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Several Motions Submitted During Budget Debate in Parliament --- GEBE Fuel Clause took Precedence --- People Needs Relief.

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membersofparliament29062011Philipsburg:--- Parliamentarians on Wednesday addressed several pressing issues that are currently affecting the community of St. Maarten during the 2011 budget debate. The first speaker Member of Parliament George Pantophlet posed questions on the casino ordinances that are about 20 years old. MP Pantophlet reminded the Council of Ministers especially the Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto that this was mentioned in the WODC report. Pantophlet also addressed the hardships residents of St. Maarten are facing with the high cost of living since the increase in the Turn over Tax without consultation with the businesses or other stakeholders. He said right now the budget that was presented by Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto does not reflect St. Maarten's reality. The National Alliance Member of Parliament suggested that the Government of St. Maarten should consider selling the minority shares of government owned companies so that they can acquire the much needed revenues.

Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Ilidge suggested the Council of Ministers all of whom were present at the meeting to do what is necessary to grant the people of St. Maarten better services. MP Illidge said that government took the decision to increase the TOT but now he said is the time to deliver the much needed services to the people of St. Maarten.
Ilidge highlighted the situation at the Census Office where people have to line up long hours to get an identification card or pay for their license plate. He said he does not want answers from the Ministries instead he needs them to fix the problems which would eliminate the long lines. MP Illidge also asked for queries as to why it is taking government so much time to grant people business licenses. Indications are that there are about 600 requests for business licenses that have to be processed. Illidge also raised questions about GEBE and the services that are offered by the government owned company. An interesting point raised by Illidge was the bad service that was given by ALM which is no longer exists. "ALM was always late and finally they were gotten rid of." He asked what about green energy and why is GEBE not promoting it while he highlighted the amount water loss. The Independent Member of Parliament said because of the bureaucracy of the former Netherlands Antilles several investors who were interested in St. Maarten went "bragadang". Right now he said people can stand up on Front Street and sleep as there is no more business taking place there.
GEBE took a lot of criticism from the other Members of Parliament such as Dr. Lloyd Richardson who said that the Minister in charge of building permits should allow people to build cisterns since he has two of them and has not been paying water bills since 1985. Dr. Richardson also expressed concerns on the response time of GEBE to repair water leakage; he also felt that it is time for governments give an instruction to the government owned company. Another issued raised by Dr. Richardson is the performance of the University of St. Martin. He said if government has to sign working documents for an expat secretary for the institution it is clear that they have not done their job. Member of Parliament Dr. Lloyd Richardson said at least 80% of the prisoners that enter the Pointe Blanche Prison returns there and the cost of the prison maintenance to him is more than health care. Another solution brought forward by MP Richardson was to create a database which would link the social services, and health care. He said right now St. Maarten is spending thousands on expats who do not have medical health insurance.
councilofministers29062011Member of Parliament Romain La Ville wants to know what is happening with the new tax structure which would enable a broad base tax system where everyone will pay their fair share. He asked what are some of the cost cutting measures government is using to tighten their fiscal belt. He also wants to know when government will go green to cut down on the cost of paper.
La Ville also expressed some sentiments with the long lines at certain departments. He suggested that government send home some the department heads for at least one week so they can figure out how to improve services at their department. Government he said has to become proactive and stop the game playing especially when it comes to delivering proper services which would put more monies in government coffers. As for the high cost of electricity and water that GEBE charges, that he said must be fixed since certain businesses have approached him about their electricity bills. Besides that the MP wants government to issue more fines to people who are constantly breaking the traffic rules and those persons who are allowing their sewage water to run on public roads. La Ville said if GEBE is responsible for running water then government should also fine them.
Leader of the National Alliance presented four motions on Tuesday during the budget debate. The first motion dealt with the amending the Study Financing Ordinance which would allow non Dutch Nationals who have been residing and attending school on St. Maarten to qualify for study financing. This he said will be in keeping with the Netherlands who are granting study financing to European Union students.
Another motion presented to parliament regarding education has to do with the Rebounce Program which caters to students that have fallen backwards. This program Marlin said was introduced in January 2010 and it aims at developing the social and emotional skills of students that are part of the program. The motion is to order the Minister of Justice to make available the sum of one million guilders from the Crime Fund of the former Netherlands Antilles which will go directly to the financing of the Rebounce Program.
The third motion submitted to parliament by the National Alliance Leader is to instruct the Shareholder Representative of GEBE to grant consumers at least 50% reduction in their fuel clause. Marlin said the people of St. Maarten are not able to pay their electricity bill and since the fuel clause is the main cause of the ever increasing bill it must be slashed in two. GEBE he said made over 20 million guilders in profit last year.
The fourth motion presented by Marlin is to request the Minister of Education and Minister of Economic Affairs to establish the Special Purpose Educational Fund which could from every liter of gasoline sold. This fund he said must be in place for August 15th since the aim is to reduce the increase in school fees that parents are burdened with. Marlin said right now parents are paying between Naf 400 to Naf 700 for children that are attending government subsidize schools per year. Parents he said, cannot afford to pay these fees since their electricity bills are so high, parents most affected by this Marlin said are those working for minimum wage. The monies Marlin said can be obtained by government levying at least two cents on the whole sale price of gasoline which would generate Naf. 800,000.00.

Other matters raised by the Leader of the National Alliance are the lack of a governing program which he said hinders a sensible debate of the budget. Marlin also addressed the overhead expenses Parlatino membership is costing St. Maarten, while he highlighted the predicament of the Ombudsman who has no tools and materials to function. He also called on government to make their position clear on their intention of the CFT. Marlin said on numerous occasions government is giving indications about their discontentment with the CFT controls but he felt the time has come for government to spell out their true intentions. He also asked if government wants to get rid of the Ombudsman who has been waiting for months now to get basic furniture and materials to execute her duty. "I want to know if government is using a special tactic to silence the Ombudsman and to avoid control." Marlin also asked about the Teachers Management Program and the fiasco created by the Minister of Education and the University of St. Martin. Marlin said he needs answers from the Education Minister about her refusal to sign off on the TEP diploma and if the assessment she spoke about was done. He said when he returned to the island he realized that all the students of USM graduated including the TEP students, while being happy for them, Marlin said he needs clarity on the assessment that the Minister spoke about and if she had in fact refused to sign the diplomas. He also questioned the appointment of Stuart Johnson and wants to know if Johnson has management experience.
Marlin also fired several questions to the Minister of Justice regarding the Brooks Tower Accord, and his verbal decree. The MP referred to a judgment of the court which said that first time applicants who applied for a BTA permit during the renewal period late last year can now be deported. Clarity he said must be given especially knowing that several persons were locked up including civil servants who are still at home and cannot return to work.
audience29062011The Minister of Justice he said must tell Parliament about his true intentions with the BOX he said he heard the Minister saying that he wants to expropriate the property or either he wants to purchase the building at a fair price. Marlin reminded the Minister that the owner of that building was ordered to demolish the third floor.
Therefore, the Minister has to say if he intends to purchase or expropriate the entire building.
Marlin also wants to know if the Finance Minister took direct orders from one of the Members of Parliament reduce the amount of persons from the delegation that was scheduled to travel to Mexico last week to attend a Parlatino meeting. He said he understood that the Minister of Finance issued two vouchers to the Members of Parliament which was used to buy their tickets. Marlin said based on the information he had received is that the MP (Romain La Ville) had contacted the Finance Minister and told him that the other members of the delegation had travelled to other destinations to attend meetings and it was his turn to travel. "I want to know if the Finance Minister thinks he is handling party funds." Marlin said there are rumors that all bank statements were not submitted to the CFT. He also called on the Finance Minister to provide clarity on his 12 million per month projection in the TOT increase. The Finance Minister he said must submit the receipts of such and he must also provide Parliament with the amount collected during the month of May and June 2011.
Marlin asked the Minister of Finance about Governments' intention to introduce land tax, import duty tax on cars along with mix of direct and indirect taxes. The Minister of Finance had said this was governments' intention when he provided answers to Parliament during the Central Committee Meeting two weeks ago. However, during the budget debate the Finance Minister said no instruction was given to introduce any of the three taxes mainly land tax.
Deputy Chairman of Parliament and Member of Parliament from the Democratic Party faction Petrus Leroy De Weever gave a compelling elucidation on Tuesday when he presented a motion to parliament to protect time share owners. De Weever did indebt research on the time share sales. He said timeshare industry is of vital importance to Sint Maarten's economy, therefore any negative events and developments may imply serious consequences. The MP reminded Parliament about the Pelican saga in December last year when the Timesharing Resort was sold by the lender in an auction pursuant to foreclosure. He said foreclosures had occurred several times in the past and it is in fact fertile ground for legal battles as time share owners would fight to regain their rights to properties they purchased. De Weever said he warned in the past that he was not coming with any kind draconian law but his motion is intended to give consumer protection while it will put monies in government coffers if these owners are able to obtain a deed of their ownership. De Weever said the major advantage of a Time Share Apartment Right is that the entitled party owns a registered property that is shielded from the foreclosure risks pertaining to the developer or to the operator or manager of the timesharing resort.

Click here to view Presentation made by MP Petrus Leroy De Weever on Time Share Consumer Protection and its benefits.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 30 June 2011 00:11 )