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“The more I find out…”

Dear Editor,

PHYSICIAN DR TERRANCE MICHAEL DREW rode the popular political wave and ousted accountant Dr Timothy Harris as St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister in the August 5th polls this year.
There were high hopes following Drew’s win.
He drew the sentiments of Kittitians and Nevisians, wearied by the foibles of the seven-year Harris administration, towards his talented Labour government.
But inexplicably, PM Dr. Drew seems willing to squander the political capital secured by him and his team on August 5.
He raised eyebrows with the inclusion of Gurdip Bath, a St Kitts and Nevis diplomatic citizen, as part of his official team at the just-concluded United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Mr. Bath was there in the capacity of PM Drew’s Advisor. The public didn’t see this coming.
There was never any public announcement by either PM Dr. Drew, or his Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Marcus Natta about Bath’s role in the new Labour government.
Bath was implicated in an alleged kidnapping ruse, raising numerous questionable concerns since he left India and took up residence in the Caribbean.
Kittitians and Nevisians and other senior regional figures have been blind-sided by the man’s surprising appointment.
Is the PM’s strange silence linked to the fact that the former Indian national had a similar role under the Dr Timothy Harris Team Unity administration?
Has the Drew government gagged itself because of mortal fears of an expected public backlash?
Bath, we recall, was Harris’ advisor at the time the then PM was ensnared in a litany of corruption allegations resulting in several of his ministers quitting the coalition in disgust triggering the precipitous collapse of his seven-year-old unity government.
Despite his reluctance, the former St Kitts and Nevis PM reluctantly called early polls and was runner-up to Drew.
Already there are rumbles in Basseterre that Bath, has craftily adopted chameleon characteristics and has hoodwinked the ‘rookie’ prime minister Dr Drew in his net.
Many fear the worst and begin predicting an impending disaster for the 39-year-old independent twin-island Federation and are also forecasting many troubles for PM politically, and personally.
Knowledgeable persons express anxieties that Bath is helping shape vital domestic and foreign policies for Basseterre and are frightened by the real prospects of looming political and economic catastrophe for the CARICOM state.
For many, Drew’s appointment of Bath defies logic.
“This is a questionable matter. The people of St Kitts and Nevis need to know the truth. No possible common sense can be made of this,” a citizen alarmed by the development, complained in a recent interview.
“It certainly has a number of negative ramifications for not only this young new government but the country as a whole,” the concerned resident noted.
What’s in it for Bath the holder of a St Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport?
What’s in it for Basseterre?
What calculations have Drew made causing him to settle firmly on this obvious risk?
Reliable sources confirmed that Bath is also integrally involved with the operations of the financially-sound Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme which helps rake invaluable resources to spur the country’s national development thrust.
Many fear too, that Bath’s presence will prove toxic for the CBI initiative and cast a pall of gloom over future beneficiaries since his name was called as a co-conspirator in one of the biggest kidnapping-related international schemes last year.
Mehul Choksi, a jeweler, alleged that he was kidnapped in Antigua and Barbuda where he has been living there since January 2018. He reportedly was kidnapped on May 23rd, 2021 when he showed up in Dominica battered and bruised.
The matter gained international notoriety as India wanted Choksi extradited.
His lawyer based in India, Vijay Aggarwal, has noted: “Truth always comes out in the end, no matter how hard anyone tries to stop it or hide it. Lies are just temporary delays to the inevitable. It was extremely insensitive for some people to call injuries on my client Mr. Mehul Choksi to be fake because of some legal strategy.”
In a statement published via www.indianexpress.com, a spokesperson for Choksi said, “Mr. Choksi is pleased that the Dominican Government has today dropped all charges against him for unlawful entry in May 2021. By doing so, they now recognize that there was never any case against him.”
“Mr. Choksi was forcibly removed from Antigua against his will by agents of the Indian State, viciously assaulted, and taken to Dominica by boat, where he was again unlawfully handed over to authorities for an offense he never committed,” the spokesperson said.
Choksi claimed he was abducted from Antigua and Barbuda, allegedly by Indian agents, and forcibly taken to Dominica in a yacht — Dominica is an island nation to the south of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean.
Bath was named as one of three conspirators. In a detailed report published via www.thetimesofindia.com, it noted that Bath was traveling on a Kittitian Diplomatic passport, checked in to Cocobay Hotel on May 19, 2021, and stayed in Room # 53

“When Mr. Bath checked into Cocobay he initially reported that he was alone. but the hotel staff reported subsequently seeing him in the company of a female, believed to be Barbara Jarabik. He checked out on the morning of 22/5/21 but later returned that said day and checked in (Room #29) for an additional day.

“On several occasions, while staying at the hotel he requested a taxi service (Tx 441) to go to Jolly Harbour. On the last occasion 23/5/21, a taxi (Tx 1390) took him to Epicurean Supermarket where he arrived at about 11:15 AM and was picked up by a tall, burly man of Indian descent in a white Hyundai Creta, R3539. The vehicle, which came from inside North Finger returned there with Mr. Bath. The vehicle never left again until 18:46 after Mr. Choksi would have been abducted.
The report noted further that “At 19:43 Mr. Bath, Barbara Jarabik, and Leslie Farrow-Guy left Antigua on an Executive Air charter flight (8P-EAL) and traveled to Dominica. They arrived at about 20:40 and the plane then continued with only its pilots to Barbados where it is based.
The said aircraft had arrived in Antigua on Saturday 22nd May 2021 carrying only its pilots and was scheduled to leave. on the 23rd May 2021 at 16:20 PM but never left until 7:20 PM,” the report said.
It said Bath entered Antigua a month earlier, ostensibly on a recce. “On 14th April 2021, Mr. Bath and Ms. Jarabik traveled together to Antigua from Dominica on a private charter flight (#N362MC) they checked into Blue Waters Hotel at 15:21 hours .and stayed together in Room 406. On 15th April 2021 at 17:13 they checked out from the said hotel then departed Antigua together.”
Given Bath’s high-profile appointment, one must ask: Who is helping PM Drew vet his appointees?
Although there is no information available as to whether Bath was charged and or convicted, the Drew government can ill-afford characters links with characters bearing such questionable histories. He can prove a lightning rod for the new labour administration.
Here are our initial queries for PM Drew.
1. What is Bath’s expertise and what specific areas does he provide advice for the relatively new PM?
2. Is it a five-year contract? When did it take effect?
3. Why has the PM kept the public in the dark about the ‘Bath advisor contract’?
4. Was the PM aware of the Bath’s history? Who is helping the PM scrutinize potential appointees? There are documented police reports to help with critically-needed information.
5. Since the UNGA meeting, what has the Cabinet Secretary still mum on Bath?
6. Is Bath luring PM Drew down the same ‘rabbit hole’ Dr. Harris wandered along like a lamb to the slaughter which eventually triggered the spectacular collapse of his administration a mere 2 years after his reelection? We, the people, want to know. But the “more I find out, the less I know” according to the popular Johnny Nash anthem.
PM Drew owes the people of the Federation an urgent explanation about Bath’s appointment and a justification for his administration’s silence on the matter so far.


Nothing else is acceptable.

 

Authors name withheld upon request.


ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! PAY ACCORDING TO OUR CLA!

~PJIAE Management does not adhere to PJIAE-ABVO CLA~

Since March 2018 until today the last day of September 2022,  PJIAE management is not complying with the cost of living adjustment (COLA) clause in art 502 of the Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) agreed and prolonged between parties PJIAE and ABVO!

Until today September 30th, 2022 PJIAE management did not implement as stipulated in the CLA the annual adjustment of the base salaries and the salary components (like overtime, vacation pay, and all other allowances ) based on the cost of living increase!

Five years of management is promising to pay the cost of living adjustments! For five years already management is postponing these adjustments, while management is playing with the unpaid salary amounts of the workers!

ABVO did not sign a “partner and” agreement with PJIAE management!

God knows how they are investing that money and making a Return On Investment or earning interest on what had to be paid out to the workers! While our workers have to live monthly with less and less purchasing power since Irma hit Sint Maarten in Sept 2017, individual management members are affording themselves all kinds of luxury!

ABVO maintains that the only agreement PJIAE has with ABVO is the PJIAE-ABVO CLA! ABVO therefore will not agree nor sign a settlement agreement to pay the workers less than what they are entitled to as per March 2018, March 2019, March 2020, March 2021, and March 2022!

PJIAE management must comply with the CLA and pay late fee interest!

At no time ABVO agreed with PJIAE that PJIAE can “borrow” the unpaid salary adjustments of the workers against a ”0% interest rate”! All creditors of PJIAE are being paid what is legally due to them and interest has to be paid to them when PJIAE is not paying these creditors in time!

ABVO claims that the workers of PJIAE have to be paid what is legally due to them, including the legal interest fees! Enough is enough! ABVO SXM in its letter of August 28, 2022, to PJIAE management has demanded PJIAE to pay all workers before the end of September 2022 their outstanding correct salary adjustments since March 2018, increased with the legal late salary payment interest charges (“vertragingsrente”) as stipulated in art 1614q of Book VIIA in our Civil Code!

PJIAE asked ABVO to come to the negotiation table to consider a Settlement Agreement because of the after Irma financial position of PJIAE! But ABVO has never abandoned its position that PJIAE should not deviate from the CLA between ABVO and PJIAE.


 Settlement Agreement is a “trick” to pay less than what is in the CLA!!

Meanwhile PJIAE management “tricked” our sister unión and non-unionized workers to agree with a Settlement Agreement proposed by management.  PJIAE management even started to pay out these workers. Why do we consider this a “trick”? Because all workers were always been treated based on the PJIAE-ABVO CLA!! In the past every time the ABVO-PJIAE CLA is being implemented, not only the ABVO members but all workers of PJIAE according to “the equal job, equal pay principle” are receiving the same benefits as the ABVO unión members. Now they “tricked” our sister unión and non-unionized workers to accept a settlement that is deviating from the PJIAE-ABVO CLA!

COLA has to maintain the purchasing power of workers and their households!

While prices in St Maarten continue to rise, the salaries when they are not adjusted to the cost of living increase lose the purchasing power of the workers and their households. With households needing at least 5000 ANG a month not to be in poverty, deteriorating the purchasing power of the salaries is unacceptable! The PJIAE proposed Settlement agreement is not maintaining the purchasing power of the workers of PJIAE! ABVO, therefore, is not in agreement with the proposed Settlement Agreement and demands adherence to art 502 of the CLA!

Signing the COLA Pay Out is accepting to deteriorate purchasing power of your salary!

PJIAE with the settlement COLA payout is violating the “equal job equal pay principle” which PJIA until now has been implementing adhering to the PJIAE-ABVO CLA! PJIAE by tricking the workers to accept a settlement payout is violating their right to maintain the purchasing power of their salaries! Maintaining purchasing power of the salary is an acquired right in the PJIAE-ABVO CLA!!

PJIAE with this settlement trick is discriminating among the workers at PJIAE! By signing for the settlement payout you voluntarily waiver your right to maintain the purchasing power of your salary! Not even in a court of justice, you can annul this signature because you voluntarily signed and accepted the settlement trick from PJIAE management!

ABVO, therefore, wants to warn all its members and workers of PJIAE not to fall into this trap and not to give up their right to maintain the purchasing power of their salary!

ABVO awaiting a response from Management no later than today September 30th!

ABVO will hold a meeting for all employees of PJIAE next week (date, place & time yet to be decided), to share the latest information and the next steps.

In the struggle to maintain the purchasing power of the workers of PJIAE.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte speech at the 77th UNGA: hypocrisy and truth at the same time?

Honorable Prime Minister Rutte,

We took note of your address on the war in Ukraine at the opening of the 77th UNGA where you took the prestigious world stage of the UN to present your government’s actions and future plans.

In our view and experience as a people of Bonaire that lived and endured your government’s illegal annexation on the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10, 2010, we only can say that everything your honorable expressed on that world podium is exactly is in every aspect true for our Bonerian People.

In our continued efforts to expose Dutch atrocities and seek justice for our Bonaire people, who are in the process to relist Bonaire on the Non-Self-Governing-Territories of the United Nations. Since we have no representation who could stand up for our truth and our rights on the United Nations stage, we will evaluate the address you gave. We will do this in direct clear words, the same way as you expressed your government’s views and plans on the conflict in Ukraine. PM Rutte your vocabulary shocked us, and quoting your own words, “delusional, deceitful, and outright lies”. And then yet on the other hand, we were very puzzled because you spoke about, freedom, self-determination, rule of law, determine their own future, the people’s right to choose their own path, fundamental principles of the UN charter etc. We think PM Rutte your speech to be hypocrisy at the highest level because it was made at the highest level of the diplomatic world stage, the UNGA. Our assessment below of your speech is solely based on facts, quoting your own words.

Quoting H E Prime Minister Mark Rutte:

PM Rutte UN speech: “we have to make a choice between “might is right” and an international community living in peace under the laws of justice...”
The United Nations declared that colonialism is a crime against humanity, then why does your government continue to enforce by “might” colonial legislation and policies over our island Bonaire and the other Caribbean islands? Then why have our small island Bonaire international airport has been taken over by your Dutch government and transformed and expanded rapidly to beyond commercial norms to seemingly military norms?

PM Rutte UN speech: “the people would only want to be left in peace... to decide their own future... we must uphold the international rule of law....it is a sovereign people’s right to choose its own path...it is about freedom.... who long for peace and justice...whose voices are not being heard
Yes PM Rutte, the Bonerian people would like to be left in peace. We would like you to stop the European-Dutch settlers-migration encouraged by the Netherlands incentives depopulating and making our Bonerian people a minority in their own island where the European Dutch immigrant on arrival can vote in 90 days in Bonaire local elections. Did your government uphold international rule of law when your government unilaterally annexed and embedded Bonaire in your constitution without equal rights and against the wishes of the people?

PM Rutte speech : “we must uphold the fundamental principles of the UN charter ...principles we agreed to after the painful lessons of history.... to stand collectively for what we laid down in the UN Charter.... the Hague, the legal capital of the world”
Does Your Honorable realize that your governments actions, decisions, laws, and policies toward our Bonaire people are infringements of these fundamental principles and resulted in a recolonization that violated articles 1, 55, 73 and 103 of the Charter of the United Nations and resolutions 742, 747, 945, 1514 and 1541 that affirm the inalienable rights of the people of Bonaire to self-determination? Are you aware that your government has systematically encroached several of our Bonaire people’s international legal instruments: United Nations Charter, United Nations Decolonization Declaration, The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on All Forms of Racial Discrimination, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Aren't you aware of the research and reports by numerous international experts including your own experts contracted by your government, Hoogers, Oostindie and Veenendaal reporting this heinous fact of your government continues colonial rule which is against and in violation of “international laws of justice”?

PM Rutte speech: “who long for peace and justice.... there cannot be no justice without accountability... whose voices are not being heard”.
These statements reflect exactly Bonaire's reality and situation since the illegal annexation of 10-10-10, by which Bonaire autonomy was reversed to a colonial with taxation without representation status through which The Hague decides without any accountability. Our voices have been silenced now and forever as we have become a minority on our own island. By displacement and reduction through settler-colonization policies, the indigenous population has fallen to under 40% in a decade and will fall to under 1/3 of the population by 2030.

PM Rutte speech: “delusional narrative full of lies, deceit.... the world cannot and will not standby and do nothing”.
These remarks are the storyline of our colonial history and this continues up to today. History keeps repeating, as we were colonized by one of the world’s biggest colonizer-nation and we are here today because of the biggest Dutch lie in history. When in 1955, Mr. Johan Beyen as Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs assisted by Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles, Mr. Jonckheer, mislead the United Nations that they represented the free people of the Netherlands Antilles, and thus the Netherlands obtained absolution from reporting obligations and had us removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories (NSGT). We were never decolonized and were never equal nor free.

PM Rutte speech: “stands on the wrong side of history...we will continue on that path because adaptation is in our DNA...now is the time to speak out, now is the time to be at the right side of history”
PM Rutte your government bereaved Bonaire and stole 200 nautical sea-miles Exclusive Economic Zone of pristine Caribbean sea from our people without a single bullet fired or any bloodshed and indeed you and your government stands at the wrong side of history. Curacao, Aruba, and St Maarten Prime Minister's could not speak as they sat in the 77th General Assembly and watched you incite and declare world war on behalf of the Dutch Caribbean. So much for equality, so much for the right side of history, so much for the truth, Your Honorable PM Rutte.

 

With kind regards,
James Finies, President Nos Ke Boneiru Bek

 

PM Rutte UN GA 2022 speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSXuhQQ7Yxo&t=199s

 

The Democratic Trap.

hands15092022Dear Editor,

For a long time now I’ve asked myself, why is it that the people that get elected oftentimes tend to have a weak or no moral compass? Is it that the person goes into the office on the straight and narrow path and that the system changes them, and sways them into wrongdoings? Or is it a certain class, a certain breed of people that are susceptible to shady dealings, with a lack of integrity, that tend to run? The answer to these questions, as with many things in life, lies somewhere in between. Politics is regrettably a dirty game. We see it all around us as spin doctors who do their best to spin, distract, and sway our opinions away from the facts. Who then would subjugate their selves to the scrutiny that is a public election? Only those who are unscrupulous, or as we more commonly refer to them “People with no shame”; those who don’t mind stooping to low levels to get in. To put it in an analogy:

It’s like a boxing ring where you know the opponent will fight dirty and the referee isn’t even looking.

Fair, honest, well reasoning, educated people, tend to steer clear of such a toxic arena. And so, we have ourselves a perfect catch-22 in which we end up with elected officials that will say anything, promise the world, or even resort to the illegal practice of vote-buying just to get their selves into office. While those who can make a change for the better, for all the people tend to give a wide berth to the entire ring. (Fortunately, we have seen a step in the right direction here as a select few have risen up and have challenged the norm).

In this piece I intend to delve into the short-term vs long-term mindset when it comes to voting for your elected officials, tackling some of the pitfalls of the short-term timeframe, and giving actionable steps to prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over.

In an interview I watched not too long ago Saifedean Ammous stated that the time preference for the younger generation has become much shorter. When last have you heard young people talking about the nice returns they received from their savings account? Probably not recently as the interest rates the banks give are laughable, or even negative in some parts of the world. This shorter-term time preference is a result of inflation eroding our purchasing power and at our planning for the future. Why do I bring this up? We can’t really do much about the US dollar inflating. That is correct, however, what we see is that this short-term time preference also rears its ugly head during elections. All too often and all too easily our very own sell their vote for $100, a new fridge, or the promise of a favor. I’m here to warn those very same people, careful that you’re not getting the raw end of that deal. Your vote is worth much more than that! Every time a vote is sold “cheaply” you pay it back one hundred-fold through shifty dealings, nepotism, lack of accountability, and mismanagement in our Roads, Healthcare, Education, Sports, cost of Energy, Social security (or lack thereof), affordable housing, basically, all facets of life are adversely affected by taking the path of quick gratification.

Some might argue who can blame them. If you’re struggling to put food on the table $100 can carry you a long way. And that is exactly where the democratic trap sets in.  The powers that be would like to keep you exactly there, struggling with your hand out. Why?

A struggling nation is a cheap nation.

 

As my wise colleague always says “een kinder hand is snel gevuld”, which translates to; a child’s hand is easily filled. This means you’ll be more inclined to take the deal operating from a place of strive and struggle. A prospering society that can properly take care of its basic needs will be far more discerning, they will demand much more from their elected officials, meaning that those officials would actually have to work.

Therefore, I ask all of you reading this piece to stick out your biggest hand and ask far more from our elected officials. When they come with the $100 bill you tell them, keep it, I want:

  • - Accountability
  • - Good corporate governance
  • - A government based on meritocracy
  • - Good roads
  • - Affordable housing
  • - Affordable energy
  • - Proper healthcare
  • - A livable minimum wage
  • - Public spaces for the people
  • - A more robust, sustainable economy
  • - A lot more, but most importantly a government I can be proud of

All of these require long-term strategic planning, holistic approaches, and a proactive attitude mixed with common sense which seems to be sorely lacking in the current coalition. So come the next elections, no better yet, we can start today! When talking to your friends, family, and co-workers raise awareness, especially amongst the most vulnerable in our society, and tell them to make a well-informed decision. Don’t sell out. Aim for the longer term. Look at who has put us in the situation we are in now (to be very clear, it is the NA, UP, and USP), do we want more of that? It’s time we elect leaders with a long-term time preference. Not those that through their own actions have to worry about whether or not they’ll be there after the next elections. Enough is enough!

 

David Salomon

Kruythoff responds to Minister of VSA and TEATT on his plans to lease land abroad.

Dear Editor,

After reading the article “St. Maarten looking to lease land abroad for sustainable agriculture” dated September 7, 2022, in many local media outlets, I was struck was disbelief.

From December 2021 through June 2022 my company, Infinite Observations, based in Delft, The Netherlands, executed the project “Pilot Study On Price Ceiling On Staple Items – Foodstuffs” for the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications (TEATT) of the Government of Sint Maarten, see https://infinite-observations.com/pilot-study-on-price-ceiling-on-staple-items-foodstuffs-2021-2022/. The project consisted of (1) collecting data on more than 650 commodity food items, (2) developing a “Market Place Mapping Dashboard” for the duration of the project to monitor market prices and (3) a written report.

In Chapter 6 paragraph 9 of our report named: “Subsidies To Increase Farmer's incomes and Lower Consumer Prices To World Price Levels”, we advocated specifically for “Domestic Agriculture” for the following reasons:

Domestic agricultural (, livestock, fishery, etc.) production is the only long-term sustainable response program to price increases stemming from food shortages as a result of human-induced and man-made catastrophes, see chapter 2 | Conceptual Framework, on page 16, of the entire report. During the pandemic years and the ongoing war in Ukraine, the agricultural sector has been performing very well as the shift to small-scale subsistence (or at-home food preparation [essentially all farmers in Sint Maarten]) was fuelled by strong demand from consumers. Any government agricultural policy framework will have to be an approach that will better enable (small-scale subsistence) [essentially all farmers on Sint Maarten] and the food sector to simultaneously improve productivity, increase competitiveness and profitability, improve resilience, access markets at home and abroad, manage natural resources more sustainably, contribute to national food security, and deal with extreme market volatility while avoiding trade distortions. The (or any current or future) agricultural policy framework must consist of the following: (1) macro-economic governance, (2) agricultural research and development, (3) markets, (4) land management, (5) climate change, (6) public expenditure, (7) policy priorities, (8) farmer knowledge, organization, awareness, and education, (9) financial services, (10) technology and (11) taxation.

Macro-economic Governance: A government agricultural policy framework should have a holistic approach and cover the whole food supply chain, well-functioning markets, and a sound regulatory and policy environment that is key to fostering innovation and improving productivity, sustainability, and resilience. Such a framework needs continuous improvements. Digital technologies and ICT can play important roles in the design of an innovation and policy framework. Policy coherence deserves special attention when applying such a frame framework. Encouraging macro-economic surroundings promote the stability that is required for a well-functioning of market and investment decisions.

Agricultural Research & Development: How much has the government invested in agricultural research and development over the past decade? How many full-time equivalent (FTE) agricultural researchers does government employ? Has the government thought about establishing an agricultural research fund, and reallocating revenue from commodity food taxes back to agricultural research and development?

Before the minister engaged in talks about leasing parcels of land in other countries did he seek advice on what that would mean in terms of transportation costs of that produce and products from those countries back to Sint Maarten? We have seen how (fossil) fuel costs have skyrocketed in the past months and what effect that has had on commodity food prices. Can the minister substantiate his decision with data?

Markets: This surge created by the shift to small-scale subsistence, however, coupled with logistical bottlenecks, created supply disruptions resulting from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine led to higher commodity food prices, drawing special attention to the vulnerabilities of existing global supply chains, see chapter 5 | Examining Factors That Influence Price Fluctuations, on page 64, of our report. To safeguard against future catastrophes, to meet increasing food security demand and resiliency in the agricultural supply chain, the Caribbean agricultural industry needs to adapt and evolve.

Will the supply chain disruptions resulting from catastrophes be mitigated by leasing parcels of land in other countries to develop sustainable agriculture? By cultivating and expanding the agricultural sector in Sint Maarten supply chain disruptions to our local market resulting from catastrophes will be zero. Because all produce and products will be locally grown and the time and distance from farm to market in Sint Maarten is negligible. When production is done in other countries, it can take weeks or more under normal circumstances and in the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe, the challenges will be insurmountable. Sint Maarten needs to become more resilient in economic, employment, educational, etc. -terms. Outsourcing agricultural production to other countries will make us more vulnerable and dependent on others than we are right now.

Climate Change: Changes in the variability of rainfall (or drought) are expected to have a more significant impact on agricultural production and hurricane winds are so strong enough to break and uproot crops, wave and water action can be catastrophic to land environments causing erosion. However, there are several land management practices, adaptation, and mitigation strategies to reduce climate risk in the agricultural sector and improve growth and productivity while boosting yields and increasing revenue.

Did the minister research what land management practices can be used in Sint Maarten to reduce climate risk in the agricultural sector and improve crop growth and productivity?

Farmer Knowledge, Organization, Awareness & Education: Network of actors and institutions participating in research, education, capacity building, training, extension, long-term productivity and sustainable farming, input supplying, regulatory policy, marketing, processing, and consuming. Some of these actors come from outside of the agricultural sector, and they can influence innovation from any point in the value chains.

Did the minister consult with our local farmers on this matter? By leasing parcels of land in other countries to develop sustainable agriculture will Sint Maarten organize, encourage, educating our local farmers and young people in the agricultural sector? No!

Financial Services: Agricultural financing, credit to finance inputs and capital investments, effective market information systems, and reliable infrastructures, such as electricity for cold storage facilities and water for irrigation are necessary to cultivate the sector and help it to grow. However, farmers at or below subsistence levels have low assets, are often outside formal credit markets, and have high degrees of risk aversion that make it difficult for them to make even the initial investments that would increase production. Through innovations in agricultural infrastructure and technology, investment opportunities exist to optimize and boost value creation from every part of the supply chain in a sustainable manner. This type of transformation requires capital. In the European Union funding is available in the form of grants, subsidies and incentives for sustainable resilient agricultural projects among member states.

Is the minister aware that be outsourcing our much need domestic agricultural sector it will make it much more difficult to access the necessary funding from the European Union and other international bodies for local agricultural projects now and in the future?

Land Management & Population: Population growth and urbanization in recent decades has led to the steady decline of farmland and other natural resources. Land distribution (or lack of) and land disputes, plot inclination (or slope) poses many challenges to open-field agricultural farming, which is limited to specific growing seasons and is sensitive to climate change and the prevailing weather patterns. On the other hand, (single and multilevel) Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) offers numerous advantages to open-field farming. CEA creates an environment, by using innovative technology to control lighting, humidity, and temperature levels, conducive to almost year-round growth for certain fruits and vegetables with limited exposure to weather conditions. The advantages of CEA farming include: (1) improved and more consistent crop yields, (2) if greenhouses can be located closer to end markets [greenhouses on Sint Maarten] it reduces supply chains and carbon emissions associated with transportation to get produce from farmer to the consumer, (3) more efficient (meaning less) use of fertilizers and no use of pesticides, (4) efficient irrigation methods and recycling of water and nutrients leads to water conservation.

Did the minister explore the development of this option of sustainable farming on Sint Maarten before engaging in discussions to lease parcels of land in other countries to develop sustainable agriculture? The investment in (multi-level) greenhouses on Sint Maarten will be much lower than leasing, producing and transporting produce from other countries to Sint Maarten.

Technology & Innovation: Technology and innovation allow farms to do more and better with less. By transitioning to renewable energy sources, of which solar is one of the fastest-growing alternatives, presents the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions. Solar panels allow farms to power farm equipment such as water pumps, lights, electric fences, and storage. Farms can become more energy self-sufficient and improve operating profit margins. Excess solar energy generated on a farm can be sold to local utility providers. This in turn can help local communities reduce their carbon footprint, but it can also provide farms with a secondary source of income. Farms can streamline operations, creating greater operational cost control and building production resiliency by transitioning toward energy self-sufficiency.

Does the minister realize that cultivating and expanding the agricultural sector in Sint Maarten will expose the entire population and especially our youth to technology and innovation in the farming industry? Domestic farming will create opportunities to work in universities and institutions in the food production industry. Sint Maarten will not have these opportunities if the land is leased to other countries to develop sustainable agriculture. The much-needed knowledge, technology, innovation, and experience will by going elsewhere.

For the time being it is highly likely that market prices will go down, as in 2008, since farmers are archetypal price followers. However, natural resource scarcity, supply chain vulnerabilities, and more frequent extreme natural and man-made events as well as population growth in the coming decades will put more and more pressure on food production capabilities. To be able to meet future demand both the public sector (government) and institutional investments should be concentrated at the small scale or level, small scale irrigation and extension services for example. Much of the world’s farming activity, including in the Caribbean, occurs on smallholder farms, with production at or below subsistence levels, see Figure 36 on page 104, of our report. Technology exists to boost productivity on these farms. However, further research is required to identify best practices in innovative farming systems as well as agricultural and economic policy to meet growing food demand with fresh, locally sourced, sustainably produced products at affordable prices, (IMF 2008 & 2012, Krivonos & Dawe 2014, Kruythoff 2020, OECD 2020, DG ECHO).

Conclusion: Leasing parcels of land in other countries to develop sustainable agriculture and importing the products to Sint Maarten is a bad idea from all the abovementioned perspectives. It is no different than the current situation, where we import products from abroad. It does not contribute to the economic, employment, technological, and educational development of Sint Maarten and its people.  Furthermore, it comes from a minister who ran his political campaign on the slogan “Only We Can Save We”, who approached PJIA, Ballast Nedam, and the cruise ships that frequent the island the hire locals. Now he himself has the opportunity to cultivated and develop a much-needed agricultural sector in Sint Maarten but he has advocated an idea to outsource much-needed local agricultural employment opportunities to other countries.

By Wladimir T. Kruythoff, CEO & Founder, Infinite Observations, Delft, The Netherlands.

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