Published On: Wed, Mar 13th, 2019

Government wants to establish a bodyguard unit – UPDATED

Lights on at government building 20180131 - HH-min

PHILIPSBURG — The government wants to renovate and equip the waiting room and the conference room of the Council of Ministers on the fourth floor of the government building for 800,000 guilders (close to $447,000). This appears from the draft 2019 budget that currently awaits handling by parliament.

The money initially reserved for the conference room and the waiting room was used for other purposes, like repairing the office of several ministers. “As a consequence there are insufficient funds available to equip these spaces in a way that is worthy of our ministers,” the elucidation with the budget states. “Ministers receive guests in their offices among them foreign dignitaries.”

The objective is to make the conference room multi-functional. It will in the future also be used for receptions and for meetings organized by or on behalf of the prime minister or the Council of Ministers.

The room will get a custom-made meeting table and be equipped with equipment for communication and security. It is the objective to enable online meetings to further reduce the costs of business travel.

The government also wants to invest 788,200 guilders in the establishment of an Executive Protection Unit – in other words a department of bodyguards charged with the protection of ministers.

What else stands out in the draft budget? All ministers take a 10 percent pay cut. Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin gets 229,961 guilders per year, 25,551 guilders less; the other ministers keep 219,962 and give up 24,440 guilders.

Parliament cuts its travel and accommodation budget by close to 496,000 guilders (56.7 percent) to just 378,000 guilders and gives up 25 percent of representation costs.

The budget for the fire department will be slashed by 15.1 percent to 5.7 million guilders; the census office gets 17 percent less and has to make do with 8 million.

The department of legal affairs and legislation at the ministry of general affairs sees its budget cut by more than 454,000 guilders (17.7 percent) to 2.1 million, while Internal and Kingdom Affairs takes a hit of 29.5 percent; its budget goes down by 455,000 to a bit over one million.

The Public Service Center gets more money: an increase of 278,583 guilders (59.3 percent) to a bit more than 748,000. The Department of Communication (DComm) gets 12.3 percent less and keeps a budget of close to 1.5 million.

The subsidy for religious organizations (126,000 guilders) disappears and the government makes 2 million guilders available for the troubled postal services.

The ministry of tourism and economic affairs will have a marketing budget of more than 3.8 million guilders; the emphasis remains on marketing efforts in the American market (1.3 million), while the second largest slice of this budget goes to Europe (700,000), followed by Canada (541,000), the Caribbean (457,000) and Latin America (420,000); for product development and visitor relations there is 418,000 guilders available.

The ministry also seems to get serious about the establishment of a Gaming Control Board; there is a reservation of 250,000 guilders for this body in the budget.

At the VROMI-ministry the post for road maintenance will be cut by 650,000 guilders (20.4 percent) to 2.5 million. For management of the dump is 16.8 percent less (500,000) available; it is now budgeted for 2.4 million. For garbage collection, budgeted in 2017 at 28.9 million, the government reserves just 11.2 million.

At the justice department the budget for the prison goes up by 22 percent to 14.4 million, but the National Detectives Agency (Landsrecherche), customs and the financial intelligence unit (MOT) all face budget cuts. The National Detectives get 2.2 million, 482,000 guilders (17.6 percent) less than was budgeted in 2018. Customs gets 2.5 million, 538,636 guilders (17.7 percent) less than in 2018 and the MOT loses a third of its budget. The 1.2 million reserved for the watchdog of unusual financial transactions is 601,535 guilders (33.5 percent) less than in 2018. Immigration and border control gets with a 5.9 million budget 2.9 million (32.9 percent) less.

The rest of the justice chain escapes major budget cuts. The office of the public prosecutor gets 4.5 million; that is 2.5 million more than in 2018, but the budget for 2017 was 4.3 million. The office of the attorney-general will have 1.1 million at its disposal, more than double the 2018 budget; however, in 2017 this office received close to 1.5 million.

The budgets for the Common Court of Justice (4,451,000), the Law Enforcement Council (925,000) and the Constitutional Court (250,000) remain unchanged.

The Coast guard is on the receiving end of an 84 percent (1.47 million) increase of its budget to 3.2 million.

The justice ministry furthermore intends to invest 315,000 guilders in a forensic lab at the Soremar building, 1.7 million in renovation of the hurricane damages to this building, 2 million in a camera surveillance system, 4.9 million in BMS – a border management system – and 10.1 million in improvements at the Pointe Blanche prison.

The ministry has reserved 5.7 million for repairing damages to the prison, 494,000 for the stay of inmates in the Netherlands, 1.4 million for training, 450,000 for maintenance, 195,000 for electronic surveillance and 1.7 million for the organization improvement project.

The amount for keeping St. Maarten inmates in the Netherlands is seriously under-budgeted. At €265 per day, the 23 inmates on the other side of the ocean cost €6,095 per day. The tab for this year up to March 15 (74 days) is therefore already €451,030 – or 909,431 guilders.

The justice ministry refers in the budget now to “renovation, repairs and a possible expansion” of the Pointe Blanche prison. However, on March 7 it appeared from a presentation in parliament by cabinet staff member Tjandra Lake that for the long term the ministry toys with the idea of a new prison as part of a multi-functional facility that includes a new courthouse and a detention facility for juveniles.

Editor’s note:
An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin would get 229,961 guilders less per year while the other ministers would receive 219,962 guilders less per year. This version now mentions the correct salary cuts.

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Download the complete DRAFT 2019 BUDGET here