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St. Maarten Budget 2013 debate continues, parliamentarians ready to table several motions


PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) continued the plenary session on the draft 2013 budget by posing a number of questions to the Council of Ministers and indicating their intentions to table a number of motions aimed at accomplishing more revenue for government, protection of the environment, a number of social issues and integrity in government.

The meeting will resume today, Wednesday, at 10:00am in Parliament House with ministers answering questions posed by MPs. Once the questions are answered the debate will move into the second round when the motions will be formally tabled and voted on.

Making his presentation, United People’s (UP) party MP Johan Leonard inquired whether Finance Minister Roland Tuitt shares the same opinion as the Social Economic Council SER about the precariousness of the monetary system with Curaçao. He also wanted an update on the monies collected by the Central Bank in taxes on money sent abroad, the number of people hired through employability programmes, efforts to create jobs for the young people and preparations for hurricane season. He disclosed that UP will be presenting a motion related to integrity in government.

Independent MP Frans Richardson requested that Tuitt explain the difference in perspective from being a board member of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and being finance minister. He indicated a need for a summit on unemployment and a true survey on young adult unemployment.

He also signalled his intention to table a number of motions related to Fort Amsterdam, national heritage, protection of Mullet Pond and making a change to the electoral regulations to have all campaign materials removed two days prior to elections. He also wants the “carnival” outside the polling stations to stop so people could vote in peace.

Independent MP Patrick Illidge said creative ways need to be found to raise money to cover services to the people. “We will need to create employment,” he noted, adding that medical tourism can be explored. He urged government to start a trading company to help the people and “stop running after the small man” to get taxes and fees. He was concerned about the increased tax on alcohol and tobacco products “that we are known for” as well as the rapid birth of babies that will have an impact on its social services.

National Alliance (NA) MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson said a child of two-and-a-half years should be walking and it is the same with a new country. He was happy that there was no assistance from the Dutch government, this was necessary “so we can walk independent.”

He believes that the drag racing strip and cricket stadium can do “a whole lot in the off season.” His stance is the country can do with less alcohol and tobacco as they damage society. The country has “a very lucrative” opportunity to be a sub-hub for the region.

MP Gracita Arrindell (UP) wants an update on the work of the committee dealing with the assets and liabilities of the former Netherlands Antilles. The speedy conclusion of the committee’s work would mean more money for government. She remains concerned about strategies to fill the revenue gaps if the budget goals are not met. She questioned if discussions are still ongoing with wholesalers about the increase in Turnover Tax (ToT), whether this means a revised budget figure may later be presented to Parliament for approval. She supported Tuitt’s attempts to get the promised debt relief owed to the country by the Dutch. “If we need to band together to get the money, so be it.”

Arrindell plans to table a motion for an amendment to the budget and allocate funds from underused funds to help combat domestic and relational violence.

She questioned the reinstating of the “concubine” agreement by Justice Minister Roland Duncan and queried his continued comments about the necessity of the Coast Guard.

Democratic Party (DP) MP Roy Marlin backed Duncan’s position that St. Maarten is paying for the Coast Guard, but most of the patrols and efforts are taking place around Saba and St. Eustatius. “What are we paying for?” He also said that Dutch MPs Bosman and Ronald van Raak don’t run St. Maarten and should limit their comments about the governing of the country.

He repeated his call for a fee on pre-paid phones as a means of income for government and asked about the amount of land that will encompass the Emilio Wilson Estate purchase and what part will development be allowed on. He was also concerned about government’s ability to collect the budgeted NAf. 26 million from increased ToT and queried how much is expected to be raised when the residence permit fee law is passed by parliament.

Marlin said that the boards of directors and managing directors of government owned companies need to stop acting as if they are the owners of the companies instead of government. He said it is probably time for an operational audit to be carried out at the companies as was done over a decade ago.

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