An unusual headline caught the eye on page 3 of Tuesday’s paper: “Employment policy of former VSA Minister goes into effect.” After all, how often do ministers give their predecessors credit or even publicly adopt their policies?
The announcement from the National Employment Services Center (NESC) referred to the policy published on February 7, 2020, that is apparently only now being implemented. Goal is ensuring that employers comply with their legal obligation by making every effort to fill vacancies with suitable candidates in St. Maarten before hiring people from abroad.
But most cases regard employment permit extension requests rather than new applications and there really exists no available job because a foreigner has already been doing it. This is where the private sector remains concerned about too rigid enforcement of the requirements and procedures.
One can hardly deny that the local tourism economy, still reeling from the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, has been hard hit by the coronavirus-related crisis. According to the latest figures, 825 businesses received wage subsidies last year, with a combined monthly average of 4,894 workers.
Many have already closed their doors and others are barely surviving, so anything with a negative effect on their operational expenses and/or bottom line is best avoided at this time. One must also see whether the execution in practice rhymes with plans to make the labour market more flexible and competitive, one of the items mentioned in the “country package” of restructuring measures as a condition for much-needed liquidity support from the Netherlands.
There was an encouraging story in the same edition about the Ministries of Justice, of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA, and of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) working together on tackling immigration loopholes, because abuse of the system is the biggest problem, more so than legitimate gainfully employed expatriates with a permit who pay taxes and social premiums. They say the good pay for the bad; however, there is also such a thing as common sense and keeping it within reason.