SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – “As I observe the development on our island since the last election which was held earlier this year, I’m unpleasantly surprised about the level of distrust in the new parliament,” United Sint Maarten (US) Party Faction Leader Member of Parliament (MP) Claudius Buncamper said in a media statement on Thursday evening.
“While I am in opposition to the coalition government, I want to state that I believe this parliament has a very open stance and issues, more often than not, are handled based on merit and not according to party lines. My opening statement is made, in an attempt to project where we are and where we are heading.
“Moreover, we must ask ourselves a simple question: “what price are we willing to pay to get where we think we should arrive”? Having stated the above and realizing the damage COVID19 has done to the world economy and ours in particular one must also open enough to state that the immediate future doesn’t look very bright for the country. I believed and will still maintain such, that we had an edge on many countries because we have a huge trust fund which would have kick-started our economy.
“Until this day I believe this to be the case but I do not believe that we are getting the best that can be had and this in my humble opinion is for a great part on not having the right people on the right place. Politics is what gets us elected, but political commitments can also cause demise and in the worst cases it is not just a politician or a political party that suffers, sometimes it is the country. The RFT (Rijks Financieel Toezicht/Kingdom Financial Supervision) law stipulates what the role of the CFT is; this does not include advising on our emergency liquidity funding and the evaluating the stimulus and relief programs such as the SSRP.
“To make matters worse, it has become evident that since the Caribbean members of CFT spoke out in May of this year against the advice by the chairman of the CFT, they have been sidelined and seemingly don’t even participate anymore in meetings. Is this a form of corruption? Is the State Secretary Knops and the Kingdom Council of Ministers concerned that the advice from CFT may be based only on the opinion of the European Dutch members in other words one sided? Are we concerned?
“Once again we are now being told by the CFT, that we didn’t qualify for the liquidity support as we didn’t meet the criteria of the 12.5%; the subsidized entities didn’t make 12.5% cuts to the salary packages of their staff, the civil servants didn’t comply either as they want it repaid and that’s not allowed not even years later. The 10% voluntary cut the parliamentarians took cannot be seen as part of the 25% cut they took. These are just simple examples that show that the CFT is hell-bent on ensuring that we fail.
“Evaluate the 130% maximum norm based on the salary of the Prime Minister, which is the maximum payment that can be made to top management and consultants and how this relates to capacity. We are always told that we do not have capacity, however in an effort to attract qualified people, we are no longer allowed to offer suitable salaries and benefits. A lawyer for God sake earns at least US$ 250,- per hour right here in St. Maarten. So we cannot even ask for legal advice. This is just comical. What is not comical is when advisors are sent by way of BZK and charge you more than stated above. When we look at the entity that was presented to us by the Dutch government, we need to understand and agree that it contains many good proposals which we ought to implement.
“At the same token there are also suggestions which could be harmful such as a blanket value added tax of 12.5%. On the other hand, the proposals do not come without merit. For years subsequent governments have talked about implementing tax reform, but we are yet to see any evidence of this. I have campaigned on tax reform and together with several colleagues, I have requested a meeting on this topic since March of this year. What disturbs me is the fact that we always seem to be reacting instead of acting.
“Requested meetings must be honored; politics needs to know its place at the door of parliament’s hall but we aren’t there yet. We have made a counter proposal to the Dutch Government and that will be presented to them and hopefully they will realize that the countries government is willing to work on reform but not on a takeover. Our autonomy is NOT FOR SALE. Many people are experiencing extremely difficult times and cannot even afford basic necessities. This situation is being used as leverage to turn the people against the government and force the leaders into submission.
“A practice we are all too familiar with; but it is not becoming of a democratic country, which I hope we all are in our kingdom. Implementing new conditions as you go along to suite your agenda will not work in St. Maarten. St. Maarten needs to prepare itself for a big no from Holland on its proposal by having a plan in place to remain afloat. The big question is; “What’s that plan?” In my opinion as I stated before on the floor of parliament, we should have all government owned companies evaluated on their market value and have our OWN entities like SZV or APS purchase a part of the assets with a golden share to be able to protect their investments.
“Similar strategies have been used at the airport and in the past at the harbor. We will have the buyback option as government after a set number of years (5-10). All shareholders get equal share dividend and they have influence in the development of the companies. This above means that the government needs to only come to parliament with a proper proposal and get permission for the sale of the company shares. This will raise money for government’s coffers and with a proper plan, approved by parliament by means of a budget amendment.
“NO NEED FOR PERMISSION from the Netherlands and or the CFT. We need to be bold but honest with what we are doing. We are an autonomous country, whether you like it or not and we are bound to each other constitutionally. The people of the country chose this status and the people are the ones that can change that respectfully.
“I fully support the move to the United Nations to once and forever finalize the decolonization process; the court case initiated by St. Eustatius clearly proved that the process is not completed. This position is further supported by the advice given to the country Curacao in 2012 just prior to the killing of MP Hermin Wiels. St. Maarten has survived worse than an arrogant Dutch government which seems to be intent on destroying our country and its people only to regain full colonial powers.
“But they will not be successful. We are ready to work together respectfully, are they? To the government of the Netherlands, stop hiding behind the CFT; be upfront with what is being offered and what price we’re expected to pay; then based on fair and open discussions we’ll decide whether the deal on the table will benefit the people on both the short term and long term.”