Opinion: A bridge too far

POSTED: 01/20/14 1:12 PM

Lenny Priest is not a Member of Parliament but he still wanted to contribute the two cents of his One St. Maarten People party that will participate in the upcoming elections. Had Priest been an MP last week, he would have tabled a motion, of which we reproduce the text below. He offered it to several MPs that do have a seat without expecting that any of them would ever mention it. In this respect, he was not disappointed – nobody did.

Motions always begin with consideration that forms the foundation for a resolution. This is what Priest’s party had to offer as resolutions: That the Parliament of St. Maarten strongly believes that the public schools and government subsidized schools should receive some type of relief and financial assistance from NV GEBE.

That NV GEBE is 100% owned by the government of St. Maarten.

That many of these school boards are going through some though financial times in being able to provide the type of education that is required in any modern society.

That these school boards and public schools depend solely on the subsidy from the government and that the private school boards also collect an annual school fee from their students.

That these school fees are also hurting many families financially; especially those families who have more than one child attending those schools that charge school fees and those families who are earning the minimum wage.

That many of these school boards pay approximately 26,000.00 guilders of their subsidy in utility bills on a monthly bill and it varies from school board to school board.

That many of these schools in comparing with schools in other countries are lagging far behind in modern information technology and other areas.

As far as consideration is concerned, Priest knew his facts. But what to do with them? Here is what he would have liked the Parliament to resolve.

To request the Minister with responsibility for Energy as Shareholder Representative of NV GEBE to instruct the Supervisory Board and the Managing Director of this company to do the following:  Effective immediately charge all the public schools and subsidized government schools with a special tariff equivalent to the residential or lower rate. Order NV GEBE to invest in the installation of solar panels in the public schools and subsidized government schools.

Furthermore: that the government of St. Maarten, in particular the Ministers of Finance and Education agree that the savings derived from the change to a special tariff and the installation of solar panels at the public schools and subsidized government schools should remain within the educational institution to improve on the quality of education in particular the modernization of their information technology and other educational areas and to reduce the school fees of the students.

Okay, this sounds like a suggestion that would not have cost the government anything, but reality is weirder than fiction. Installing solar panels costs a pretty penny and that money has to come from somewhere. We’re not saying this is a bad idea – we have solar on our own roof and it has cut our energy bill by as much as 65 percent.

What is rather disappointing however is that none of the parliamentarians thought it worthwhile to even mention Priest’s draft motion. It sounds like an idea to chew on, to consider it and to look at the possibilities. For Parliament that was apparently a bridge too far – or the idea was smothered by the not-invented-here syndrome.



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