PHILIPSBURG–Too many institutions and businesses in St. Maarten are not affording upward mobility to locals, a practice that must be halted, said Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. on Wednesday. He was particularly critical about the tourism/resort sector, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Court, saying that locals could not be found in any high or managerial position.
“I would like to see it stop by dialogue and evolution, smoothly, and if it is not then we should not avoid revolution to stop it, because it goes to the core of our economy’s existence,” Gibson said.
He called on defaulting institutions and businesses “to nurture locals to break through to the managerial positions … so they too can participate in this economy, learn the ropes, because that is the best for St. Maarten. … Do it voluntarily; do it through dialogue. Plan it so it can be done in four years’ time.
“If not, in your interest and in everybody’s interest, I am saying to you if it doesn’t come by evolution, it will, believe you me, come through revolution and there are historical experiences of that. Time for change,” said Gibson in the Council of Ministers press briefing.
His comments came on the heels of his commending the Dutch Government, in particular Kingdom Affairs Minister Ronald Plasterk, for appointing Chris Johnson, a Saban and Windward Islander, as the new Dutch Representative in St. Maarten. “This is a good gesture and a good start,” he said.
Contrary to other islands in the Caribbean, “there are too many institutions in St. Maarten where you search in vain for evidence that these are truly St. Maarten institutions when you look at the people who work and manage [them – Ed.],” Gibson said.
“If you look at the Prosecutor’s Department, for instance, you cannot find one Windward Islander … functioning as a prosecutor. If you look at the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal, you cannot find one Windward Islander sitting on the bench. It doesn’t end there, it’s a cancer that permeates almost everywhere.”
Gibson said the tourism sector, the country’s main industry, since 1962 had not produced a single local manager running a hotel.
“It can’t be that there are certain positions in St. Maarten that’s available to some people, but boys and girls in St. Peters, who have the constitutional right to occupy and dream of occupying any position they can think of” are told “so far and no more. You can’t be a hotel manager. You can’t be a prosecutor. You can’t be a judge. What kind of message are we sending to our youth and people in general?” he asked.
Government-owned companies show a different image with mostly locals at the helm, he said. Looking at Port St. Maarten Group of Companies, the airport and the telephone company TelEm “you get the feeling that this is a local institution. It is being run by locals. How is it possible in these Government-owned companies, but it is not possible in the other institutions and hotels?” he said.
The reason for the imbalance in upward mobility is “somebody didn’t make a plan,” Gibson said. To remedy this, the desire to take up jobs in these sectors has “to be nurtured” in the community. “It has to be a goal that we set. … Government as well as these institutions have the obligation to nurture the people and create and produce these people who are going to occupy these positions, and they are not doing that.”
The situation has a lot to do with “wealth,” Gibson said. “We have to stop using St. Maarten as a garbage bin. We have to stop this revolving door of money coming in and being taken out at extreme levels.”
The haemorrhaging of money is from foreigners who are employed here in the short term. They amass their wealth and then leave with it as opposed to investing it here, he said.
“If we had locals in those positions they would think about buying a piece of land, buying a house. They would be thinking about permanency. They won’t be thinking about ‘slam bam, thank you ma’am. St. Maarten, you were good to me and I am gone and I am going to take your money and invest it someplace else.’”
That approach affects the country’s economy and budget. “That affects your ability to build wealth and ability to provide services the people of this country badly need,” he said.
Source: Daily Herald
Gibson calls for opportunities for locals before ‘revolution comes’