Not on deaf ears

Not on deaf ears

This is going to be a crucial week for St. Maarten and its inhabitants. A July 1 deadline had been set to comply with various conditions for continued liquidity loans from the Netherlands to mitigate the severe socioeconomic impact of the coronavirus-related crisis.

Some of these requirements have meanwhile been met, while others can still be completed during the next two days, but in a few cases that may take a bit longer. It is important to understand that although there are ways to speed up legislation, the laws of the land and international treaties to which the entire Dutch kingdom is bound must be respected too.

There is also understandable confusion within the private sector about several related rules that were added. For example, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion confirmed only mid last week that to quality for wage subsidy due to turnover loss from July, employers had to agree with their personnel for the latter to contribute 20 per cent effective June 1.

However, by that time many companies had already processed and even transferred the past month’s salaries. Worse, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA announced on Sunday that recipients of payroll support are to honour staff’s full salaries, so which one is it? 

At any rate, the call made by well-known personalities in the Netherlands (see related story) to decide on further COVID-19 financial support for the Dutch Caribbean with “compassion and a warm heart” rather than a “bookkeeping mentality” is much-appreciated. Refusing such and thus allowing widespread business closures with mass layoffs because local governments could not meet every single target would be extremely harsh and downright inhuman towards the population.

The Jacobs Cabinet has – on more than one occasion – expressed its commitment to doing what is requested by The Hague, despite concerns over certain aspects like a largely unknown new entity to monitor how the funds are spent, which will be handled in the Kingdom Council of Ministers this Friday. Keep in mind that it involves loans to be repaid in the future.

All things considered, the pleas of those who genuinely care about the islands and their people to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte should not fall on deaf ears.