Checks and balances

Checks and balances

Word that the coronavirus-related closing time for entertainment businesses will be extended from midnight to 2:00am again this weekend was no doubt welcomed within the hospitality industry. After all, St. Maarten is known as a fun destination and certainly not only during the day.

No details were provided pending the necessary decrees, but two extra hours can mean a lot to local nightlife entrepreneurs. Recent COVID-19 numbers also justify a relaxation of precautionary restrictions, although the risk of a British or other variant spike remains real.

For that reason, continuing to regularly wash/sanitise hands, social distance and wear face-masks is essential. The same goes for getting vaccinated, because the sooner so-called herd immunity can be achieved, the quicker a return to relative normalcy becomes possible.

Getting the tourism economy fully back on track will nevertheless take a while, so the Kingdom Council of Ministers having approved 39 million Netherlands Antillean guilders in Dutch liquidity support for April through June (see related story) is obviously good news. It gives both the public and private sectors confidence to face the next few months as the island continues to recover from this unprecedented pandemic and the deep crisis it caused.

However, the Ombudsman – as reported in Wednesday’s paper – has now thrown a potential monkey-wrench into the works by sending three national ordinances to cut employment benefits, agreed on as condition for the just-granted Second Quarter soft loan from the Netherlands, up for review of the Constitutional Court. As a result, Parliament’s Central Committee (see related story) has suspended its handling of the 2020 budget amendment to accommodate -among others- these same laws.

It is not quite clear what the impact of this latest twist will be going forward, also due to the pending change of government in The Hague. People should keep in mind that St. Maarten having a Constitutional Court was part of the extra “checks and balances” accompanying country status in consultation with the Dutch government, while the Ombudsman institute is modelled after the one in the Netherlands.