PHILIPSBURG–Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams has questioned whether an economy assessment and an environmental impact assessment has been carried out for the planned multi-million dollar Chinese funded hotel project on Belair beachfront.
“How does it fit with our carrying capacity study,” she asked on Monday.
The project, announced by Finance Minister Richard Gibson last week, encompasses a 326-room hotel with a showroom and 450 executive apartments. Plans for the “Pearl of China” project have already been approved by Government. The ground-breaking is slated for September 17.
Wescot-Williams said at a party press conference she intends to ask her coalition partners for more details about the project. She wants to know what exactly has been approved by Government and how the impacts on the country had been measured.
“Government would have to give something [to secure this project – Ed.] … What is the other side of the equation?” she asked, adding her hope for the information before the ground-breaking takes place.
Whether the enormous project will be carried out in phases is also a question Wescot-Williams wants answered. “What’s in it for St. Maarten? Tell me how many of our people and businesses will be involved.”
Commenting about an often levelled criticism about her not being quick to make decisions, Wescot-Williams said with a project of this size she would have asked all relevant questions before moving further.
Also at the press conference, Wescot-Williams announced that she has written to Gibson about the removal of the profit tax levy for regular associations and foundations. Her concerns centre on what will happen while the law is amended and the process that needs to be followed to fix the law that inadvertently called for foundations, without staff, to pay profit tax.
Her party via Public Health and Social Development Minister Emil Lee was working on restoring full pensions to persons who worked on the Dutch side, but who are residing on the French side now that they are retired.
The law regulating pensions was adopted from the one of the former Netherlands Antilles by Parliament in 2013. However, four articles were left out of the law and this “slipped through Parliament” causing a cut to pension to people residing outside of the country, although they are entitled to full benefits.
An amendment is expected to be sent to Parliament soon by Lee to restore full pensions. Wescot-Williams said the possibility of having the Social and Health Insurance SZV “act like” the change is “already in place” is being looked into.
On the health front, Wescot-Williams has decried what she sees as efforts by those opposed to the new hospital project to “torpedo it.” She said opposition to the project, transparently being overseen by Lee, stems from the current Council of Ministers scraping the “obscure VAMED project” for a new hospital earlier this year.
It is regretful, she said, that an intensive smear campaign is being carried out against the project especially online.
The MP said she was happy the new hospital project is supported by St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). “They have been calling for this,” she noted.
The recent trip to Florida Hospital by United People’s (UP) MPs to talk cooperation requires some explanation to Parliament, Wescot-Williams said. “Was the Parliament informed or Minister about what was discussed? Was our hospital management involved or consulted? These types of reports make us the laughing stock of the outside world.”
Source: Daily Herald
Sarah: More info needed about the Chinese project