PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MPs) continued to dissect the draft 2019 budget on Wednesday afternoon. This time several ministers appeared in the legislature to answer questions posed when the session started on Tuesday afternoon.
One item in the draft budget that received much attention from MPs was the NAf. 84 million allocated under the Ministry of Finance for the restructuring of the country’s outmoded tax system and for the construction of a new building to house now-scattered tax administration offices.
The allocation for the Finance Ministry’s project was compared to the NAf. 17 million earmarked for the renovation of the prison and other justice holding areas. MPs Christophe Emmanuel and Egbert Doran (National Alliance) saw this as a huge discrepancy. Doran said that if the prison situation is not taken care of, the Dutch government could easily step in and say it was not fixed in spite of numerous warnings.
MPs queried whether Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, Ministers Stuart Johnson (Tourism and Economic Affairs), Miklos Giterson (Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure) and Cornelius dee Weever (Justice) had fought for more money for their projects or had been bullied by Finance Minister Perry Geerlings who wants his tax project to receive needed funding.
Another spending item that caught the MPs’ attention was the some NAf. 300,000 for about six new cars for the ministers. The Prime Minister explained in the Central Committee meeting in Parliament House that the ministers’ cars are past the five-year point and now cost more for maintenance. The old cars will go to the departments for the rest of their workable lives.
The addition of an “executive protection unit” in the budget was also a topic of discussion. This unit, which is listed for a subsidy, is supposed to offer protection to the ministers. The prime minister said this is in line with the “changing times.” MP Rolando Brison (United St. Maarten Party) queried what about protection for MPs, as he sees the protection of the people’s representatives as paramount.
The Central Committee meeting continues in Parliament House today, Thursday, at 2:00pm. At least two ministers – Emil Lee and Stuart Johnson (substituting for Education Minister Wycliffe Smith) – are to deliver answers to questions posed to them on the draft budget that is coincidentally Parliament’s incoming document number 666.
The public can attend the parliament sitting, which will also be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 115 (after 7:00pm on Channel 120), SXM GOV radio 107.9FM, Pearl Radio 98.1FM,
www.pearlfmradio.sx and Facebook.com/Parliament of Sint Maarten.