways and means to reduce the cost of living, the representatives said.
Laws of the Dutch Government such as those calling for the legalisation of abortion, same sex unions and euthanasia should not be imposed on the people of the country, they said. These topics were referred to as “three immoral laws” that go against the rights and culture of the people of the Caribbean.
The democratic deficit in the kingdom can also be seen in the way the dispute regulation has been handled and the imposing of the Integrity Chamber, they added.
MPs peppered the Platform with questions, in particular the use of the Transparency International (TI) poverty level for the country. The TI report used norms applicable for the Dutch public entities, not St. Maarten. That resulted in a model showing some 75 per cent of the country was living below the poverty level while the Social Economic Council SER has put the level based on the real local situation at some 20 per cent.
All MPs signalled their commitment to stamp out poverty and even pointed out their personal support for people in need. However, they were very keen to emphasise that they have become weary of assisting people due to the broad scope of vote-buying.
The Platform will be back in Parliament at a later date to deliver answers to the MPs’ questions. Thursday’s session was suspended after MPs made their presentations to facilitate another scheduled Parliament meeting to adopt the 2012 annual accounts.