Deconfinement: Many subjects addressed by the executive including the burning issue of cross-border controls!


 The president, Daniel Gibbs and his first vice-president, Valérie Damaseau spoke live, Monday, May 18, on the occasion of the 7th Weekly COM live point of the Community.

A week ago now, the government began the national deconfinement phase. Saint-Martin, a territory classified green according to the health rating, has been able to follow this movement and has applied the instructions for gradual release from confinement since last Monday.

"After two months of confinement, the relatively stable sanitary situation has enabled many businesses to open their doors, giving life to our streets, our neighborhoods, to the great relief of all those who were waiting, sometimes in a vital way, economic recovery.

You held your ground and I congratulate you on this, because we are going through a trying, unprecedented crisis that looks set to continue.

The results of the PCR screening campaign run by our hospital are encouraging.

Out of 150 tests carried out since May 4 in the various districts of Saint-Martin, one case was diagnosed positive for COVID19 on the French side.

Two other people have been tested positive in recent days and have been taken care of.

Yes, dear inhabitants of Saint-Martin, we will find it difficult to reach the 0 case and to maintain it. But our combined efforts must make it possible to durably limit the risks of transmission and the escalation of contamination. Only the respect of the barrier measures, by each of you privately and by all of the professionals will protect the community.

The field campaign ends today, we will have refined results in a few days. The ARS will then be able to provide us with a precise analysis of the impact of this random screening campaign on symptomatic people.

The Collectivity was strongly involved so that this screening campaign could take place.

This first step will provide a more precise picture of the health situation on our territory.

Screenings will not stop with this campaign. On the contrary, the hospital remains more than ever mobilized to control the circulation of COVID-19 and provide the best possible care to all patients, whether it be cases of coronavirus or other pathologies of course.

Moreover, we are happy and reassured to be able to receive this week one of the PCR screening machines, currently in transit in Guadeloupe, that the Collectivity offers to the hospital to help it in its mission. In this phase of deconfinement, we must be vigilant on a daily basis.

Constant vigilance in our behavior at work, at home, so as not to put ourselves in danger and to protect those around us.

We can never say it enough: barrier gestures are the only bulwark against the spread of the disease, so we must adapt the resumption of our activities by continuing, more than ever, to respect them: physical distance, regular hand washing, wearing mask in public places, and at home if you are sick.

Now, I also wanted to share with you some of the complex situations we face today.

First, those of national aid to which our companies are entitled. Saint Martin, like any French community, is eligible for the massive government assistance plan for businesses.

Moreover, our community abounds with these devices in proportion to the number of inhabitants.

After several weeks of laborious implementation, the general directorate of public finances has communicated to us an update on the processing of requests: 1248 companies have submitted a file to obtain Component 1 of the State Solidarity Fund in Saint Martin . 826 have been processed, 305 accepted, 157 are awaiting additional documents and 364 have been refused.

To eligible entrepreneurs, to whom this aid would have been refused without explanation, know that the Collectivity has already asked the general directorate of public finances of Saint-Martin, the DGFIP, for access to all files and reasons rejections in order to understand the reasons.

We are hard at work to allow you to access these national aids if you are eligible. I remind you that the processing of these files does not pass through the community but exclusively through the DGFIP.

Now, I would like to tell you about the decisions made last weekend relating to the management of the border, a historically invisible and symbolic border so dear to our hearts for almost 4 centuries, since the signing of the Treaty of Concordia.

At the start of the crisis, the health emergency and the need for differential containment had led to justifying traffic controls which were initially a common reaction to the lockdown instituted by the Dutch side.

At that time, Saint-Martin as Sint-Maarten, did not yet have the current sanitary facilities and the mobilization of the inhabitants as for the respect of the barrier gestures was not what it is today.

Besides, we were all on both sides in compulsory confinement and only authorized persons could circulate.

But since the lifting of confinement in France, Monday, May 11, and partly Dutch on Sunday, May 17, our borders are still closed, this time only by the French authorities, since the Prime Minister of Sint-Maarten announced this weekend, the decision of the Council of Ministers to stop the police checks.

On this control, three elements:

- As we know, this closure remains theoretical. It suffices, as we did with the prefect last week, to note the number of people who bypass this control.

- Even more serious, what should only be a control of the laissez-passer issued by the prefecture and the government of Sint Maarten, has turned into real cross-border control: search of vehicles, control of identity papers, control registrations.

This is not acceptable in the vision of the Concordia treaty

Why can't children find their education in Saint-Martin, when certain traders, employees or entrepreneurs can cross the border?

155 cases of Covid19 in Guadeloupe, 189 in Martinique and May 8: reopening of the link between these two islands without a fortnight.

I only take this illustration which will speak to many. Territorial continuity prevails, and I do not criticize it, quite the contrary.

That is why I took note of Prime Minister Jacobs' decision on Saturday morning; decision that we certainly do not envisage so quickly, but a principle supported by all the elected officials of the community of Saint-Martin, having even asked me before the release from confinement, a motion requesting the end of controls.

I informed the Minister of Overseas Annick Girardin, Saturday afternoon by telephone and by mail, of the situation. I asked the State, the only competent authority, to exercise the principle of parallelism of forms, the health emergency situation having become relatively favorable again and the social and economic needs urgent.

It is moreover on this reassuring principle of the State of a controlled epidemic, that I agreed to work on the reopening of schools.

During our last tripartite meeting, Thursday, May 14, Prime Minister Silvéria Jacobs had already announced her imminent intention to reopen the borders.

A principle shared by the Collectivity which does not have the authority in the matter, it should be recalled, but which has always played its role of partner and sometimes even of mediator, since the beginning of the crisis.

The deconfinement being started in the north as in the south, the economic activity imposes that everyone can circulate again on both sides of the island, in the respect of the barrier gestures imposed by our two governments. The survival of our economy is at stake.

The health issues are important, and I am convinced that it is together that we must fight the pandemic. We must confront it and tackle deconfinement jointly.

Sanitary measures can be maintained: temperature measurement, number of tests, barrier measures. State services can take care of defining them.

The Scientific Council warned last week that we will have to prepare to live a long time with this virus. Will the border have to be eternally materialized and controlled because of COVID19?

Our challenge in the coming months will be to work towards the reopening of our tourist destination and we can only succeed in this step through a close and fair partnership with our neighbors in Sint Maarten. As we have always done, let's demonstrate our resilience and the strength of our unity.

I would have the opportunity to put forward our proposals in this area by resuming my project to create the United Congress French and Dutch, which in this new global health context, is now becoming an imperative necessity. We will talk about it again soon, once the crisis is over, and I will continue, in the coming months, to defend the concept before national and European authorities, in Paris, The Hague and Brussels.

Reopening of restaurants

May 18 is an important day for two reasons because it is also the date of reopening of restaurants, which awaited this decision with impatience and sometimes a certain understandable anxiety.

You know the energy that the Collectivity has deployed with the prefecture, to arrive at this decision. I salute the President of the Republic who heard our request, and locally the prefecture, who understood the economic emergency for our entrepreneurs who need to revive their activity as quickly as possible.

It is done from today. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to business leaders to respect barrier measures at all stages of their profession.

This is the only way to allow this long-awaited advance to be sustained.

Everyone must be aware of their essential role in the fight against the spread of the Covid19 virus which is weakening on the island, of course  but which has not disappeared.

Our economy will operate in local and regional modes over the next few months.

As such, we invite you all to support Saint-Martin businesses, to consume locally, to help our economy recover.

It is through solidarity and mutual aid that we will succeed in crossing this difficult stage.

Economic recovery

The government announced, on May 14, the possibility of traveling to France and overseas in July and August.

It's good news ! Our Tourist Office and its partners will be able to work on a regional promotion campaign, before being able to relaunch the promotion for the high tourist season of December 2020, if everything goes as we hope.

It is thanks to local consumption and regional tourism that Saint-Martin will be able to find its economic balance in the coming weeks. A balance that remains particularly fragile but on which we will build the short-term recovery of our economy.

Of course, with a tourist activity geared towards the North American market, this will not be enough.

This is why we are working on the resumption of regional air traffic - and secondly international - and on the gradual revival of the hotel sector.

Hoteliers have told us about their concerns and estimate that the overall loss of activity for 26 will be € 2020M for the moment. This is considerable (more than 4% of our GDP).

It will therefore be necessary to prepare a solid and lasting recovery for all sectors of our economy.

The immediate action of the Collectivity will consist in revising the 2020 budget - we will meet the territorial council, for this purpose, on Wednesday 20 May - and to consolidate the revenues to build the economic recovery on concrete and sufficiently solid bases.

In addition to the national measures to end the crisis, the Collectivity has opened an exceptional fund of € 5 million to support the local economic fabric. This financial assistance will be, in part, in the form of loans at O ​​rates granted via Initiative St Martin Active or ADIE. It is aimed at all companies in difficulty, whatever their size. It is a considerable effort on the budget of the Collectivity directly injected into our economy.

We estimate the loss of revenue to be nearly 12 million euros, even before including the exceptional expenses linked to the COVID-19 crisis.

It is in this particularly degraded context that the Collectivity will have to find resources and develop a post-crisis recovery plan to support our economy.

The revival of the economy of Saint-Martin will undoubtedly go through our ability to strengthen our local economy and encourage investment in our territory.

• This involves implementing the tax reform with reduced, simple and efficient taxation. The reform of the Community is ready. The implementation of dedicated IT tools now belongs to the Ministry of the Economy and Finance to guarantee its application.

• This also requires the creation of a financial tool aimed at securing our businesses and encouraging more investment. These last years prove it, the sprinkling of economic aid does not produce the expected effects, we must go further.

Economic recovery will be based on direct action by public authorities:

• Through investments and public procurement, knowing that the Multi-year Community Investment Plan (PPI), provides 230 million euros of investment projects for the next 3 years, with a particular effort on planning, beautification and equipment of the territory.

• We will also have to continue our efforts to reorganize and outsource public procurement to accelerate the implementation of our projects for the territory.

• The action of the public authorities will also be based on our capacity to share a course with the economic world and to give ourselves the means to develop today secondary sectors in order to break with our ultra-dependence on tourism   

In other words: the Collectivity is not alone in this fight. It is a struggle that is won all together.

We work with socio-professionals on these subjects. Proposals are under consideration.

I remind you that we must remain humble and reasonable.

Saint-Martin has not yet completed its post-Irma reconstruction phase, public and private. We must all have in mind the financial, human and social capacities of our territory before making vain promises.

The post Irma experience has shown us that no one has a magic wand!

We must meet together a decisive challenge for the future of Saint-Martin.

Everyone must contribute to the building and contribute to the economic reconstruction of the territory.

Living environment

The Cadre de Vie delegation, chaired by our vice-president Steven Patrick, is working on restarting public works.

Maintenance work on the public lighting network was carried out last week in the Concordia, Cul de sac, Oyster Pond and Marigot areas. It is essentially the repair of defective street lights.

The delegation supervised the disinfection of the school buildings and the buildings of the Collectivity, which are 80% completed. The last disinfection operations will be finalized this week.

Despite certain difficulties in collecting waste, the service providers are operational throughout the territory. The Collective proceeded to the renewal of the public markets for these services, during the executive council of Wednesday, May 13.

Only the procedure for renewing the public market on sorting is still in progress.

In the meantime, in order to allow you to access this sorting service and to clean up the area around the terminals, the Collectivity called on two local companies, which, on Saturday 16 May, emptied the selective sorting columns in 23 collection points in the territory.

The officers of the community's environmental department are strongly mobilized for this cleaning action. The operation will be repeated as much as necessary until the implementation of the new market.

The electrical network burial site led by the Getelec company is almost completed.

Nevertheless, a trench remains open in the corner of Colombier for the construction of a civil engineering work intended for telecommunications networks.

Last Wednesday, the Executive Council voted to postpone by one year the date of payment of the temporary occupancy charge in the public domain for the operators of the restaurants and shops of Carbets in Orient Bay.

This decision concerns 7 restaurant occupants and 3 shop occupants who all signed their AOT agreements in 2019 and who suffered delays in the implementation of their businesses.

The Cadre de Vie delegation carried out prospective studies for the repair of roads where all the networks were buried.

A first section of road repair work will be scheduled on an extended network from Oyster Pond to Morne Valois. Consultations relating to this work will be able to be launched.

Finally, the delegation held a working meeting with the representative of the Conservatoire du Littoral, last Friday, May 15, on the project to revalue the natural site of Galion on the Baie de l'Enouche. It was agreed to organize a mediation meeting, before the end of May between the Collectivity, the project manager and the residents of Quartier d'Orléans.

It is essential for us that the inhabitants are kept informed of the ins and outs of this project and follow its realization ”.

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