Published On: Mon, May 7th, 2018

MP Smith takes parliament to task

MP Wycliffe SmithPHILIPSBURG – “This budget will not win any stellar awards,” MP Wycliffe Smith (St. Maarten Christian Party) said on Monday during the first day of the 2018 budget debate. “It shows a deficit, it is not adapted to the post-Irma reality and it is unable to address the connection between the national recovery and Resilience Plan and the budget.”

Smith addressed the responsibilities of parliament in his address and he was highly critical. He expressed his disappointment that only three MPs had shown up last Friday for the memorial day ceremony and he further observed that, in the past, parliament had shown little interest in the country’s financial management once it had passed the annual budget. “But parliament has a role to play in this field,” he said. “Parliament does not take its responsibility for financial management.”

To support his position, Smith quoted from two different reports from the General Audit Chamber that also put the finger on the parliament’s weak performance in this respect.

MPs should lead by example, Smith said. “We all have had to tighten our belts after Hurricane Irma and parliament should do that as well. In the second round I will table a motion to lower the salaries of parliamentarians by 15 percent.”

To be able to table that motion, Smith said he needed the support from at least two fellow-MPs. “Give me that support so that we can at least have a discussion about it,’ he said.

MP Frans RichardsonMP Frans Richardson (USp) noted that the budget “does not contain any initiative to make things better. While MP Smith asked earlier when the old government building and the post office will be repaired Richardson suggested to tear them both down. “They don’t need repairs.”

Richardson attacked the general pension fund APS. “They took us for a ride. They put up a billboard saying they will build a parking garage and they have not delivered.”

The MP furthermore held up an invoice from a dump truck driver for depositing garbage on the French-side landfill. It shows that for dumping 5,340 kilos of waste, the driver got an invoice of €507.32 ($603.71). That’s why we see French trucks driving to the landfill in Philipsburg because there they don’t have to pay,” he said, suggesting that the government implement a system similar to that used on the French side.

According to MP Ardwell Irion the deficit is higher than the 197 million guilders presented in the draft, because the budget lists revenue from concession fees from the harbor and Gebe (a combined 10 million guilders), while both government-owned companies have asked to waive the fee for 2018.

MP Luc MercelinaaMP Luc Mercelina (United Democrats) labeled the budget as a mission impossible, adding that the country has never had a realistically balanced budget. He presented a calculation based on personal assumptions about tax revenue to show that it is not realistic of the kingdom to demand that the country presents a balanced budget.

Mercelina estimates the damage caused by Hurricane Irma at $3 billion. “Do you really think that €470 million ($559 million – the money the Netherlands has deposited in the trust fund at the World Bank) is sufficient to get us out of this unbalanced budget?”

Mercelina said that the construction of the new hospital should be a matter to be settled by the Dutch, given the fact “that the investment is about half of our country’s annual revenue.”

Mercelina also made suggestions to manage personnel costs (a hiring freeze), to collect OZR-premiums from civil servants and to revise the rules for the registration of medical specialists. He furthermore named strengthening border control a priority “to stop the import of poverty.”

“If we don’t implement such measures, St. Maarten will become a third-world country. It is not two minutes to twelve; it is already two minutes past twelve.”