PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Finance Richard Gibson Sr. addressed members of the press in Wednesday’s, July 12, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
First, he mentioned the plans for a new law school in St. Maarten. “We got the final report from the committee quite recently. And the option was to start for September, and I choose that we should start the law school in September, and steps are being taken to be able to make that possible,” he said.
“There is right now no central location you can call to get all of the information that is pertinent to register with the law school. Announcements will be made. Once that is completed then everybody can get the information they want,” he stated.
“It was a little unfortunate. This time of the year, which is the vacation time of the year where most people are on vacation and that we’re trying to get this together. So it’s more difficult to get people to get things coordinated, but we are working hard to start this year in September,” the Minister continued.
He also spoke on the importance of the law school. “If we look around us and we see who are in the high positions, in the judicial system, what have you, the reason for that is that we don’t have a pool to generate people of our own, to take those positions. Those positions have to be taken by people from the outside. We have an obligation to ourselves to change that. Historically, education has been denied to certain people so that there is no upward mobility,” Minister Gibson observed.
“Somebody is not going to do it for us. So this opportunity with the law school is one that we have a duty and obligation to take advantage of, to make sure that we can get the upward mobility that is so badly needed,” he said.
Next, Minister Gibson mentioned his recent trip to Curaçao last week where “I came back with another eight million dollars.”
“That eight million guilders is from the Development Foundation, which was treated separately from the general division of assets. An advance has been paid out now to St. Maarten on what was there. There’s about six million guilders left, but we have eight million that came in last week from the Social Development Fund,” the Minister stated.
“In addition, we met to discuss the situation with the Central Bank and it was decided that we’re going to dismiss all of the members of the board of the Central Bank. The reason is simple. The issues and the problems, and the discord that have been reigning in the Central Bank, specifically among the board members, have been existing for years, and when you take stock and ask yourself, are they there looking after the best interests of the country, or the best interest of the bank, or are they there to fight and argue amongst personal issues that they have with each other. Then the scale falls through on the side of the personal discord, and not the best interests of the country and the bank,” Minister Gibson informed.
“So we have written them letters. The members that St. Maarten had proposed some time ago have submitted their resignation. The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Directors appointed by Curaçao at that time by the court, has also submitted his resignation. There are only two members who are being heard as we speak, which is required. And after they have been heard, if whatever they have to say does not change anybody’s mind, they too will be dismissed, and then we will have to proceed with the process of appointing seven new members of the board of the Central Bank, and hopefully that will bring some kind of stability, peace and tranquility in the Central Bank,” the Minister stated.
“The Central Bank has its principal headquarters in Curaçao. It has a branch on St. Maarten, which doesn’t represent much. The impact that the Central Bank, which is jointly owned by Curaçao and St. Maarten, has on the economy, on the society of Curaçao is humongous. If you take their financial statements, you would see that operational costs amounts to approximately 60 million guilders,” Minister Gibson observed.
“That 60 million guilders is spent in the economy of Curaçao and when we look and see what is spent on St. Maarten, it’s a drop on a hot plate. It’s immoral. As a result of that, I had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Curaçao. Met also with the Minister of Finance of Curaçao, and brought to their attention this imbalance, and mentioned this imbalance cannot continue. It’s unfair, unjust. If there is 40 million guilders paid out in salaries to people employed by the Central Bank in Curaçao, if you just take what that produces in wage taxes for the government of Curaçao, it represents millions every year. And when we see what we get, it’s something that does not meet the measures of fairness,” the Minister further explained.
“The Central Bank division here in St. Maarten has to be beefed up and the agreement that I’ve managed to reach with the representatives of the government of Curaçao, and with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance is if we take 20 percent of the shares of the Central Bank, then 20 percent of the operational costs of the Central Bank should be allocated to the St. Maarten division of the Central Bank. That would be fair. So that the impact that the Central Bank have on the economy in Curaçao, and the impact on the Central Bank on St. Maarten should be reflected,” Minister Gibson continued.
The Minister noted that this division would have a tremendous impact on St. Maarten’s GDP. “Now, this is not something that’s going to happen overnight. You got budgets already done. So the agreement is they will work towards that, but the agreement is that the means and resources necessary for the division of the Central Bank on St. Maarten to conduct and to be able to take care of all its tasks here. It’s a big step,” the Minister concluded.