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Tuesday, May 23, 2006 

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - Philipsburg, St. Maarten, N.A.

Agreement reached between the social partners on a minimum wage increase later this year is not only justified under the current economic conditions, but necessary to help address poverty and resulting social problems. Some of those problems, particularly the high school dropout rate and rising youth unemployment, contribute to crime and as such are a threat to the very growth in tourism that makes the minimum wage hike possible.

That does not mean society as a whole is not going to feel it. Businesses will pass on their increased personnel cost in their prices and while the reduction of the surcharge on income tax by five per cent starting next year should provide some relief, consumers will end up footing most of the bill.

For those earning more than the minimum wage, it could actually mean having less money left at the end of the month, after expenses are made. It is, however, a show of solidarity that simply must be considered justified when looking at the current minimum wage and cost of living on the island.

It can also be seen as an investment in society, because experience has shown that the fewer people live in poverty, the better off communities generally are. It is crucial to the future wellbeing of all that those at the bottom of the social ladder also benefit from positive developments.

The social partners deserve credit for seeing it through despite their earlier disagreement, but should not lose sight of the pressing nature of some of the problems mentioned above. It will take more than a minimum wage hike to solve all those, but it�s certainly a step in the right direction.

Copyright ©2006 The Daily Herald St. Maarten

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