PHILIPSBURG–Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams says she has been reliably informed that government has sent a letter to all government-owned entities regarding their employment policies.
In this letter, government states that it “recognises and emphasises the necessity of hiring locals/St. Maarteners in crucial roles such as top management positions in government owned entities.”
Government, the letter continued, asked the entities whether such a policy is in place and, if this is not the case, said that measures would be taken to “underline the importance of recruiting qualified locals especially for higher level roles.”
Wescot-Williams: “Mind you, the letter does not come on behalf of the Council of Ministers. It comes from the Prime Minister and it is copied to the Council of Ministers. Having taken note of this communication, the first impression that comes to mind is one of an ill-prepared, ad hoc decision and more of a knee-jerk reaction than a policy directive by the government, and the first question that comes to mind is whether the government itself has a policy emphasising the necessity of hiring locals/St. Maarteners.”
She said that if government does have such a policy, she would like to know whom government considers to be a local/St. Maartener.
“In my letter that will go via the Parliament to the Prime Minister, I want to know if this determination is done or should be done by birthplace, parentage, residency, nationality or a combination of any of these,” she said.
“But if the government does not have this criterion or description, then my question is: how does the government recommend that the different entities apply this criterion? Is it going to be left up to them individually to decide who is a local/St. Maartener? Also important to know would be whether the government henceforth will make it clear in government and government-related ads that locals/St. Maarteners will have preference. If this is not going to happen, my question is why not,” she said.
She also wants to know whether the Prime Minister’s letter has been sent to government and all other public entities or was it only to government-owned entities such as TelEm, GEBE, Princess Juliana International Airport, Port St. Maarten, etc.
“I asked the Prime Minister directly if she does not think that an island-wide initiative led by the Government of St. Maarten should have preceded such a random letter to government-owned entities on such an important topic? As I think about this issue of St. Maarteners and their position in the labour market and getting opportunities on St. Maarten, I think back of the session that several other MPs and myself had in the Netherlands with St. Maarten students and St. Maarten young professionals. As a clarion call throughout that session was the ‘come back home’ plea,” said Wescot-Williams.
“This is a noble call, one that I have made on occasions as well. However, this kind of a blanket statement cannot be made, expecting results, without looking at the realities of many of especially our young professionals in the Netherlands and elsewhere. They have commitments where they are, they have families, kids going to school, jobs and other commitments.
“I’m asking the government therefore, since we are embarking on this trajectory, to consider a hybrid employment/consultant structure for young St. Maarten professionals abroad, meaning that an assignment (the job) can be given to these persons after going through the process of advertising it and reacting to it.
“Then the hybrid situation comes in, allowing them – especially where it pertains to consultancy jobs – to be on St. Maarten for a short period of time to do the necessary and then the bulk of the work can be done in e.g. the Netherlands, where these young professionals from St. Maarten can continue with their lives and still contribute to helping to build St. Maarten and cutting down on consultants from all over the world.”
She said it was her view that “our people are just as good, if not better than, some whom we have brought from all over. This approach would also minimise issues such as housing, which we often hear from persons as to why they are not or they can’t come back to their island, if they had to come and seek to settle here permanently. Such an agreement would also allow them to maintain a commensurable level of income.”
She also had a number of questions for the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA.