SHTA opposes counterpart policy

POSTED: 01/12/15 10:17 PM

St. Maarten – The new Gumbs’ administration has made some good decisions in their short time in office but the Counterpart policy is not one of them, according to the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA). The SHTA has fired off a number of questions at the government regarding this policy including where in the world a counterpart policy has proven to be effective and which businesses can afford to pay two employees for the work of one, and have warned that they will oppose this policy until their questions are satisfactorily answered.

The SHTA, the largest private business representative on the island, applauds some of the immediate actions taken by the new Gumbs’ administration, like the issuing of economic licenses in English, and allowing businesses to respond to the needs of the tourism industry especially in the high season by permitting openings on New Year’s Day. SHTA further applauds Government for having its employees report to work on January 2nd, like the rest of the businesses on the island.  According to the SHTA these are definitely steps in the right direction and the association looks forward to more initiatives such as these.

The association is reportedly “very enthusiastic that the economy in 2015 will be a priority for the incoming government, since a flourishing economy will help make St. Maarten a great place to live and by extension, a great place to conduct business; a common goal of residents and investors alike.” However they warn against taking counterproductive measures and advise ensuring that future measures taken are actually positive.

“In order to make sound decisions at all levels, be it for the personal, private or public sector, one must have reliable data in order to recognize a problem and to project solutions and consequences of Government’s actions,” the SHTA states in a press release.  It is with the utmost respect that once again, for the record, we warn about the intended implementation of the Counterpart Policy.  First and foremost, a significant number of prestigious international organizations have advised against this. Secondly, why continue trying to implement something all local business representatives have voiced against?  We must therefore request the answers to the following questions, prior to the Counterpart Policy being brought to the forefront again: What other worldwide jurisdiction has proven that a counterpart program is successful? Do we have data identifying who and how many will benefit from this policy, since our unemployment data is dated and unreliable? How many businesses can afford to pay two employees; a qualified full time individual doing the job and a fully paid apprentice counterpart? Is this really a measure that will reduce unemployment or promote business and attract investors?”

The SHTA warns that it will remain committed to opposing the implementation of the counterpart policy and will support its members in the fight against having to employ such counterparts until these questions are satisfactorily answered. “It is our recommendation that before we move forward with a counterpart policy, efforts are shifted to:  Identifying by name and location all individuals seeking employment; what skill sets they have; and what their legal status is on the island. “

Like the leader of the OSPP Lenny Priest, the SHTA recommends having a reliable database of job-seekers that includes qualifications. This, they opine, would facilitate job opportunities to be better matched to potential employees, thus actually having a tangible effect on the unemployment rate.  “Where skill sets and opportunities don’t match, guidance could be given to continuing education in the direction of available opportunities to become better qualified; creating a self-sustainable model rather than a stop gap lopsided one.”

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