Philipsburg – The first sustainable development goal, “the eradication of poverty” was discussed last week at the University of Sint Maarten (USM). The event marked the kick-off for the second USM Seminar Series, co-sponsored by the Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and Unesco St. Maarten.
Among those present were, among others, interim prime minister Wycliffe Smith, member of the States Luc Mercelina and members of other political parties and social movements.
The evening began with an introduction to the topic of “poverty” offered by USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez, who pointed out that the island should develop a poverty line. “USM wants to help fight poverty through research, but we can’t do anything about poverty on Sint Maarten if we don’t define what it is and how many people it affects. That is why the government must support our initiative to conduct scientific research and to establish a poverty line as most countries have, “he said.
Loekie Morales, responsible for promoting development goals on Sint Maarten, explained the importance of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and emphasized the need for cooperation between government, civil society and the private sector.
Raymond Jessurun of United Consumers Association and St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform then gave a presentation about the problem of structural poverty. He stated that poverty on Sint Maarten is also related to inequalities within the Dutch Kingdom. ,, Sint Maarten is the most expensive country within the Kingdom in terms of consumer prices. Our minimum wage does not match those prices, “he said.
According to Jessurun, poverty must be eradicated from a human rights perspective, looking at access to a minimum household income and adequate housing.
Human rights must be guaranteed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a member state of international organizations and conventions. “We need a poverty line that is in line with European Union standards because we are European citizens. What we see here today is “apartheid,” he said.
Jessurun also spoke about strategies from the United Consumers Association, such as bringing in containers with fresh but sustainable products from the Dominican Republic. Over the past two months, more than 2,000 people have purchased food at the market set up by the association. “We have sent supermarkets and importers a message that we can lower prices on Sint Maarten.”
According to Denicio Wyatte of Eco-St. The Maarten Agricultural and Research Foundation must look for long-term solutions “if we really want to eradicate poverty.” “Facilitating” handouts “and cheaper food imports only maintains a vicious circle of dependence. We can get people out of poverty by investing in agriculture, “said Wyatte.
The last presentation was given by Mercelina, who brought up facts and figures about issues related to poverty. He criticized the plans for recovery and reconstruction. “Why do we need a brand new hospital when we need roofs over our heads?” He asked.
In his final remarks, Carmona made it clear that he intends to bring Nibud, the Netherlands-based National Institute for Budgetary Information, to Sint Maarten to set up the research. Nibud was essential in defining poverty on Bonaire through a combination of data collection about the cost of living, prices, wages and family consumption patterns.
,, On St. Maarten / St. Martin, however, the research must be done on both sides of the border, because many people live on the French side, but work on the Dutch side or go to school, “added Carmona.
The university plans to submit a proposal to the incoming interim government for this research.