Opinion: An expensive week

POSTED: 08/28/15 4:55 PM

This has not been a good week for St. Maarten. On the other hand, it has been a very good week. It has also been a rather expensive week.

First the threat of Hurricane Danny was coming at us, but it dissipated before it reached our shores. Right on the heels of this storm, Tropical Storm Erika followed. It did not exactly peter out, but it was not as devastating a storm as it could have been.

There are no damages of any consequence from these two weather events at least, that is the first impression. On the other hand, they did not bring the rain either that our nature needs so much.

However, in the business community and in government departments not much work got done this week. A prime minister who has to remain on top of storm developments cannot devote that time to other, more pressing matters.

The business community has lost two days of turnover and productivity – something it cannot claim anywhere. How big the losses for the business community are is hard to say – we do not have any institute ready to pop up ready-made data for such an event, but we are going to make an educated guess.

One thing is for sure though. The storms did not stop the fixed costs for all these businesses, so they will simply have to absorb them and soldier on. There is no insurance against these kinds of losses and the government will not step up to the plate and offer some form of relief. That is just not going to happen.

And the government? That one is easier. We have around 2,000 civil servants and they have by now missed two days of work. If we trust that our government employees soldier on for eight hours each day, the government has just lost 32,000 hours of productivity.

Will anybody notice anything? Probably not, least of all the civil servants who will keep receiving their salaries as usual. If the average cost of these workers to the government is, say (let’s stay modest here). 40 guilders per hour (that’s just a wild guess), the losses the government has to absorb amount to 1,280,000 guilders – more than one and a quarter million.

Our labor force is around 23,200 and our unemployment rate is, say 12 percent. That means there are around 20.400 people with a job. They, too lost two days of work – altogether 326,400 hours. If, for a minimum assessment, we put them all on the minimum wage of 8.75 guilders (which is true for 80 percent of the working class) lost productivity in the private sector then amounts to 2,856,000 guilders.

Add that to the 1,.2 million in lost productivity in the public sector and you get this number; 4,136,000 guilders – or a bit more than $2,3 million. Keep in mind: this is a minimum.

After all, an expensive week.

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