PHILIPSBURG–The country’s “shrinking middle class” is cause for concern, says Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Pointing to figures given by Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. in the budget debate earlier this year, the MP said just about half of households (47 per cent) has a monthly income between NAf. 1,000 and NAf. 3,000.
The statistic is worrisome and calls for Government to look at mitigating measures, the MP said. She disagrees with the stance that the income figure points to a brain drain, saying instead that it points to the contracting of the middle class and not that people are leaving the country.
The formulation of an economic framework document is “a dire necessity” to remedy the problem, Wescot-Williams said.
No finger pointing
Putting attention on the situation at the landfill, Wescot-Williams said it is not time for finger pointing, rather time for action.
The landfill has “outlived its lifespan and the waste-to-energy plant “is not coming for the next 18 months. The question is what do we do in the meantime. The bottom line is we have to do something,” she said.
Health Minister Emil Lee (DP) is looking into the health issues associated with the landfill fires and is communicating with an expert, said the DP leader.
Wescot-Williams said the issue with fixing the landfill has been “lack of consistency” from the former Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Minister. Each past Minister had had his own idea of how to tackle the situation and each time solving the problem reverted back to the start, she said.
Parliament will resume its discussion about the country’s financial outlook with Richard Gibson Sr. on Monday starting at 9:00am.
Wescot-Williams said she’s looking forward to hearing from Gibson what has happened to the draft fiscal framework prepared by the former Government in 2015. That paper has explored the replacement of the Turnover Tax (ToT) with a value added tax (VAT). She wanted to ascertain if the same document is still being used now.
She said the reason coalition MPs called the meeting was to gauge if the discussion about tax reform needs to be opened up again and if the position of the private sector has been gathered.
On Monday afternoon, the meeting requested by opposition MPs about vote-buying is scheduled for 2:00pm with Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo.
Freedom Fighters Foundation is tentatively slated to present their stance for the legalisation of cannabis in a meeting of Parliament’s Justice Committee on Tuesday, May 17, starting at 2:00pm.
Asked for her view on legalising cannabis, Wescot-Williams said all aspects should be looked at and a decision should be made based on what is good for the people of St. Maarten.
The possibility of holding a referendum about independence for St. Maarten will be the topic when the Independence for St. Martin Foundation meets with the Central Committee of Parliament on Wednesday, May 18, at 11:00am. The session was requested by the Foundation.
The meeting on the sale of the new Government Administration Building will resume on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00pm.
The budget of the Ombudsman will be discussed in the Finance Committee on Thursday, May 19, at 10:00am. At 2:00pm, the meeting with VROMI Minister Angel Meyers will resume on changes to the spatial planning ordinance.
The week of meetings will round off with a closed door session with the Financial Intelligence Unit MOT on Friday, May 20.
Source: Daily Herald
Sarah concerned about shrinking middle class