Frans calls for legislation to protect primary home

PHILIPSBURG–Protect the primary home of residents via legislation to ensure this cannot be auctioned off by the tax marshal was a proposal United St. Maarten Party (US Party) leader Member of Parliament Frans Richardson made in the debate on the draft 2017 budget on Tuesday.

Richardson said too many people who have tax issues are faced with losing their home and they need to be protected. However, that protection comes with a caveat. The MP said such legislation must also include that once the primary home is mortgage free, it cannot be remortgaged.

“The easiest thing to lose in a tax case is a home,” said the MP, adding that locals seem to be “most targeted” by the Tax Department. His comments came after a number of homes in past years have been placed on auction for non-tax compliance.

A more targeted information and awareness campaign was called for by Richardson to inform residents about their tax obligations.

The suggestion of the MP to Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. is to reduce the profit to at least 17 per cent. Reducing the profit tax to encourage investment was also raised by Richardson. He compared the local situation where that tax stands at some 34.5 per cent to that of the region where the rates are much lower.

Richardson, like many fellow MPs in last week’s Central Committee meeting of Parliament and this week’s ongoing plenary session, emphasized the challenges facing the tourism sector, the main economic generator for the country.

The need to continue marketing efforts to boost tourism was expounded on by Richardson. “We need to be more proactive,” he said as he called for an explanation to why the tourism budget for several years running has had “significant money left back” when this could be used for marketing and promotion.

MP Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani (United People’s party) expressed severe concerns about the increase in bold crimes against the business community and residents. He pointed out there was a time when criminals steered clear of the businesses in which tourists congregated, but now criminals are rushing into jewellery stores and smashing glass cases and grabbing up gold merchandise in the presence of visitors and local shoppers. Crime and lack of sustained marketing have led to some 50 businesses closing in town and a number of others around the country, he said.

National Alliance (NA) MP Ardwell Irion asked Gibson Sr. to look into the possibility of one-stop payments for government services instead of applicants for permits and other documents having to move from office to office to accomplish a task. He requested a list of soon to retire persons and the posts that will come available. Older people in government “should not see young people as a threat” in the organization as many do “not want your job; they only want to see our ideas put into practice,” he said.

MP Silvio Matser (US Party) said it was time to take care of St. Maarten and find new sources of income to boost the budget. He has suggested the implementation of a fee for all holders of foreign director’s licences. Make it too expensive to hire people from overseas and this will lead to more local employment, he said. Gibson Sr., was urged by Matser to use his business acumen to come up with solutions to boost the economy. Government was told by the MP “to respect the motions” passed by Parliament and execute these post haste.

MP Christophe Emmanuel (NA) called on the justice minister to look into issuing Uber-like licences to boost entrepreneurship in the transport sector. This will help locals without a job and “weed out” the mushrooming gypsy taxis business. He called for “set rules and policy” to focus this kind of entrepreneurship that will aid residents who cannot get a bus into their neighbourhood.

Government was urged to protect local businesses and making room for entrepreneurs to grow by MP Rodolphe Samuel (NA). He also questioned the impact of the Pearl of China Project, the further development of the much talked about preforming arts centre and cricket stadium as well as plans for the University on St. Martin (USM).

The MPs who participated in the debate on Monday and Tuesday will get answers to the questions and proposals made to the Council of Ministers today, Wednesday, when the session resumes in Parliament House at 10:00am.

Source: The Daily Herald