SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – On Wednesday September 11 the Minister of Finance Hon. Perry Geerlings signed a settlement agreement with TelEm Group regarding outstanding debts owed by government.
The agreement pertains to a substantial outstanding amount and covers the period 2005 up to 2018. The original outstanding amount as per December 31, 2018 was NAf. 5 million higher than the agreed upon amount reflected in the settlement agreement between government and TelEm Group.
The Government and the TelEm Group were able to agree on this discount of NAf. 5 million under the condition that government will comply to the payment conditions as agreed in the settlement agreement.
Signing this agreement, government agrees to pay back the total amount of the outstanding in the period September 2019 until December 2024 in monthly instalments, and two additional payments will be made of which one in November 2019 and another at the beginning of 2020. The additional payment in November is being financed from the proceeds of the sale of the shares of telecommunications provider UTS.
Similar settlement agreements have also been signed with Social and Health Insurances SZV and utilities company NV GEBE in August. A similar agreement is still to be signed with general pension fund administrator APS.
The settlements are keeping in line with the instruction Sint Maarten received from the Kingdom Council of Ministers with regards to arrears based on the advice by the Committee for Financial Supervision Cft in 2015.
The Minister of Finance has made it one of his priorities to comply with the instruction, to ensure payment arrears are reduced instead of increased.
Government has been trying for several years to make progress with regards to the repayment of arrears, but there was no significant progress in mitigating this issue and payment arrears were just increasing.
With the current settlement agreements, the outstanding debts and payment schedules are clearly defined. With this, government is able to clean up its financial administration and improve its financial accountability towards the people of Sint Maarten and other stakeholders.