As expected, much of the severe negative impact from record-strength Hurricane Irma will be felt as a delayed reaction. While some businesses still have been able to pay personnel until now, their reserves may soon dwindle to the point that there are simply no funds left to do so.
With many resorts badly damaged and often closing for – at least – the entire winter season to rebuild, the number of unemployed persons is fast starting to rise. Mass layoffs require approval of Government’s Dismissal Committee, but under the current circumstances it will be hard and in most cases probably counterproductive to deny companies such permission, especially if their continued existence depends on it.
Social assistance is limited in St. Maarten. The hope is that people who lose their occupations in the hard-hit hospitality sector might find work in, for example, the reconstruction effort with insurance monies and recovery aid, which could require them to be retrained. It’s important not to lose sight of this aspect, because the harsh reality remains that the local tourism economy is in shambles.
The more properties can be convinced to stay open with whatever rooms and amenities available the better, as long as they are able to receive and entertain guests in a responsible manner. In that sense today’s news about the situation at Divi adds to the grim picture which is quickly appearing.
All this, of course, also increases the pressure on public finances, because deficits are imminent due to considerably less tax revenues and extra disaster-relief expenses. Without substantial help, Government could have trouble meeting its commitments in the very near future.
Those lucky enough to still have a job should go above and beyond to keep it by doing what is necessary for their employer to survive, even if it means temporarily working extra hours or taking a salary cut where justified. At this particular moment in time it’s a matter of all hands on deck.