Brain Gain project stimulates students to come back home

POSTED: 08/6/15 6:59 PM

PM Gumbs “We have to build our country with our young people”


St. Maarten – Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs used a presentation yesterday morning about the inter-ministerial Brain Gain Project to criticize advisors who stand in the way of practical solutions and to emphasize that his cabinet wants to build the country with the help of local young people.

“The ministries and the secretaries-general have to understand that we must have a balanced budget that we have to cut costs. We have to stop wasting money and find ways to increase our income and also our productivity.

“If we do not all put our shoulders under efforts to move our country forward the day will come when there is no more money to pay salaries. You make up your mind,” Gumbs said. “You want a salary or do you want to continue playing the games that you play?”

The prime minister noted that all departments are under the instruction to find solutions for the country’s challenges. “Do not find reason why something cannot be done. If an advisor tells me one day something is possible and the next day that it cannot be done, this prime minister will become little rude and find somebody else to advise him.”

Gumbs firmly supported the Brain Gain Project, an initiative that started five years ago, according to Claudette Forsythe-Labega, and more recent in 2013 under the Minister of Education at the time, Patricia Lourens and former Minister of Public Health, Social affairs and Labor – now MP – Cornelius de Weever. The current Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs is also firmly on board.

The project is coordinated by Angelique Martis-Roumou with the support of an inter-ministerial task force from the ministries of general affairs, education, culture your and sports, finance and tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication.

Martis-Roumou explained yesterday the driving force behind the project: the faltering return on investment in study financing. “Between 2000 and 2010 the government invested 19 million guilders in study financing, but students did not return,” she said.

In general, students who go to the United States do tend to return to the island and build a future here, but most of the students who go to the Netherlands do not come back.

Students are reluctant to come back, Martis-Roumou said, because they are not finding suitable jobs in the fields of their studies.

To counter that reluctance, the Bran Gain Project encourages internships, both in the public and the private sector. FRED, the Flinx Recruitment Expo Dutch Caribbean that was held in Rotterdam in June helped to rebuild contacts between students in the Netherlands and St. Maarten and as a result, several young professionals will be coming back to the island, or have already come back.

Yesterday, Martis-Roumou presented tokens of appreciation to participating companies that have hired local pros: telecom provider UTS, social insurance agency SZV, SLS laboratories, the St. Maarten Medical Center, the Mental Health Foundation and the White and Yellow Cross Foundation.

Bregje Boetekees said on behalf of the White and Yellow Cross that the foundation had seven vacancies. “We will fil them all with locals,’ she said, adding that three vacancies have in the meantime been filled.

The project gets support in the Netherlands from the Unified St. Maarten Connection. Its co-founder and financial director Cyriel Pfennings was at hand to accept a token of appreciation.

MP Cornelius de Weever, as one of the early supporters of the initiative received a Brain Gain tee shirt, as did Alston Lourens, on behalf of his mother, former Education Minister Patricia Lourens. Martis-Roumou credited Alston Lourens for designing the brain drain logo.

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