St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) Executive Director Anastacio Baker says that Sint Maarten needs to be storm-ready for the upcoming hurricane season.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will officially begin on June 1 which is not that far away.
“I am calling on the members of the COCI, businesses of all sizes as well as the wider community, to start making preparations for the upcoming hurricane season. Preliminary forecast indicate that we are in for another busy season after having already gone through one of the worse seasons on record seven months ago.
“Put together a family emergency plan for the 2018 season; start stocking up on basic disaster supply items that would include non-perishable food, water, batteries, flashlight, chargers, cash, and medication, and first aid supplies. One should have at least one week of supplies that could sustain their family.
COCI hereby also encourages all businesses and their owners to help their staff also prepare for the season in various ways as mentioned above. Ensure that the awareness of being prepared is talked about on the work floor.
Baker added that COCI carried out a preliminary survey amongst its membership which identified a number of concerns of the country’s business community.
COCI members are very concerned about not having a proper enforcement plan directly after the passing of the storm “We are all aware of the limitations of our current Police Force and with a major powerful hurricane like Irma, I believe we have learnt our lesson with respect to our weaknesses and can turn these weaknesses into strengths by being prepared.
“We cannot afford a repeat of what transpired in September 2017 after Irma. The damage caused by looting had a serious impact on our economy and all should be done to minimize this from reoccurring. The business community is looking forward to being informed in a timely manner about the plans that will be put in place to protect the country’s business/economic sectors from potential looting in the event of another powerful hurricane.”
“The business community is the economic engine of the economy, and for a quicker recovery, these sectors need to be protected before and after a major hurricane strike. The writing is on the wall from the recent experience with Irma,” COCI Executive Director Anastacio Baker pointed out.
Another concern that came out of the survey was some form of tax break/incentive for the business community. The country comprises of micro, small, medium and large businesses that employ thousands of people in the workforce.
“Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are important to almost all economies in the world, and country Sint Maarten is no different. They are the backbone of our economy and employ many people and contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product and to Government’s revenues.
“Our SMEs suffered a significant impact from Irma seven months ago, but many have made a remarkable recovery, and many more are still trying to make a comeback and need some form of assistance in order to be able to do so.
“Some form of tax break or incentive would make a considerable difference on how well the SMEs fulfil their role in contributing to rebuilding of the national economy. One of the significant characteristics of a flourishing and growing economy is a booming and blooming SMEs sector.
“There has been a noticeable number of stay-over tourists vacationing on the island during the past months. We have had a successful St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and Carnival. Our visitors stayed in the limited number of hotel rooms that are available and open, in guesthouses, villas etc. Cruise tourism has returned and that has also brought considerable amounts of money back into the economy.
“The aforementioned tourist numbers will drop as we enter the bridging or so-called slow season from May to the end of September. During this extraordinary period in our nation’s economic history, things are going to be very challenging for SMEs and there should be some form of discussion about tax breaks/incentives,” COCI Executive Director Anastacio Baker concluded.
Seeing the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, COCI members pointed out during the survey that the country’s building code needs to be enforced and adjusted where necessary, and that it is in line with more powerful storm systems that the island experienced in September 2017 and where meteorologists say will be the new norm going forward with respect to global climate changes that is causing severe and hazardous weather around the world.
The 2017 season was an extremely active one producing 17 named storms of which 10 became hurricanes including six major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5).
The 2017 season was a devastating one, and according to the U.S. National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the season was the seventh most active in the historical record dating to 1851 and was the most active season since 2005.
COCI also encourages all businesses and the population at large to ensure that have the right coverage with regards to Hurricane Insurances. Although we have seen a spike in the insurance premiums which is has placed more burden on our people of St. Maarten, it is never the less extremely important that we insure our assets.
The latter COCI hopes to give more attention too in subsequent communications/releases.
Be Safe, Be Sure and remember “We Good”.