Finance Minister Gumbs criticizes Ennia-solution

PHILIPSBURG — Finance Minister Marinka Gumbs is highly critical of the proposed solution to keep insurance company Ennia out of bankruptcy. The Netherlands has made the interest rate St. Maarten has to pay over its 316 million guilders ($176,536,313) Covid-loans dependent on the parliament’s approval of the rescue plan. Parliament has not approved the proposal yet but if it does, the interest rate goes from 3.4 to 2.9 percent. The lower interest rate would save the treasury 1,580,000 guilders ($882,682) per year.

Parliamentarians asked several questions but Minister Gumbs asked time to prepare all the answers and suggested that she return to parliament in around two weeks. With this in mind, the meeting was adjourned.

Minister Gumbs presented a detailed overview of the proposed solution to the parliament, saying that, without a solution, Ennia will get in financial trouble in March 2025.

“It is a forced solution that leaves parliament no choice by dangling lower interest rates on the Covid-loans in front of our noses. We are not even allowed to discuss a partial solution or a complete forgiveness of these loans. In my opinion, this is modern slavery and I do not believe that this is the best solution for St. Maarten. I do not believe in biting the hand that feeds you but what about equality in the kingdom?”

The numbers Minister Gumbs presented to parliament are sobering, saying that for the next thirty years St. Maarten had to pay annually 2,082,000 guilders (over $1.1 million) to Ennia. This amount will be withheld from the annual dividend the country receives from the Central Bank.

Currently, St. Maarten receives 4,007,155 guilders ($2,238,634) in dividend from the Central Bank. Based on the agreement, the bank will pay 15 million guilders (almost $8,380,000) per year to Ennia. St. Maarten’s share in this payment is 973,500 guilders ($543,855). The annual payments for the next thirty years are withheld from the dividend, leaving the treasury with just 951,655 guilders ($531,651) every year for the foreseeable future.

The proposed agreement projects that Mullet Bay will be sold to a third party for 180 million guilders ($100,558,659) and that a claim for damages will bring another 230 million guilders ($128,491,620) to the table. In that scenario, St. Maarten’s liability for the solution will be 104 million guilders ($58,100,558). In the worst case scenario (whereby Mullet Bay is not sold at all) the liability will increase to 131 million guilders ($73,184,358).

“The chances are slim to none that Mullet Bay will be sold to St. Maarten for the appraised value,” Minister Gumbs said, adding that the proposed solution will secure the interests of the policy holders and the continued existence of Ennia.

“There will be no social unrest but at what cost?” she said. “This solution will set St. Maarten back for thirty years. While we cannot get loans to cover operational costs at our prison or at GEBE, the Cft allows them for Ennia. It seems that Ennia is more important than our prison and GEBE.”


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