I read MP de Weever's press release re The Counter Part Policy in the papers and on-line news media of January 22, 2015 and while I am the furthest thing from being a literary scholar, I believe there was a line from Macbeth by Shakespeare that is applicable here and goes like this: "... a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing!". The MP's explanation of his efforts and intentions related to the Counterpart Policy are basically thus summed up. Not only does the "tale" fail to include useful information about the policy (or law, as he suggests it is), but the MP's story also makes clear to me, that he for one is a politician who believes that if he spews enough venom, makes enough noise and bends enough truth, he can misdirect the attention of the public from his own professional failings. Nationalistic rhetoric and shouts of "saving our people" while scoffing and demonization what he calls "special interests" and businesses, may be all well and good in MP de Weever's world of politics. But it won't solve any real-life problems of St. Maarteners out of work. While he may try all he wants, this MP will not gain a bit of integrity (an area in which we all know by now he is sorely lacking) by wrapping himself in the flag and stirring up the emotions of those he has made promises to, but failed to deliver on. I do not speak for 'The people', or for special interest, or for any political party. I believe a couple of months ago I made my position clear. I am presently not an active politician or member of any political party; I am a member of the community of St. Maarten and a business professional. I speak as a businessman who talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to doing business on this island and employing locals (NONE on contract, EVER!). MP De Weever has not yet explained the Counterpart Policy and how in his opinion it is good for the island. I believe it will be a downright disaster. But don't just take my word for it. The now infamous policy, has been weighed and measured and has been found to be lacking (by experts, not only me)! The very Social Economic Council (the SER) behind which former Minister de Weever has often hid himself, has issued clear advice on not only the counterpart policy, but also on the proposal for flexibilization of the labor laws, something first championed by me as Commissioner of Social Welfare and Labor back in 2001. All bad, according to the newly self-proclaimed "defender of the people", MP De Weever.
According to him special interests are supposedly looking to "hire and fire" employees at will. What he can't seem to fathom is the fact that those unscrupulous employers that abuse the 6 month (or short term) contract, are primarily the ones that think they cannot get rid of a non-productive, or plain "bad" employee if that employee is in permanent employment. So to circumvent the very out-dated law that was put in place almost 45 years ago to protect the employee, the short term (6 month) contract is used and abused. I have always said that I do not know a sane employer who wants to fire a GOOD employee, unless it is for well supported economic reasons. I guess the IMF is infested with the "St. Maarten special interests" too. This internationally renowned and respected expert group, issued a report in which they wrote that labor laws of St. Maarten are very rigid and that the labor situation is harmful to competitiveness. The IMF found that St. Maarten's labor market is overly regulated. They advised government to change the labor laws to make them more conducive to the cycles of our Tourism driven economy's labor demand, so as to raise employment in a lasting manner and to facilitate investment from outside. MP de Weever's answer to those advices is to ADD labor regulations, in this case one for counterparts. So, with local and international experts being on the same side of this argument, I can't help but wonder why Mr. De Weever is trying to force this policy down our throat? It can't be because it is good for business, good for employees, good for nationals, or good for St. Maarten? No one, especially the MP, has provided a shred of evidence. Could it then be because it is politically convenient? When a politician does not have a successful record to run on, or when he/she does not have a scrap of political loyalty or integrity, then that politician will use whatever is available to shift attention from his failures. MP Cornelius de Weever has yet to convince me in the case that I have a vacancy in my business and a national (local) with the (reasonable) required qualifications cannot be found, how the labor department is going to decide for my business who will be a counterpart. Private business has to take acceptable financial and economic risks. That is part of the business environment or entrepreneurship. Being dictated to by government in terms of who to hire and under what conditions, is not acceptable in a free-enterprise society! This smells like "Chavizmo" and look how well THAT is working for Venezuela! De Weever proved a long time ago (and I was an "insider", so I know) that he will not accept good advice, domestic or foreign and he never blinked an eye when trying to apply bad ideas that suit his personal/political objectives-of-the-day. That thinking is not how this island got where it is today. In closing, my message to MP De Weever is simple and clear. Riling up locals with "anti-immigrant, anti-private sector" talk is not going to do any one a bit of good. Neither the unemployed kid on the block, the student abroad, the business community or government will benefit from this type of approach. Does Sint Maarten have labor challenges? Without a doubt! But a counterpart policy is not the answer. If Mr. de Weever is really a man for the people, he should talk less, listen more and pay attention to good advice when it is available. (He may also consider in his spare time trying to run a real business and drink some of his own medicine).
According to information received, MP Cornelius De Weever and the Acting Labour Minister seem to want to push the Counterpart Law to a ridiculous extreme in time for the Policy introduction in the Third Quarter of this year as announced in the media on Saturday, January 24, 2015: As I understand it, effective October 1, 2015 the Counterpart Law may also be applied to requests for Employment Permits as required by the numerous Houses of Pleasure on the island. It will be interesting to see how the Labor Department will identify, assign and monitor the possibly available local work force. Who will determine when they are qualified to take over from the foreign professionals now recruited abroad? Personally I am appalled! I take this opportunity to also question if the Counterpart Law will be applied by the Council of Ministers when it pertains to Government job openings that are to be filled by foreigners.
Michael J. Ferrier