Authorities are expecting a rise in crime due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and have prepared to face it. That is a reassuring thought, but at the same time raises concern about the severity of the current crisis and widespread nature of its repercussions for the community.
With the tourism economy at a halt for already two months and leisure travel not likely to reach former levels any time soon the outlook is grim, while according to Justice Minister Ana Richardson many businesses have already been forced to close, leaving their workers jobless. This afternoon Parliament resumes its virtual debate on supposed mass “illegal” dismissals and food aid to the most vulnerable.
The latter, together with the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) including company payroll subsidies or lockdown support as well as assistance to individual operators and newly-unemployed persons is intended to alleviate the social pain. But all that only goes so far depending to a large degree on liquidity loans from the Netherlands and those will not continue forever.
Perhaps the hospitality industry can recover more quickly than generally foreseen, but several pending projects like the new hospital, rebuilding the airport terminal, debris removal from in and around Simpson Bay Lagoon and improving waste management at the dump could meanwhile make a big difference in terms of providing much-needed employment and income. The same goes for ongoing work on visitor accommodations at Royal Palm and Flamingo Resorts, in Cupecoy and other locations, which is also important to get more “heads in beds” moving forward.
Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran with the help of relevant departments intends to speed up the issuing of building permits and facilitate digital application for such. The construction of Planet Hollywood Resort on Great Bay Beach has now been delayed due to a court case (see related story), but once this is resolved would send a welcome signal of not only the destination’s revival, but its renewal.
In fact, everyone involved, from government to the World Bank and private investors, must band together to make these projects possible sooner rather than later. More than ever, the country clearly needs all hands on deck.