Lenny Priest: Establish the van Hugh Law.

POSTED: 02/17/15 12:14 AM

St. Maarten -Young people in the community needs to be taken “off the block” and put to useful employment, says leader if the One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) Lenny Priest, who is proposing the establishment of van Hugh Law, to be named after our former Minister of Labour, now Member of Parliament van Hugh Cornelius de Weever.

“In the late nineteen eighties a law was passed commonly referred to as the “Lei de Bion”. This law was established to promote the employment of young people seeking employment. The employers who employed these young people would be exempted from paying some of the payroll taxes. And of course there were many other conditions attached to the law for the employers as well as the potential employees,” Priest said yesterday, adding that there would be changes to the Lei de Bion, which was never enforced but remains on the books, and this law  would then become the van Hugh Law.

“The law will differ somewhat from the Lei di Bion in as much it would not exempt the employers from paying the payroll taxes for a period of time. The employer in essence would be granted a tax credit in the amount of Nafls 9000.00 (50% of Nafls 1500 x 12) per year; the employee must be employed uninterrupted for minimum one year on a full time basis; the employee must have been registered at the Labour Department for minimum six months as seeking employment; the job opportunity at the employer cannot be part of the core function to be carried out at the business; the van Hugh law will only be applicable to legal citizens of this country who have been residing on the island for one year or more and last but not the least, this tax credit is applicable for a maximum period of three years with the employee remaining employed. As a young nation we don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Let us pick up this law, dust it off and see how it can fit within our frame work of putting our young people to work.

“Our youth are crying for help and all their pleas are falling on deaf ears. A major crime is committed and unfortunately some youth are involved and the entire nation is in uproar. We must do something for our young people. They are going astray. Then the blame game starts, from the parents to the teachers and eventually the government. But at the end of the day nothing is done to help our young people. The 2015 budget was passed recently, what youth programs were presented to the public?” questioned Lenny Priest.

The OSPP leader noted that every year there are hundreds of young people completing secondary schools but cannot find employment and opined that unemployment among young people is at an all time high. “Put an ad in the newspapers seeking an administrative clerk and you would be surprised how many young people would apply for that job,” Priest noted. “If we should start an unemployment campaign registration at any given time in each district you would be surprised of the amount of young people that would register. This was done before but most of the young people are disenchanted because they were never placed and neither did they even have the luxury of an interview to say the least. But as a nation we can’t give up.

We must develop some type of plans or ideas to be able to put our young people to work. Dr. Rhoda Arrindell during her tenure as Minister of Education had introduced a program “Get of the block, get on the bus” to assist our youngsters who were unemployed. Unfortunately, it died a natural death.”

The OSPP leader stressed that getting the young people back to work must be a team effort and all ideas should be considered on their merit and not based on which political party or member of the public that proposed the idea. He added that the end goal is too important to have politics played with this issue and as such he has submitted thus proposals to the government, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association and the chamber of labour unions in the hope that all parties will work together.

Priest is of the belief and conviction that such a program “would put many of our young people in jobs right away. Our government would have sufficient time to introduce the loan guarantee program; the conversion program from cruise passengers to stay over passengers; tap heavily into other markets such as South America and Europe and truly introduce agriculture to the nation, grow what you eat, eat what you grow. These programs would result in more tourists coming to St. Maarten that would create more real jobs for our people in the long run. On account of this our unemployment numbers will drop as well as the crime rate amongst our young people. Our Members of Parliament should be open to ideas that are coming from the general public.

“We are in this together. Every young person that ends up in prison is one person too many. The OSPP has therefore forwarded a copy of the law that was enacted on December 14, 1989 to the Minister of Social Affairs, Health and Labour, Rita Bourne-Gumbs and to all the Members of Parliaments, the SHTA, the Chamber of Commerce, the WICLU and the community councils. Let’s roll up our sleeves and put this nation back to work in particular our youth,” Priest concluded.

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