PHILIPSBURG–With all that has occurred over the past two years since hurricane Irma and Maria devastated St. Maarten leaving many without homes and jobs, the people who must be feeling it the most are our senior citizens.
She made the statement made by Grisha Heyliger-Martin on Tuesday as she continues to address the issue of inequality within the Kingdom and defend the defenseless. The effect of pension reform has its place in the overall redevelopment plans of the United People’s Party, which her husband former Member of Parliament Theodore Heyliger founded ten years ago.
“The goal I have set where Pension reform is concerned is to ensure that pensioners whose only income is their pension, do not have to be further burdened by having to pay taxes on their small income,” said Heyliger-Martin. She said sadly while St. Maarten is part of the Netherlands Kingdom, the reality is that pensioners within the Netherlands receive about US$1000 more than the pensioner in St. Maarten or elsewhere in the Kingdom.
In The Netherlands, the level of protection was established since the 1960’s, but the politicians in the Caribbean Netherlands never asked for equal protection. We must have access to good quality healthcare, a basic income in keeping with the Cost of Living and a decent pension when we retire.
They will say the islands in the Caribbean Netherlands are autonomous and should execute the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on their own. This Covenant was for the entire Netherlands Kingdom, executable within five years after it was ratified by the Hague 40-years ago. Yes, we did make our own mistakes on St. Maarten after 10-10-10 when the decision was taken to keep the maximum pension at Naf.1000, and it is high time that we fix it.
“My goal is not to create animosity with our partners within the Kingdom, but rather to point out the areas of the relationship that still needs to be worked on so that we can truly feel a sense of equality and our citizens can benefit from a level playing field.”
Today’s pensioner in St. Maarten comprises mainly three types of individuals, those who still have loans to pay which they must continue to pay, those who own or operate a business, and those whose pension is their only source of income.
“Whether you support the UP Party or not, you cannot deny that it is unfair for a 65-year old single female to take Naf.1000, pay taxes, and then pay rent, light and water, and buy food and clothes.”
She said the vision of her husband and the party he built with its new leader is to ensure that if you are a pensioner with only the pension as your income, you are exempt from paying taxes. She further pointed out the challenge and cost involved in these seniors having to find an accountant to help them file Taxes, which must come from their pension, which is less than the minimum wage on St. Maarten.
“Physically challenged persons in our community should also receive some form of exemption, and I challenge anyone who can point out to me how doing this will break the bank of the government,” said Heyliger-Martin.
The role of a Pension Fund is to manage the savings for the retirement of the working class. Each citizen who works and pays into the pension must have a reasonable expectation of a small nest egg that will help him or her get by after they are no longer able to work full time. If this income is again taxed, senior citizens living conditions will continue to decline.