From left: St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform and Consumers Coalition representatives Claire Elshot and Raymond Jessurun.
PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform and Consumers Coalition provided their view on the proposed measures within the stimulus package for St. Maarten consumers.
In its weekly press conference on Thursday, the coalition delivered its proposed measures as it has advocated for in its declaration on eradication of poverty.
“As the Anti-Poverty Platform/Consumers Coalition we have taken note of the measures in the leaked government proposal for all the consumers in St. Maarten,” said the coalition.
The coalition further noted several measures that are to be included.
The coalition said the maximum price list is to be updated with additional items to prevent price-gouging on basic consumption items. “In the Eradication of Poverty Declaration we have suggested [that – Ed.] political parties commit to expanding the basket of basic goods to 100 items. The government of Aruba has increased the basic basket to 200 items. Why can we not get the same 200 items as legislated for the consumers in Aruba on the maximum price list?” the coalition questioned.
A fuel-clause reduction of utilities company GEBE’s electricity bills for a six-month period with no disconnections during this time was also proposed. “In the newspaper we read that the CEO [chief executive officer] of GEBE said the fuel clause will be lowered by US $0.08 per kWh [kilowatt-hour].
“This will give a reduction of the electricity bill for all consumers but the price of crude oil on the market has dropped much more than the fuel clause reduction GEBE wants to give. In the Eradication of Poverty Declaration we have been advocating for elimination of the fuel clause,” said the coalition.
The coalition mentioned the proposed decrease of fuel prices as of March 31. “Today is April 2 and we have not seen any relief yet in the price for gas or diesel [fuel] at the gas stations,” they added.
The coalition said, “TelEm/UTS [United Telecommunication Services] will relax payment deadlines. Disconnection dates will change but we do not know yet when. In the declaration on the eradication of poverty we have proposed [that] the political parties commit to bringing us faster Internet speed and affordable Internet rates.”
“Some banks – Windward Islands Bank and Banco di Caribe – announced a three-month moratorium on capital payments but the interest will continue to accumulate. The Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten proposed also a moratorium on the interest for those three months,” the coalition added.
The coalition further questioned government’s plan to enforce the “no capital payments, no interest proposal. “In the Eradication of Poverty Declaration we have asked [that] the political parties commit to [reducing] the interest rates the local banks are charging for loans and mortgages because it makes the cost of doing business and ultimately the price of goods and services much higher than necessary,” they added.
The coalition acknowledged other proposed measures within government’s stimulus package which have not been addressed within the Eradication of Poverty Declaration but were welcomed nonetheless.
These include the deferral of car lease payments, the deferral of student-loan payments for up to three months, increase in support to the rental committee and the postponement of 2019 income tax return filing until August 31.