PHILIPSBURG: --- Members of Parliament including those that support the current United Democrats /St. Maarten Christian Party Government posed several critical questions to the Minister of Finance Perry Geerlings when he appeared in Parliament on Tuesday to present the draft 2019 budget.
Questions were posed about the allocated budget for new vehicles for members of the council of ministers. Government budgeted money for 7 new vehicles that cost $50,000.00 each, while other Ministries such as TEATT lacks money for key projects.
Government also budgeted NAF.800,000.00 for a state of art meeting room while schools need more classrooms.
MP Christophe Emmanuel asked the Minister to provide parliament with information about SOREMAR building that was purchased by the Ministry of Justice and is still not in use. Emmanuel asked the Minister if SOREMAR companies that are registered on St. Maarten have a board and if they do, he asked the Minister to provide parliament with the names of those board members. Emmanuel asked the Minister asked about the contract for the upgrade of the Tax Department that was granted to Bearing Point. He asked if Bearing Point is a Curacao based company or if the company is registered on St. Maarten. Emmanuel wants to know how many companies participated in the bidding process and how the other companies scored. The National Alliance MP asked the Minister to present parliament with the contract awarded to Bearing Point.
MP Frans Richardson asked the Minister to tell Parliament if the Council of Minister took a decision and passed a resolution or if they discussed the possibility of dissolving of the PJIAE Holding Company and if the intention is to sell shares to the Dutch Government. “I read this on the news online and I want to know how true is this? Let parliament know if this issue was even discussed.”
Richardson further asked the Minister if Piper Jaffrey financing for PJIAE was sidelined or what is the status of the private financing.
MP Rolando Brison questioned the Minister about the preparation of the 2019 budget, Brison said the Minister allotted NAF 3M in his budget for consultant fees. He said that this is the first time such is done and for him that doing so is problematic. Brison informed the Minister while the budget showed that the salaries were cut but the fact that the consultant fees are under his Ministry poses a problem. He made clear that the 2019 draft budget will not get his support because of that alone.
Regarding the loan granted to PJIAE, he asked the Minister for the LANDSVERONDING. Brison said he wants more explanation on the loan granted to PJIAE.
He asked the Minister to give parliament more explanation as to why he went against the advice given by the CFT with regards to European Investment Bank (EIB) for PJIAE. Brison said he agrees with the CFT because the Minister must explain why the Government of St. Maarten got involved with EIB and PJIAE and why did he not allow EIB to deal directly with PJIAE.
He asked the Minister to further breakdown the amount allocated for investment and asked the Minister to explain to parliament what will happen if his ambitious plans fail.
Brison asked the Minister to give parliament proper explanation on the NAF.800.000.00 allotted for security guards for Ministers. Brison informed the Minister that the Ministers already have drivers and guards and having more security is simply not justifiable.
The USP MP highlighted the various departments that the Minister did not allocate any money to, those being the Mental Health Foundation, and the library. He said the zeros in the draft 2019 budget is not at all acceptable.
Brison said the Council of Advice in their advice already indicated that policies are not in place and this he said is also not acceptable.
The USP MPS both the leader and Brison said that they will continue to pursue the Mullet Bay property and ensure that is returned to the people of St. Maarten. Richardson told the Minister while he is busy taking loans, he should take a loan and buy back the Mullet Bay property from Ennia.
The leader of the NA Silveria Jacobs also asked the Minister to give parliament more explanations on the consultant fees. She asked the Minister to also inform parliament if the debt of NAF 60M was paid to APS and SZV since the former Minister of Finance Richard Gibson did his best since 2015 with his skeleton budgets to clear up St. Maarten debts. The former Minister of Education said what she endured as a Minister with a meager budget is unimaginable especially when schools needed classrooms. She informed the Minister if the NAF60M was used post-IRMA for shelters, or social assistance then that should have been clearly stated in the draft budget.
As for cost-cutting measures MP Jacobs told the Minister that while she was in the administrative branch she discovered some two and half million guilders was overpaid to school bus drivers but it appears as though the current government is not interested in proper cost-cutting measures as that was not touched.
Jacobs asked for clarity on the cuts placed on public education and the cuts applied for the inspectors. She asked the Minister to give parliament more details on the personnel budget because parliament needs to know what the schools be lacking. Jacobs said that the cuts applied to renovation costs for schools also must be explained. The cuts are very alarming and strange. She asked for clarity on the cuts made on social assistance, she asked if there are less needy people on St. Maarten post-IRMA. SZV cuts the NA leader said she wants to know how possible is that when the government owes the institution. Jacobs said that government cannot cut off its nose to spoil its face because the various cuts are not explainable.