Published On: Thu, Mar 21st, 2019

“Giterson is the most underperforming minister since Irma”

MP Ardwell Irion - 20 March 2019

PHILIPSBURG — Between 2015 and 2018 the country was involved in 1,182 court cases at a cost of 521,709 guilders, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin said in answer to questions from members of the parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

Four ministers appeared in parliament to answer questions posed a day earlier by several MPs. The first to show up was Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Stuart Johnson. He told MP Jurendy Doran that the inspection department is responsible for weights and measures and that his ministry had no money to establish a dedicated calibration department as Doran had demanded.

To Doran’s urgent request to appoint a local as the Chief Financial Officer at the airport, Johnson said that, while he awaited an update from the airport holding about the recruitment process, he too is of the opinion that the new CFO has to be a St. Maartener.

Additional questions will be answered by the minister at a later date. MP Christophe Emmanuel asked whether the minister was aware of the “kidnapping” of former MP Theo Heyliger and what the minister’s opinion is about the 60-days extension of Heyliger’s incarceration in Bonaire.

MP Frans Richardson questioned why expected income from room tax is down while there are more rooms available than in 2018 and while occupation is high. He also asked how the government intends to deal with the effect of on-line shopping on local businesses. And how does the government see itself intervene for casinos and lottery companies that are unable to open a bank account? Richardson wants to know.

MP Sarah Wescot-Williams asked about bottlenecks related to casino controllers and the establishment of the Gaming Control Board and about the status of collecting fees from casinos and lottery companies.

VROMI-Minister Miklos Giterson informed the central committee that there is a budget of $3 million available from the World Bank trust fund for the removal of one hundred shipwrecks from the Simpson Bay Lagoon. He said that his department needs 35 cars to enable proper execution of its tasks, but that it has only 12 roadworthy cars. That was the situation in March of last year and since then the situation has deteriorated, the minister said.

Holders of long lease contracts owe the government annually 5.7 million guilders but due to a lack of compliance, VROMI has budgeted just 4.7 million in revenue from this source for 2019.

Road maintenance is not labeled ad a priority in the recovery process, Giterson said about the 2.5 million available for this purpose. “We can only repair potholes on the main roads.”

Answering a question from MP Doran about the lack of budget for roof repairs, Giterson explained that the roof repair program has been tendered from the trust fund budget. The start date of this project is currently unknown.

MP Rolando Brison noted that an investment of 800,000 for the construction of lay by’s for tour buses that was mentioned in the retracted 2019 draft budget, has disappeared from the current draft.. “Buses are now going straight to the harbor when they come to Philipsburg,” he said. “If even half of the cruise tourists stopped in Philipsburg for shopping before going back to the ship and they only spent ten guilders each, we would earn that investment back in a month.”

Brison also criticized the low capital budgets of all ministries compared to that of the finance ministry. “I wonder if the finance minister had been bullying other ministers,” he said. “This is an unacceptable capital budget. I cannot see MP Christophe Emmanuel, had he been minister, take this lying down. He would have gone to the finance minister and ask him if he was crazy.”

Brison also remarked that there is not one guilder in the budget for solving the problems with the dump – “that volcano in the middle of Philipsburg.” He said that he did not want to hear about the World Bank in the minister’s answer. “That nothing has been allocated is a travesty.”

MP Ardwell Irion asked whether it is true that heads of department at the VROMI-ministry have gone on strike – by refusing to write advices – as long as the minister does not do what they want. He labeled Giterson as “the most underperforming minister since Irma.”

“I suggested eight months ago that the minister support organizations that are better able to execute certain projects than VROMI can do due to a lack of budget, expertise or good will. They would do a better job than what is happening now, which is zero.”


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Download the complete DRAFT 2019 BUDGET here