Published On: Mon, May 7th, 2018

Economic losses from Hurricane Irma exceed $2 billion

MP Sarah Wescot-WilliamsPHILIPSBURG – Parliament will begin on Tuesday morning with the second day of deliberations about the 2018 budget. President of Parliament MP Sarah Wescot-Williams was re-elected to her function on Monday and she adjourned the budget meeting around 8.30 p.m. to give ministers the time to prepare answers to the questions posed by parliamentarians.

Before MPs could take the floor, all ministers of the interim-government gave presentations about their departments.

Finance Minister Mike Ferrier showed that gross domestic product has dropped 13 percent after Hurricane Irma, that the country is short of cash and that public finances have dropped by 35 percent. To solve the problems, the government wants to float a bond with the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten.

Mike Ferrier 20180115 - HHFerrier estimates the economic losses caused by the hurricane at $2.1 billion.

The minister said that his draft budget is based on figures up to March 2018 and that they correspond with a IMF-projection of multi-annual revenue and expenditures.

Ferrier announced that several budget amendments will be necessary after the NRRP – the National Recovery and Resilience Plan – is completed.

Obtaining liquidity support is a priority; without measures the country’s liquidity needs at the end of the year will be 116 million guilders. Increasing compliance, strengthening the tax department and simplifying the tax system are other priorities.

Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Leona Marlin-Romeo pointed to the vulnerability of the country’s archives. A digitalizing project is needed; for this, the government will turn to the World Bank for funding.

Minister Emil Lee (Public Health, Social Development and Labor) asked attention for the pressure on his department in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The food-voucher program’s first phase alone brought in 1,641 applicants of which 118 were turned down. All these applications had to be processed and reviewed, while measure to prevent counterfeiting of the food vouchers also took up time and energy. The ministry is working on the NHI (National Health Insurance), NHR (National Health Reform) and labor reform.Miklos Gitterson - Minister of VROMI

Minister Giterson (Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure) noted that only 1.5 percent of his budget is reserved for disaster preparedness while 64 percent is swallowed by maintenance. Garbage collection and sewage treatment take up one-third of the Vromi-budget, totaling 14 million guilders. “No levies are charged for these services. The legislation for a sewage fee is ready and only needs to be implemented,” the minister said.

Giterson mentioned a waste-to-energy facility as a priority but he made no reference to the Envirogreen proposal. Later, his predecessor Christophe Emmanuel, would end his presentation with this line: “You want a solution for the dump? Call Envirogreen.”

But Minister Giterson confirmed earlier outside a central MP Christophe Emmanuelcommittee meeting to stmaartennews.com that the Envirogreen proposal is off the table.