PHILIPSBURG–Finance Minister Michael Ferrier wants less bureaucracy and wants authorities to be more facilitating when it comes to persons who want to start up new businesses in the current climate.
Ferrier said this will help to prevent prospective entrepreneurs from “going underground” and not paying taxes and encourage them to do the right thing which will increase Government’s tax base.
“It is important that people and businesses be accommodated,” Ferrier said at the Council of Ministers press briefing.
He said public services have to “step up” and “facilitate the comeback of business activity.” Government has to be proper and orderly, but also be as practical as possible. “These are not normal times and although Government has processes and procedures to be followed business, people and citizens will be best served if we find practical solutions to deal with Government bureaucracy.”
The Minister said if a businessperson wants to fix up their establishment and hires “a neighbour” who does not have a company, but sees an opportunity to start his own construction company, the new entrepreneur will have to go through the procedure of starting a business, which the Minister says “can take a long time.”
“It is important that his opportunity is not stifled,” Ferrier said adding that while Government cannot “break the rules,” it should also not turn a blind eye to persons who operate without regard for rules. “We need to be practical and find ways to fast-track Government. We need to provide expedited services.”
He suggested that Government “bundle forces” across Ministries to assist new entrepreneurs to get their businesses established “quickly and efficiently.”
“The neighbour needs to start his construction company without fear of operating on the wrong side of the law. Helping him means we help St. Maarten because his business will contribute to the economy because he will be hiring people.”
By regulating the licence of the new entrepreneur, Ferrier says the new business will pay its fair share of taxes and can contribute to society. His employees will also pay taxes which are needed to provide public service.
The Finance Minister said many persons have been voicing concerns on social media about “the long wait” for Government services. “When I see these stories, I worry.”
He said without new approaches and out-of-the-box thinking, Government faces “financial nightmares.”
Ferrier said he agrees with Dutch officials who say that the entire 550 million euro recovery fund for St. Maarten should be used for the reconstruction of the country. Government needs to find another solution for its liquidity support. The Ministry of Finance cannot do this alone. He said Government Ministries have to be cooperative and collaborative. If Government agencies and departments can come together to develop ways to accommodate businesses, the country will benefit as the tax base will be expanded.
Ferrier said he wants to join the Ministries of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI, Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) and General Affairs to develop practical solutions.
He said a multidisciplinary team of persons from the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI), Tax Inspectorate and Receivers Office will be formed to help guide a new business through the procedures of Government. Businesses should not be frustrated into operating against the rules. Government, he said, has to practice and find ways to say yes. “We are fighting against time to stabilise our financial situation. There are practical solutions to the problem,” he stressed.
Ferrier said a meeting will be organised amongst stakeholders to discuss the multidisciplinary action and approach.
Many persons have been displaced as a result of Hurricane Irma and the quicker the recovery of the country, the better it will be for everyone. “Everyone has a role to play and everyone is connected.” He said Government needs money in its coffers and taxes need to be paid for this to happen. Some sectors such as hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, mom and pop entrepreneurs and other types of businesses, will be out of operation for a while, while some are rebuilding. When not in operation, these businesses cannot hire persons or pay taxes. “And without income from taxes and fees, Government cannot finance Government services. It’s a vicious cycle.”