Lenny Priest says: Budget is more rhetoric

POSTED: 02/5/15 8:06 PM

St. Maarten -“Nice talk, passed some motions and many questions during the 2015 budget debate like all previous budget debates and then the entire government including parliament go into an induced coma,” says leader of the One St. Maarten People’s Party (OSPP) Lenny Priest, who questioned, “What has become of the motion that was passed just before the 2014 election to do a study on the minimum wage? Our elected officials act as if they have accomplished so much for the people after they handle the budgets year after year. Yet, unemployment especially amongst the youth remains at an all-time high with fewer of our people becoming business owners and crime becoming the order of the day.”

Priest chastises the government to put people to work and allow them to become business owners as well.” He notes that the entire nation was glued to their TV and to their radios listening to the 2014 budget debate, while still others depended on the print media to be informed about it. “As you know the budget is the most important policy document of any civilized government, it outlines the government projected income and expenses. But an integral part of the budget is also the governing program. This program indicates what the people can expect their government to do for them for the current year. Unfortunately, this document was missing from the entire debate and you would have expected any self-respecting government to have submitted this as part of the budget debate.

“Each political party during the last election was required by law to make their party program available to the general population and that should have served as the basis in preparing the governing program. Once again our people was duped for the umpteenth time and this UP led coalition government has shown for the short period of time that they are in government that they have no regard for the people. Most of them have a tendency to say fool them now and close to the election give them something in their hands. They will forget that you did absolutely nothing for them during the previous years,” Priest said.

The OSPP leader admitted that he was one of those glued to the TV and radio expecting to hear some proposals as to how the nation would be put “back to work and keep it working”. According to Priest, during the 2014 budget debate the OSPP proposed to Minister of Finance, Martin Hassink to establish a loan guarantee program and to allocate 5 million guilders on that budget. “These funds would be used to assist entrepreneurs to acquire the necessary funds to set up their small businesses. In most cases young prospective entrepreneurs with good business plans lack the necessary funding and cannot acquire these funds from the bank because they do not possess any type of collateral, be it real estate, a savings account, a financial godfather or any other valuable asset to secure the loan. This loan guarantee proposal was also sent to all the banks, the Chamber of Commerce and to the parliament but none of them responded with the exception of the Minister of Finance, Hassink who indicated that he would have taken it up with the then Minister of Economic Affairs, Ted Richardson.” Priest said small businesses is the back bone of every economy and this is one way to create new jobs; put young people to work and allow the St. Maarten people to become the owners of businesses.

“Just talking about who owns Front Street and Back Street is not going to change anything. We must put programs in place with proper training and funding to allow our people to be part of the economic pie that many others have been enjoying for many years. The Small Business Development Foundation (SBDF) already exists and can provide all the necessary training to our potential young and bright entrepreneurs. Let’s give them a chance to prove themselves.

Just imagine an existing food truck in Philipsburg that already employs four persons is interested in setting up a similar food venture in the Simpson Bay area. This entrepreneur goes to one of our local banks to acquire the financing to set it up with a good feasibility study but lacks the necessary guarantee for the bank.

“In most cases she would not receive the funding from the bank due to the lack of collateral. But with the loan guarantee program in place we would allow another small business to grow and to employ another four to five persons.  Let’s put our people to work and allow them to become business owners as well. It is one of the ways to put our young boys and girls to work and take them of the block and avoid them getting in trouble. No nation can develop its’ people unless a loan and mortgage guarantee program is in place. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel these programs exist all over the world,” Priest concluded.

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