Anti-Poverty Platform says 94% households in poverty

PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform said on Sunday that at least 94 per cent of the households in Sint Maarten live in poverty with a household income of less than NAf. 4,000 or US $2,222 per month.

According to the platform, the percentage of households in poverty had increased by 19 per cent five years after St Maarten became a country within the Dutch Kingdom. “It went up from 75 per cent in 2010 to 94 per cent in 2015,” the platform said in a press release.

The Anti-Poverty Platform concluded this based on the results of the Household Budget Survey (HBS) reported by the St. Maarten Government Department of Statistics.

The Platform said it has been addressing concerns about poverty in St. Maarten for the last five years to all political authorities in St. Maarten and in the Kingdom to no avail.

“We were even contradicted and criticised in Parliament by Parliamentarians from the coalition and from the opposition for using the poverty conclusion from the Transparency International report,” the Platform said in its release. “Consequently, what have they done to eradicate poverty in Sint Maarten?

“No one should be kept in poverty, as this is a violation of a fundamental human right to equality and social justice in the State the Kingdom of the Netherlands as well as violation of the right to an adequate standard of living for oneself and for one’s family.”

Based on the census data from 2010, Transparency International concluded in its Integrity report on Sint Maarten that 75 per cent of the households in Sint Maarten could not survive with an income of less than NAf. 4,000 or US $2,222 per month. A household budget survey of 2015 for Sint Maarten concluded that the average gross monthly income per person is NAf. 3,461 or US $1,923. Most seniors have to survive with an average old age pension of NAf. 550 or US $300 per month.

The Platform said it had asked Members of Parliament (MPs) and the Government to adopt legislation to increase social pensions, the minimum wage and social allowances.

Before the last election held two years ago, all political parties were asked to sign the Declaration of Eradication of Poverty drafted for politicians, but none of the nine political parties that participated in the election at that time signed.

For this election, when co-coordinator of the Platform Alberto Bute was asked to join he list of St. Maarten Christian Party (SMCP), that party had to comply with one condition: committing to eradicate poverty in the coming governing period and signing the Declaration on the Eradication of Poverty. SMCP is the only party that publicly signed the Eradication of Poverty Declaration. The Platform has been supporting Bute in his quest to get elected.

Bute said, “I thank the SMCP for committing to a cause that we have been championing for so many years now. Since the inception of the Sunfed, addressing poverty was one of our main focuses. With the votes of the electorate to get us to be the voice in Parliament we can continue our struggle on the floor of Parliament, presenting draft amendments to existing legislation which is limiting the people to get an income which is sufficient not to be in poverty.”

Anti-Poverty Platform co-coordinators Bute and Raymond Jessurun held a public manifestation in front of the Governor’s Cabinet last week and a letter was delivered to Governor Eugene Holiday urging him to stand up for the human rights of the people of Caribbean origin in the Kingdom. The Platform wants to continue its dialogue with the Governor.

The Platform said it suspects that a much higher percentage of households will be in poverty since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, as the hurricanes have put many workers out of a job and families without income, and the noticeable jacking up of prices is increasing the cost of living.

“So far, none of the politicians have been serious and willing to address this social injustice. Should we vote for them again, where they have not even committed to eradicate the poverty the coming four years?

“The platform encourages all persons to consider this social injustice and vote for those who have committed to come with legislation and policies which will leave no one in poverty. The anti-poverty platform awaits the results of the election to see if they will get a permanent voice in Parliament,” the release said.

Source: The Daily Herald