Govt. exploring setting up a business recovery fund

POND ISLAND–Government, via the Department of Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication (ETT), is exploring the setting up of a “business recovery fund” for uninsured businesses with up-to-date licence payment and self-employed businesses (vendors, taxi and bus drivers).

The plan will “also seek reduction in the rate of interest at banks for both households and businesses for a defined period,” caretaker Economic Affairs Minister Mellissa Arrindell-Doncher is quoted as saying in a press statement from her Cabinet on Tuesday.
This would stimulate existing and new businesses, expedite housing recovery and put eligible persons in a position to obtain mortgages at lower interest rates, cited the press statement.

The Minister is also in favour of the establishment of an “investment promotion agency” that creates for investors a one-stop shop on incentives and opportunities in St. Maarten.
The Minister, who is a candidate with United St. Maarten Party for the February 26 snap election, said she is pushing for proper security in commercial areas, including the re-installation of street lights, increased police presence, implementing the camera surveillance project and more use of the K-9 units.

The caretaker Council of Ministers has already approved a new electronic “boom” for Philipsburg to control traffic in peak tourist periods.
With the magnitude of economic devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, Government requires “serious medium- to long-term initiatives,” she said.

All fiscal policies “must be reviewed” including the turnover tax (ToT), wage and profit taxes, she said. “The loss in revenue can be recuperated by the possible implementation of a value-added tax for retailers, exempting wholesalers; applying import duties on certain commodities; and implement proper and effective collection measures.”

Among the options for business stimulation is incentivising the continuity of business operation in the first place. Such incentives could include temporarily reducing GEBE’s fuel clause for a defined period, which reduces the operational cost for business and increases household disposable income. Also suggested is reducing the licensing fees for existing businesses with certain prerequisites and establishing the St. Maarten Business Development Centre with additional responsibility of focusing on business recovery.


For job creation, specific training has to be designed and implemented via collaborative partnerships with businesses, the Labour Department and training institutions, she said.
The development of a new tourism master plan goes hand-in-hand with the activities of the recently established St. Maarten Tourism Authority (STA), she said, adding that Hurricane Irma had given tourism sector partners and Government the opportunity “to reinvent the destination in terms of marketing and promotion.”

When the destination is “on a stable road to recovery,” a massive marketing campaign “must be rolled out, re-imagined and complete with re-branding.”
The marketing campaign will include the marine sector, festivals and events such as Carnival and the Heineken Regatta, to strengthen event-/festival-based tourism.
“Government must also be prepared to support the marine sector in its efforts to have St. Maarten represented at boat shows and other such events that can drive this lucrative market to the destination,” she said.

Source: The Daily Herald