SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) Executive Director Anastacio Baker, is very pleased with the outcome of a meeting coordinated by COCI with representative organizations from the Sint Maarten business community with respect to making the country storm-ready for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season from a business perspective, who represent the economic engine of the national economy.
The key discussion point was hurricane passes for businesses. It has been decided that associations representing individual businesses will be provided with limited hurricane passes that can be used by selected association members to check the status of businesses after the passing of a hurricane when a curfew is still in effect.
The associations have to provide the relevant information by May 25 of those individuals who have been selected in order for the Fire Department to prepare the passes.
Present for the meeting was the Indian Merchants Association, the Chinese Business Community Association, the St. Maarten Banker’s Association, the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association, the Philipsburg Promotional Board, St. Maarten Tourism Authority and representatives of the Fire Department. The Police Department also contributed to the meeting by sending relevant information for discussion. President of the Board of COCI Stanley Lint was also present.
The business sector was informed by the Fire Department that the first 48-hours after the passing of a hurricane is critical for the emergency services and first responders to be able to respond to emergency calls and to clear debris that would be obstructing the country’s main and secondary roads.
The Fire Chief Mr. Richardson added that minimum congestion of the road network is necessary in order to execute a quick clean-up and the country to recover quickly in order to get back to business.
COCI Executive Director Baker during his introductory welcome address to those present, stated that based on a preliminary survey that was carried out amongst COCI membership late last year, a number of concerns were identified by the business community including the hurricane pass system.
“We also discussed to explore further the possibility of introducing color coded hurricane passes in the future, but this will be discussed by the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) when they have another meeting.
“The business community would also like clearer instructions from disaster management officials especially when hurricane watches and warning notices are issued. Not all businesses need to be open after a hurricane passes. This creates more congestion on the public road. Everybody’s cooperation is needed in order for our country to have a quick recovery and to resume regular economic activities,” Baker pointed out.
A zero-tolerance approach to looting and the visibility of Police and the Marines before a hurricane strikes was another key topic of discussion at the Tuesday afternoon meeting. “The business community would like to see proper security in place before the arrival of a hurricane and after the passing of the system. Business people are then assured that their business and inventory are safe and secure. We cannot afford a repeat of what transpired after the passing of Irma,” Baker said.
The Executive Director of the Chamber is appealing to different sector of the economy, especially the construction sector, to get organized by forming an association. Other associations that exist should get organized as they are very important platforms where dialogue can take place in a collective manner when dealing with issues of national importance to the well-being of the nation.
Baker concluded that the meeting was a success and it brought clarity to the concerns that the business community had.
The meeting with the business sector representative organizations and representatives of the country’s disaster management organization took place at the COCI Offices in Philipsburg.