Richardson calls for comprehensive study of staggering unemployment figures

POSTED: 12/30/11 11:54 AM

MARIGOT, St. Martin – Leader of the opposition in the Territorial Council Alain Richardson has said the general outlook for St. Martin remains grim and there is “no element that gives the indication that the economy has started to turn in a positive direction.” He’s now calling for a comprehensive study on the current labor situation.
“There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel,” Richardson said in a reaction to a recent report by the Information Center for French Overseas Territory.
The opposition leader believes that the unemployment percentage stated in the reis roughly 10 percentage points of the mark where it comes to unemployment in St. Martin. The report puts the figure at 25.5 percent in 2008, but Richardson believes it is as high as 35 percent, especially among the youth. Richardson is especially concerned by the fact that young people have dropped out of school and are not registering as unemployed. This means that many of them are “unaccounted for” and “have fallen through the cracks.”
Richardson is also concerned about the business climate especially when he places this recent document next to a recent report by the Chamber of Commerce. The latter states that new businesses have a short life cycle with many not making it to the five year mark where they will be on good footing or the three year mark, which is considered a milestone.
“Most of the young people who decide to start a business enter the business arena without proper coaching and would jump into the first business that comes to mind. In most cases they go into a business area that is overcrowded or in areas where it seems that the competitors are making money. What happens is that there is lack of experience or knowledge in the field which results in the demise of that business. Also the confidence towards new businesses is at the lowest end of the spectrum,” Richardson said.
Richardson also sees the banks as a blockade to the advancement of investors and young entrepreneurs.
“One of the most serious problems that exist is the banking system since many business are suffering because of the system of the local banks since they are not playing their role because in cases when businesses need the support,” Richardson said.
The economy is one of the points that Richardson’s party has included in its manifesto for the 2012 Territorial Council elections. In very broad terms the party commits to drafting and implementing a development plan that will cater to the needs of the business sector and assist in the investment in specific areas. This is expected to assist the investor and guide the financial chain forward through support.
“What is absent with the present government is a development plan that will span the next 20 years. There are approximately nine thousand students attending school excluding the students studying abroad and those that are unemployed. This is a clear indication of the need for proper planning. If anyone takes this situation to heart should not concentrate on a six months plan. Our vision needs to be focused on the next 20 years since at the end of each school year there are hundreds of kids coming out of the educational institutions and entering into the job market,” Richardson said.
More specifically Richardson’s party wants to create a free zone to serve as a commercial import/export area and to raising the occupancy rates at the hotels. They also want to “recoup some of the areas that have been transformed from hotels to housing. Most of the homes – either houses or apartments – are owned by people from metropolitan France – and Richardson’s party wants to buy them back in a venture supported by the French government. Once the properties, which are in an area that’s been zoned as tourism and hotel development space, are repurchased the Collectivite would seek to sell them to investors who will be given tax exemptions.
In a jab at the Union for Democracy and its leader Daniel Gibbs, Richardson has slammed the plans for redeveloping the Marigot waterfront.
“We will not be able to pump sand to bring ourselves out of the crisis and creating extra land on the waterfront will not be able to solve the problem. Anyone who feels that they could change the face of Marigot Bay in terms of wanting to build a billion dollar infrastructure is fooling them self. One of the priorities is to find ways to get back the hotel sector that was turned into apartments,” Richardson said.

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