This week the harbor's financials and an excerpt from a Panamanian financing company were published. Both look factual and there is no reason to doubt their accuracy. A "financial expert" has said his piece and all is there for anyone interested to read.
From the financial statements, it is clear that the harbor management has embarked on projects that are definitely not their core business which is managing the port (Cruise, Cargo) and therefore has put a tremendous strain on their cash flow. Furthermore, the financials are not conclusive enough and lack substantial information. One wonders if the accounting firm that signed off, which is the same firm the harbor's current Chief Financial Offers was previously employed (how convenient), has met all legal accounting requirements.
In a nutshell, the financials show a "harbor" taking on all types of ventures from real estate to selling fuel and building bridges and creatively financing, at the same time they are not paying Turn Over Tax (TOT) and are increasing the cost of goods in St. Maarten's stores due to increases in import fees at the port (e.g. Container Throughput Fee, Container Charge and Container Tax etc).
Fact is the harbor is owned by the government (read the people) of SXM. Fact is the harbor is there to make sure that St. Maarten is accessible for goods and services as efficiently as possible to benefit of the people of St Maarten.
Fact is the harbor is not there to sell fuel to mega-yachts as cheaply as possible, not there to make sure containers transit to neighboring islands cheaper, not there to build roads and bridges, not there to prevent people from developing their property. Not there to figure out ways to pay as little tax as possible.
Fact is the harbor is not there to compete with entities that pay taxes like TOT and Profit tax. They are not there to come up with Panamanian fiscal constructions to provide loans while not taxing profits from those interest payments, like local banks would have been taxed!
Fact is the harbor has a board and a shareholder representative to MAKE SURE that the interest of the share holder (read the people of SXM) is secured. This means making sure that cargo and cruise passengers can arrive safely and cheaply and nothing else. It means making sure the throughput to GEBE can be reduced so that everybody's electricity bill and grocery bill is a little less. It is not to make sure that the newest Mega Yacht saves a couple of bucks on the way to dropping of well to-do guests in St. Barths. It should not be, that in order for that wealthy guy to save some bucks, you and me pay more in the local grocery store.
Why are there shops operating at the harbor that don't pay TOT? How come we, mere shareholders, can't just go and shop in those same stores without paying TOT. How come the harbor is trying to prevent Dock Maarten from developing when they can't develop that unsightly sandbox next to it? Why aren't the people or Parliament consulted when the harbor takes out $ 150 million loans for bridges and expansions? Loans that, we the people, have to guarantee. Imagine that: your neighbor goes to the bank - for a mortgage that you have to guarantee - gets the loan and then to add insult to injury, you aren't allowed near the property! Then when you want to build additions on to your own house, the neighbor tries to stop you, because it doesn't fit in their 'master plan'.
What the harbor needs to do is come clean and re-focus on its core tasks. Parliament (which has been surprisingly quiet up to this point regarding this issue) needs to make sure that the Minister of TEATT keeps the management of the harbor to that. Everything else is fluff.
It's time for Parliament to do its job and protect the interests of citizens of St. Maarten, instead of appeasing certain individuals.