PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) has again warned the incumbent United People’s (UP) party-led government against the implementation of the Counterpart Policy.

In a press release on Wednesday, SHTA said a significant number of prestigious international organisations have advised against this. It also asked why government wanted to continue trying to implement something all local business representatives have voiced against.

SHTA said answers to a number of questions are needed prior to the Counterpart Policy being “brought to the forefront again.” The association asked what other worldwide jurisdiction has proven that a counterpart programme is successful. It also wanted to know whether St. Maarten had data identifying who and how many will benefit from this policy, since the country’s unemployment data was “dated and unreliable.” It also asked how many businesses can afford to pay two employees; a qualified full time individual doing the job and a fully paid apprentice counterpart. “Is this really a measure that will reduce unemployment or promote business and attract investors?” it asked.

“Until these questions are answered satisfactorily, SHTA remains committed to opposing implementation of the Counterpart Policy and will support its members in the fight against having to employ such Counterparts. It is our recommendation that before we move forward with a counterpart policy, efforts are shifted to identifying by name and location all individuals seeking employment; what skill sets they have and what their legal status is on the island,” SHTA said in its release.

Having a reliable database of job-seekers that includes qualifications, would facilitate job opportunities to be better matched to potential employees, thus actually having a tangible effect on the unemployment rate, the association contended. “Where skill sets and opportunities don’t match, guidance could be given to continuing education in the direction of available opportunities to become better qualified; creating a self-sustainable model rather than a stop gap lopsided one.”

SHTA said it is dedicated to bringing quality to all aspects of life in St. Maarten by promoting sustainable economic development for its members in cooperation with the social partners and the creation of a fair marketplace.

SHTA also applauded what it said had been some of the “immediate actions” taken by the new Gumbs administration, such as the issuing of Economic Licences in English and allowing businesses to respond to the needs of the tourism industry especially in the high season by permitting openings on New Year’s Day.

SHTA also applauded government for having its employees report to work on January 2, like the rest of the businesses on the island. “These are definitely steps in the right direction and we look forward to more initiatives such as these.”

The association said it had been “very enthusiastic,” that the economy, this year will be a priority for the incoming government, “since a flourishing economy will help make St. Maarten a great place to live and by extension, a great place to conduct business; a common goal of residents and investors alike.”

“On the other hand, we need to make sure that future measures taken are actually positive for the economy rather than counterproductive. In order to make sound decisions at all levels, be it for the personal, private or public sector, one must have reliable data in order to recognise a problem and to project solutions and consequences of government’s actions,” SHTA said.

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