Published On: Mon, Jan 8th, 2024

Political manifestos read like a Christmas wish list

PHILIPSBURG — The political manifestos of the political parties that will take part in the January 11 elections are a hodgepodge of ideas and proposals and at times read as a Christmas wish list.

The National Alliance has made lowering taxes a focal point of its campaign; the party promises to lower income, wage and profit taxes within the first hundred days of a new government.

Read: National Alliance manifesto appeals to voters with lower taxes

Two other parties have also jumped on the fiscal bandwagon. NOW, the party of Christophe Emmanuel and the PFP of Melissa Gumbs both want to lower profit taxes.

URSM, the party of Luc Mercelina wants to abolish all taxes for senior citizens. The PFP states in its manifesto that this is unrealistic, for instance for taxes levied on pensions: “Pension is income. Anyone who says they can remove a pension tax entirely is lying to you.”

The revived Democratic Party (DP) under the leadership of MPs Sarah Wescot-Williams and former UP-star Grisha Heyliger-Marten favors the introduction of a value added tax to replace the turnover tax. The DP states in its manifesto that this would allow for the abolishment of the profit tax, for lower wage taxes and for excluding specific products from taxation. The party wants to put a stop to chasing uncollectible outstanding taxes.

NOW makes some blunt statements in its manifesto: “We need radical solutions to handle the serious problems St. Maarten currently faces.” And: “The current government is filled with inept and unresponsive leadership.”

NOW promises tax-free pensions and cancellation of all outstanding taxes for seniors dating from before Hurricane Irma and up to 2018. On the other hand, the party proposes the introduction of an 8 percent import duty (in collaboration with the French side), a 9.5 percent import tax on “non-commerce goods” and a 0.5% transaction tax. NOW want to decrease the profit tax from the current 34.5 percent to 12.5 percent. The party wants to abolish tax holidays and tax exemptions. It also proposes the introduction of a sin tax on alcohol, tobacco and sugary products. The PFP proposes to lower the profit tax rate to 17 percent.

On the plus side, NOW proposes an increase of the minimum hourly rate to 10.80 guilders ($6). This idea has become a moot point, after Minister Omar Ottley announced an increase of the hourly minimum wage from 9.95 to 10.40 guilders.

NOW also has the casinos in its crosshairs. It proposes to increase fees, collect license fees and tax all points of sale for lotteries. It also wants to (finally) establish a gaming board, cap the issuance of casino licenses and only allow the relocation of existing casinos to hotel properties.

Furthermore, NOW wants to levy taxes on cars worth more than $45,000, introduce a vehicle disposal fee and levy a 0.75% fee on condos and villas owned by corporations.

The URSM wants to transform the minimum wage into a living wage, introduce a “livable old age pension” and abolish all taxes for senior citizens. At the same time, the party wants to establish a visitor’s drivers license fee (something the UP also proposes) and a tourist fee.

The manifesto of the United People’s party (UP) is a lofty document of 55 pages that few voters will care to read until the last page. The party envisions a 0.2 percent transaction tax on all bank transaction above $100 and claims that this would replace the turnover tax.

The UP wants to transfer annual revenue from road tax, car rental tax and hotel taxes to a government owned entity “which can then be financed to raise over 200 million guilders,” the UP manifesto states adding: “Twenty percent goes to loans and grants for local businesses effectively creating 200 new local millionaires and thousands more high paying jobs.”

The Party for Progress wants to exempt all business with an annual revenue below 360,000 guilders (around $201,000)) from profit tax. Business can deduct 2 percent of their profit tax for donations to vetted non-government organizations and non-profits. Business exempted from profit tax will pay 2.5 percent of their revenue to the government if they have no employees and 1 percent if they have one or more people on their payroll.

Among the more creative ideas are the proposal to turn the courthouse into a national museum for the exhibition of archeological finds and artifacts (NOW), the construction of a drag strip and cricket stadium (NOW and UP), the development of cannabis farming (NOW) and the establishment of a national university with dorms (URSM).

Other ideas that catch the eye are the UP’s proposal to grant permanent residence to children born in St. Maarten and the suggestion to automatically grant residence to foreigners who have obtained a work permit.

The manifestos contain many more ideas and suggestions but whether they will ever become a reality remains to be seen. Many sentences in the UP-manifesto, for instance, begin with statements like “we will invest in…,” or we will support …,” without making a clear commitment to whatever follows in those sentences.

An issue that ought to interest voters like climate change hardly gets any attention in the manifestos apart from a PFP statement (“We are ground zero for climate change”) and a bright observation in the NOW-manifesto: “Doing nothing is not an option,” without making clear what kind of action the party intends to take. The DP agrees with the PFP: “Climate change is real.”

Read: St. Maarten continues to ignore climate change threats

The Democratic Party wants to put rules in place for public contracting, establish English as the country’s first language and introduce state secretaries at some ministries. The party also wants to grant tax incentives for businesses and people who invest in clean energy.

The DP has more ideas: it favors a flexible labor market and better unemployment benefits and it wants to adapt the dismissal law. A crackdown on drugs and gambling addiction is also a part of its manifesto.

On the economic front, the DP notes that dollarization best suits the country’s economic realities. The party envisions an unemployment rate of 6 to 7 percent within three years and wants to hold it under 5 percent within five years, though the manifesto does not indicate how the party intends to achieve this objective.

The DP furthermore puts a focus on nation building. Interestingly, former Governor Eugene Holiday just published a book about this issue under the title Nation Building, Our Challenges, Resilience and Responsibility. Maybe that will get the attention of concerned citizens.


Related articles:
National Alliance manifesto appeals to voters with lower taxes
USP want English as formal language in court

Vote for Terrance Rey: Candidate #21 on the National Alliance list