Philipsburg:--- Appointed Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto attended his first and last press conference since taking office some 20 months ago on Wednesday to bring clarity to some of the decisions he took. While taking jabs at some reporters, Shigemoto said that the new tax reform system was signed with a UK company and not a Canadian company as reported in the media. He further explained that the signing was done on March 22, 2012 when the Council of Ministers approved the agreement.
In his statements, the outgoing Minister of Finance contradicted an answer provided by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot Williams when she was asked by SMN News if there was a bidding process for the 14 million guilder project and if other companies were interested in the project. Wescot Williams said that there was no bidding process and that could be done if the Minister motivates his reasons for not conducting a bidding, she also said based on her knowledge there was only one company that showed interest in the project.
However, Minister Shigemoto said that there were two companies that were interested in the tax reform system. He said the first company wanted 30 million Euros for their services while they also wanted to send the St. Maarten tax payer's information to the Netherlands to be processed. Minister Shigemoto said he refused that company because he could not agree to send peoples personal information to another country. The Minister also pulled out a sheet of paper and showed it to reporters claiming that everything was in order including the signatures of six Ministers approving the agreement with the UK company.
Shigemoto explained that when the tax system is reformed St. Maarteners will pay less taxes while the visitors and immigrant workers will face heavier taxation. He said his intention was to reduce the TOT and implement VAT (Value added Tax or Sales Tax) but after calculations were done he realized that low income earners would have been severely affected. Government he said also intended to add taxation on alcohol and tobacco. The outgoing Finance Minister also shed light on the agreement he had in place to complete the government building on Pond Island, a project which he said would have taken 10 to 12 months after the financing is secured. Shigemoto said that he is leaving 38 million guilders in the government coffers compared to 20 million in 2011. Government also has 10 million guilders set aside in an account at Banco de Caribe for the construction of social homes. The project is in collaboration with the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation.