~Ministers not giving clear answers at the budget debate. ~
PHILIPSBURG: ---Ministers that reported to parliament on Wednesday did not give clear cut answers to the questions posed to them regarding the draft 2019 budget.
Prime Minister Leona Romeo Marlin basically beat around the bush when providing answers to questions that regard the Ministry of General Affairs. The Prime Minister even went as far as telling MP Christopher Emmanuel he should ask the management of PJIAE about the financing they are seeking outside of the World Bank.
Regarding the amount of money that was paid out by the insurance company specifically for the Philipsburg Jubilee Library building, the Minister simply did not address but says she could provide parliament with details on the current discussions and where they are. As for the 7 vehicles, the government wants to buy for Ministers Romeo Marlin said that the government would be saving money by purchasing the vehicles which she said is needed. The Prime Minister when cornered said she would provide the answers to some of the questions in writing, but she was told by the Chairlady of Parliament that she should bring those questions along when she returns to parliament as the questioning session is not over. Romeo Marlin told parliament that from the year 2014 t0 2018 there were 1,182 court cases filed against the government. In response to the question posed on the allotted budget for security for Ministers, the Prime Minister said that drivers while driving cannot provide security to the Ministers. Several MPs had to basically demand specific answers to their questions hoping that when the Prime Minister returns to parliament they would get those answers.
Members of Parliament basically pleaded with the Ministers to tell them what is really going on with the draft budget because the budget and figures provided are not realistic. MP Rolando Brison even asked the Ministers if they are being bullied by the Minister of Finance for his own budget interest. Brison asked what their wish lists were and asked why they did not object to the meager budget given to some of the Ministries. “Did the Minister bully some of the Ministers so he could pay Bearing Point.? The Ministry of VROMI, TEATT, and Education needs more money, at least two of those Ministries can increase the spending power of the country.”Minister, I want you to tell parliament at least one thing that the people of this country complain and talk about on a daily basis? The dump is health, environment and economic hazard that is in the middle of Philipsburg but not a dime has been budgeted for it.” These are some of the questions that were posed to the Minister of VROMI.
Minister of TEATT Stuart Johnson told parliament that the Ministry is busy working on a development plan for his Ministry. Johnson said when the plan is completed it will be made public. With regards to calibration, the Minister said that his Ministry does not have the funds to create a new department since they have a limited budget. Johnson said when the economy rebound then the government will seek to create this department. MP Jurendy Doran in his clarifications ask the Minister to provide more information on how much the new department will cost? How many staff members will be needed and to provide parliament with all relevant data that he used to make a decision? Johnson also told parliament that some NAF 330,000.00 was given to the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF). NAF 350,000.00 to Heineken Regatta, while NAF 180,000.00 is still to be paid for the Music Festival. Regarding the recruitment for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for PJIAE, Johnson said he stays out of the operations of PJIAE but already indicated that a St. must be given preference for the vacation position. MP Emmanuel asked the Minister to give parliament his personal opinion on the “kidnapping of suspended MP Theodore Heyliger, he asked the Minister if the plane that transported Heyliger was registered to land on St. Maarten. I need to know what your opinion on this matter is.”
Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever in responding to questions said he provided copies of the agreement he signed with the Dutch Ministers of Justice.
De Weever told Brison that his proposal on hiring drivers that are qualified or capable to provide security for Ministers are in their plans for the future.
With regards the SOREMAR building purchased from SOREMAR Real Estate NV. The sale negotiations began in 2014 and since the sale went through a real estate agency, they did not expect commissions. He said that he also could not find any documents that had anything to do with commission.
In the clarification, MP Emmanuel asked the Minister to state which company was contracted for the ankle bracelets. He further asked the Minister to state whether the contract ended and who was contracted now and if there are any outstanding fees.
Emmanuel asked the Minister to give parliament more information on his capital expenses that is budgeted for NAF 17M. He asked the Minister how much the prison will cost to bring it up to standard. “I cannot understand St. Maarten is facing a predicament with the prison and here you have NAF 17M while the Minister of Finance has a NAF 84M budget. I need to know if you fought for your budget. I also need to know if you know about the International Transfer Program to which the Netherlands is a signatory. I am asking you this question because we have a colleague that was taken or kidnapped and taken to Bonaire. I am referring to MP Theodore Heyliger I need to know when you were informed of this transfer. Was the Minister of Justice of the Netherlands contacted prior to the transfer? Were all international treaties followed prior to the transfer?”
MP Brison broke down the budget for the Ministry and asked the Minister how come he does not have any money budgeted for consultants compared to the other Ministers. He asked the Minister to explain his salary cut which stands at NAF 27.000.00 while his cabinet staff got raises that amounts to NAF 71,000.00 “Who is robbing Peter to pay Paul Minister. What I am seeing here don’t look good.”