Is the economic growth projection too pessimistic?

PHILIPSBURG — Is the projection of 3 percent economic growth this year on the low end and therefore too pessimistic? That’s what MP Claudius Buncamper wants to know from Minister Ludmilla de Weever (Tourism and Economic Affairs). “Do you stand by this number minister even though home porting is to bring in $52 million, more airlift is already in progress and the hotels are doing much better business than anticipated? Can you indicate what you believe in will be in reality seeing the present economic activity?”

MP Buncamper fired 37 questions at the minister during last week’s Central Committee meeting about the draft 2021 budget.

Two of those questions are about the elusive Gaming Control Board. “There is a reservation of 250,000 guilders for it and we have been told that this was being worked on since 2020. This is one of the country package tasks that need urgent attention. Is the Gaming Control Board operational or not?”

Buncamper wonders why the Gaming Control Board is not a priority. “It hurts our international reputation qua money laundering and it is a significant revenue generator. If we are going to prioritize, this should be at the top of this list. Why isn’t this done?”

The MP also asks how income from casinos is being calculated. “I notice that we collect 2.23 million from thirteen casinos in 2021. Will the government review the methodology of how we tax the casinos?”

MP Buncamper point out that the vendors on the Walter Nisbeth Road have to move to the Festival Village by July 1. “Their present vending permit is costing them 1,200 guilders per year but the rent for a spot in the Festival Village is between 500 and 600 guilders per month. How does the government expect these vendors to survive? Are any funds available to support them for the transition to the Village for the first year?”

Other questions are about civil aviation. “How does the minister plan to ensure that civil aviation has its independence and can ensure that our airport will once again become a category-1 airport?”

Buncamper also asks about cooperation with the Curacao Civil Aviation Authority and the shared airport registration with Curacao (PJ – or Papa Juliet). “How much income is generated each year from this registry and can I get a copy of said agreement?”

The MP notes that the “BTP building purchase” does not have a price tag. “Is this because the building is not being bought anymore or because it already belongs to the government of St. Maarten?”

In the 2020 budget there was still a reservation of 8 million guilders ($4.47 million) to buy the building.

Buncamper points out that “the largest cultural event on the island” (a reference to carnival) does not get any subsidy this year. “Wouldn’t it be prudent to let them start their marketing now so we can get a spectacular event in 2022?”

The MP is clearly not happy with the budget for destination-marketing. “It is not realistic given the needs of the country. Why isn’t a change made to increase that budget post drastically? We seem not to accept the reality of the needs of the present product and of the dilemma of not having more (economic) pillars.”

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