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St. Maarten minister Ted Richardson outlines new economic control units in 2014 draft budget

TUESDAY, 07 JANUARY 2014

PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Economic Affairs Ted Richardson has identified what he termed five important pillars that will guide the approach of the Ministry in 2014. He elaborated on these approaches in the 2014 draft budget even though the ministry’s budget is slated to be cut by NAf. 1.3 million.

The approach (pillars) will be centred on economic growth, development of tourism, control and enforcement, the improvement of service and an information campaign. The minister explained in the budget that his priorities would increase positive results, lower cost, optimise the departments under the ministry and generate revenue.

The Control Department should see some changes in 2014 in how it executes its tasks with the formation of the Mobile Economic Control Unit, the Marine Assistance and Control Unit and the Beach Assistance and Control Unit.

The Mobile Economic Control Unit will ensure that every entity that does business on the Dutch side is adhering to the relevant laws and rules. The minister also pointed out that in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, solutions would be sought for French companies operating on the Dutch side. He did not elaborate on this point.

One specific task with which the Mobile Unit will be tasked is the control of car rental businesses. The minister said that in 2014 these companies would be forced to abide by the law by having all vehicles carry Dutch-side licence plates. French plates for car rental companies that operate on the Dutch side are prohibited and this will be enforced in 2014.

The Marine Assistance Unit will be stationed at all marinas on the Dutch side and will, among other things, record/control all economic activity that takes place in the marinas, such as “charters and food supply.” Exactly how this will be accomplished and why also was not laid out in the minister’s explanation in the draft budget.

The Beach Assistance Control Unit will be placed at all public beaches to ensure safety of beachgoers and to record/control all economic activity that takes place on these beaches. The Traffic Control Unit and Casino Control Unit also will be enhanced and given new tasks. One such task for the Traffic Control Unit will be to ensure that all drivers resident on the Dutch side carry Dutch drivers’ licences.

Richardson also aims to move certain entities from being so called “cost centres” to “profit centres.” In this context, he mentions the introduction of the e-commerce section in the economic zone (e-zone) initiative, which will result in new revenue streams with minimal investment for government.

He also mentioned the expansion of the tasks of Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority (SLAC), including the generating of service fees. The expansion of SLAC’s tasks and authorities probably will not sit well with the marine trades sector, which recently called on government to strip SLAC of its regulatory authority and have the regulation handled by an independent body.

That call stems from the fact that SLAC functions both as a regulatory body for the industry and as its competitor, a situation the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association says is a glaring conflict of interest.

The Minister also will look to re-activate the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the expansion of Aviation and Maritime Department tasks.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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