SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP) for the United People’s Party the honorable Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani is questioning the objective of some Members of Parliament saying it appears that their sole goal is to “criticize and topple the Government?”
MP Bijlani’s comments came on the heels of the recently passed law that formalizes a 12.5 reduction in employment benefits for civil servants and those employed at (semi-) public sector entities by the Parliament of St. Maarten. “In these difficult times, I have no desire for rhetoric but rather advice and encouragement for the Government to "leave no stone unturned" while solving our people's challenges. Contrary to the opinion of some who claim that Government has sold St. Maarten to Holland,” said Bijlani.
In March 2020 the Minister of Finance projected that an 80% SSRP relief would safeguard salaries and allowances for Civil Servants. This optimism of the local Government was met with stringent demands from The Netherlands who is expected to fund the financial relief for St. Maarten. “The Government of St. Maarten has, reluctantly, accepted The Netherlands, "take it [the relief] or leave it, "ultimatum," to ensure our citizens will get still some income in an economy that has slowed to a crawl due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.”
According to MP Bijlani the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted our economy, health, and ability to educate our children in safe learning-friendly environments. He said, “This era of our lives is unlike anything we have experienced before. Not all ideas will pan out as projected based on the unique nature of the Global Pandemic. Decisions made, even with input from community leaders, may need to be changed. It is an uphill battle to figure out which approach is best. The question will become whether our citizens starve from hunger or get sick and this is not a popular thing to say but it is our reality.”
Attempts continue to be made by the Government to balance our economic activity with our health and safety needs, and in a democratic society we must accept that some voices are louder than others, but all voices should be heard. While Carnival and the Heineken Regatta were considered as a means of boosting economic activity, if done responsibly, we accept that it is a risk that with one error can easily outweigh the reward.
Bijlani urged Members of Parliament to realize that with a NAF. 550 million budget and all efforts must be made to generate economic activity, and the people of this country can't eat rhetoric and grandstanding. “As Members of Parliament, we cannot only be at the forefront criticizing Government's attempts to navigate these troubled waters. He said the fact is that despite the economic uncertainty, and personal health risks, the Civil Servants on St. Maarten were courageous to work at risk to themselves in COVID-19 and serve the community and that cannot be forgotten. “They come to work without knowing the end result for them where things like their vacation pay and other allowances were concerned, “is absolutely commendable, and we should not disrespect that with rhetoric but rather work on finding solutions so they can eventually get what belongs to them.”
“These are difficult times and we need real solutions from people who are willing to work with the Government and Parliament to achieve results that help, not results that insight and harm.” We must bring at least one solution to the floor, and not just raise our flags of resentment,” said Bijlani. He posed the question in his press release asking, “when will we recognize the need for a unified approach to get us through what will perhaps the most challenging period of our lives?” “Sacrifices will have to be made across the board if we are to survive this unprecedented economic crisis. I applaud the employers who struggle each month to pay their staff, yet they keep pushing forward in hopes of a brighter tomorrow. We must recognize that some businesses have closed their doors, and an increasing number of our citizens lose their jobs every month. So rather than fueling a struggling nation's frustration and anger, be a voice of reason and become part of the solution,” said MP Bijlani.