Published On: Thu, Jun 27th, 2019

Another motion of no-confidence

MP Frans Richardson - Budget Debate June 26 2019

PHILIPSBURG – For the second time in less than half a year the opposition has announced a motion of no confidence against a minister in the UD/SMCP cabinet. During the budget debate on Wednesday United St. Maarten party (USp) MP Frans Richardson tabled a motion that demands the immediate departure of Finance Minister Perry Geerlings.

In February, the opposition parties National Alliance and USp tabled a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin. That motion failed to get majority support in parliament. In the absence of UD-leader Theo Heyliger, who was arrested on February 19 – the vote was tied at 7 for and 7 against.

On Wednesday, MP Richardson tabled a motion of no confidence against Finance Minister Geerlings. The motion mentions, among other arguments, that the draft budget 2019 is long overdue, that the minister continuously borrows money to pay for operational expenses and that he intends to invest 32 million guilders in tax reform while there is hardly any money to invest for the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs.

The motion furthermore suggests a conflict of interest with granting a contract to Bearing Point for the development of a new tax system. According to Richardson, a staff member in Geerling’s cabinet is a Bearing Point employee. After the contract – worth 29,000 guilders per month – was granted, Richardson said, the staff member suddenly disappeared from the cabinet.

The motion has the signatures of the seven opposition members, suggesting that it is heading for defeat when it comes to a vote at the conclusion of the budget debate.

Richardson warned the government to be careful with plans – as reported by stmaartennews.com – to sell the port to global Ports Holding. “Eight months ago I knew that the government was talking with Global Ports about a 30-year lease. Leave that alone, run far from it. It means that we are giving away our assets,” Richardson said.

Richardson furthermore asked Minister Johnson about his vision for Philipsburg. “When I look at Philipsburg I see a dying capital. It is a ghost town by night and hardly operational during the day, unless there are cruise ships in port.”

Richardson complimented Minister Johnson for his “consistent position” on airport-related matters – in particular his stance on pre-clearance and his desire to have locals at the helm.

The “numbers” do not add up, Richardson said when he talked about the funds needed for the airport’s reconstruction. “It cost $87 million to build this airport. Now we are looking at a $50 million grant from the trust fund and a $50 million loan from the European Investment Bank. But there is also $54 million in insurance money in a bank in New York. That is $154 million. Something is wrong here,” said Richardson, who repeatedly maintained throughout his presentation that the government consists of eight ministers – while in reality there are seven.

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Related links:
Global Ports Holding eyeballs the cruise port in St. Maarten
Speech MP Frans Richardson starting at 1:42:00 into the recording
Mercelina-motion tackles Minister Lee
Opinion piece: “A Constitutional Revolution” by Hilbert Haar
Another motion of no-confidence