PHILIPSBURG–United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) Sidhart “Cookie” Bijlani on Wednesday called on government to add a drop-off zone in Philipsburg so that businesses can see some movement of tourists in this area.
He urged government to ensure that this is included in the 2019 budget currently being debated in parliament. The MP said, “The business community is suffering and bleeding,” with the majority of stores around the island surviving “hand to mouth” during the high season and “breaking their back,” during the off season. “With all these scenarios, I didn’t hear the employers firing their staff, and somehow they are managing and trying to survive.”
He also asked what is being done to attract brand-name hotels to the country. “These are used as the key words on Internet while searching for a good vacation place.”
He said also that in the 80s, 90s and 2000 persons from many neighbouring islands came to St. Maarten to shop which he said helped boost the economy, and he urged authorities to come up with weekend packages to revive this. “Since we still have monies in World Bank funds, can you have some incentive programmes for the business community, can we offer them some relief?” he asked.
Bijlani also called for civics and tourism to be mandatory subjects in schools, and said tourism should be taught from an early age. “As we all know, St. Maarten generates its main revenue from tourism and we need our youth to be aware of all the avenues that help in boosting our tourism economy.”
As it relates to the plans for a new general hospital, he said, if there is still time to rethink about its location, this should be considered. “Right now, we are investing close to US $5 million to repair the current hospital, which will be demolished in two to three years. I’m not happy at that point. Can we find a big enough piece of land to build the new hospital and once that hospital is ready, then we can use the existing hospital as a youth recreation centre with indoor and outdoor activities and with a sports ground adjacent to the hospital? Our youths really need some activities instead of being on gadgets all the time.”
He also had a suggestion for the Minister of Finance. “Currently, we are renting this parliament building and I believe the lease is on yearly basis. Minister, can you explore the possibilities to move into Kwik Bargains on Bush Road or any other suitable location until we have our own Parliament? This might save a lot of rental expense. Also, I see some 300,000 in capital expenditure for preparatory work of new parliament. Are we really thinking to start the work this year? I would suggest if nothing has started yet then put it in the 2020 budget. This 300,000 can be used for something better like feeding the children pilot project, if possible.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/88675-bijlani-says-businesses-suffering-and-bleeding