Island Opinions

Island Opinions (734)

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten --- “It seems we’ve got the re-birthed National Alliance version of a past public official who is basically known for fancy worded speeches and no action,” the United People’s Party Board said in a press release. “This Minister is clearly all glitter and no glam with a way to profile the glitter on social media and more so what appears to be an emotional rant,” the UP board stated.
“Education is a major priority for our country as it is an investment into our future and the professional development of our people,” the UP board added. “We have been monitoring the ongoing performance or lack thereof of the sitting Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs who has in some instances taken credit from projects initiated by her predecessor,” stated the UP Party Board. 

“It seems the Minister’s response to us is nothing short of an emotional rant contradicting herself in several aspects of the response. The Minister stated in a media release she has been a reading volunteer at her son’s school and never took a picture to make a political statement. Then why mention this now if that volunteer initiative was truly genuine?” UP Party Board questioned. Additionally, we remain amazed how the Minister could have even mentioned the school busing issue which she had to disband because it jeopardized our own people,” the UP board added.
“Again we reiterate our original call as this Minister has taught in front of classrooms and sat in the managerial role but we’ve yet to see anything tangible happen within the ministry to date besides fancy speeches,” the UP Board added.
“Our education vision remains where we would like to see closer cooperation between the Education Ministry, the Ministry of VROMI and the Ministry of Labor Affairs. We firmly believe that incentives for educators inclusive of providing the necessary materials should be the cornerstone in promoting exceptional teaching within our classrooms for the benefit of our students.  We firmly believe that education needs reform and we are committed to seeing that happen once we return back in government,” the UP board added.

“The current Minister should fest up to her apparent political mileage attempts and change course by actually executing the changes in Education she promised instead throwing blame on any change in government which she enjoys today,” the UP Board concluded. 

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - The landfill (dump) in Philipsburg is on fire again and the perils with the new garbage collection contracts in general have only added to the frustration.

Some might feel that this is open political season and we could now point fingers at the persons who were in charge of areas like Public Works etc. for many years, and under whose responsibility this matter fell.

We could use the lack of visible action by those persons as political ammunition and start to "shoot" at these persons who over the years and for mainly selfish reasons have stalled, turned back, reversed or whatever the case might have been, any plan that had to do with arriving at a solution for the Philipsburg landfill.

However, this blame game will not get us any closer to a solution at this time.

The people of St. Maarten are nevertheless encouraged to look back over the years and see who has been responsible for the stalling and reversing and who even in the recent past have tried to get between GEBE and a possible solution. That again will not get us out of the impasse we are apparently in.

DP leader, Sarah Wescot-Williams: "I have said to my coalition partners that we need to cut to the chase and if e.g. the plan that is now on the table is just sitting there and coming to a power purchase agreement with GEBE does not appear feasible due to cost or economy of scale, then we need to cut it!"

We need to cut to the chase and let go of unfeasible proposals.

Don't let it remain lying on a desk at GEBE, because stakeholders might not want to hear that   once again and because of the passing of time, another plan must be aborted.

Let government make a firm decision if the proposed system for a Waste to Energy plan is not workable and let's move on.

We can understand that the current situation of the board and management of GEBE does not contribute to a speedy decision, but it is also a fact that GEBE has had this proposal for some time now.

And so although the DP hopes for a speedy decision with respect to management and board of GEBE, we do not believe the decision of "go or no-go" should depend on such.

In addition, we recently had a new contract for the management of the landfill signed. That contract was on the basis of how things were and how things used to be done.

"If we consider the fact that even if we were to reach a firm agreement for a Waste-to-Energy or any other system to dispose of our garbage today, it would allegedly take 18 months to 2 years before operation, the management of the dump in our opinion needs to be revisited."

The question to consider in that case would be: can rehabilitation of the existing dump take place while getting the new system up and running?

We really hope so.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Technology has long enabled security checks to be executed at Airports. These security checks were further enhanced globally after 9/11 with more advanced scanning systems.

Looking back at the security conducted through the years and recent terror attacks it is evident that the security focus too long was solely placed on the traveler about to embark on a journey. Strange enough no real security facilities/systems are in place to scan and monitor all movement through departure and arrival areas of airports.

Strange it is indeed as these areas always have large gatherings of people lugging luggage around totally unrestricted and boundless access from the road. It is unfortunate that no prior attention was paid to this vulnerability and now measures will be developed post tragedy instead of as a prevention. Measures all travelers will welcome, to suffice a dire need to feel safe and secure.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will surely be at the basis of the future security measures to be implemented, yet current facilities should be further enhanced as can redress safety concerns.

The advantage of online check-ins: All airlines should be required to provide online check-in portals that actually work well. Many large Airlines provide a check-in portals however often not open to international travelers. Online check-in however is a means to prevent the long check-in lines, and so large gatherings in airport departure halls. Mere bag drops would permit for a faster movement through the departure terminal. Yet facilities will be required that can screen the contents of bags and persons as they enter the airport.

The latter can be expected within short, and rest assure ICT will provide those systems. The disadvantage of online check-in is that not all travelers may have access to internet connectivity preventing access to and the use of check-in portals, prior to travel. The availability of check-in terminals can however mitigate this disadvantage.

Curbside check-in offered at certain airports is another means to enhance security, in the event entry into the airport areas is done with prior security screening. Is this paranoia or the introduction of a system one would imagine to be part of that futuristic world portrayed in the Jetsons. Can we expect within short that all wanting access to airports would have to pass through a security screening? Will airport security evolve to the implementation and use of massive scanners of persons, vehicles and luggage venturing on airport facilities? Whilst it is not yet clear how the world will respond, and which standards for security will be developed, it is imminent that unrestricted access to airports will be a thing of the past.

We may not expect luggage drop off for transport through a security conveyer belt from the moment we seek a parking ticket or seek access to drop off or a screening ramp for vehicles entering the airport area , for that all may be deemed to futuristic. Rest assure the new screening tools will be ICT based and will constitute the next generation is security screening.

As airports are not the sole targets for acts of terrorism, many other means of public transportation, access to concert areas, public parks etc. will see the implementation of new and more advanced security measures, to detect the presence of explosives. Security perimeters will now be placed further away from buildings and events to mitigate impact. Security officers will not become obsolete, but a greater need for ICT security means will be required, as these means detect what the eye may not. ICT will be required to aid secure travel by bus, train, metro or by any vehicle on our roadways.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The Minister of Education is and always has been an educator at heart, and is solely motivated by this fact to work together with others to bring improvements to education in order to meet the needs of our population.

It is rather disappointing that an initiative such as Education on the Move (EOM), aimed at bringing much needed awareness about education and collaboration within the community, is being touted by the opposition as a political move, especially seeing their recent, obvious interference in ongoing discussions in education, as well as the school bussing issue.

The Minister’s record speaks for itself, she has always sought to bring more voices into the discussion before decisions are taken, sought the approval and input of those expected to carry out initiatives, and worked towards same whether in our out of government. Many of the initiatives now coming to fruition were part of the priorities of the Minister since 2012, which started with education conferences at all levels. Some of the initiatives have progressed while others had slowed down due to changing priorities with the changes in government over the years. However, the Minister was still pleased to see that many initiatives remained ongoing, as it is the organization which executes most if not all of them. The Education Care Center, more after school programs, IT in the classrooms and more opportunities for our students’ needs in special education, sports and arts to be met, as well as the extension of the school day are still priorities for the Minister. However, the implementation of the latter had to be postponed due to lack of clarity among stakeholders including teachers and parents, budget constraints, as well as the environment of current classrooms not being up to par. All these issues must be dealt with before we can execute the extension of the school day in a responsible manner.

The Minister would like to thank the EOM committee for standing together as educators in the Ministry as well as out in the field of education, for meeting weekly from the beginning to come up with ways to motivate the community to be more involved in education and to motivate teachers and educators to keep on giving their all. Their dedication to achieving this goal continues to inspire the Minister even in the light of the political games that continue to be played with such sensitive topics. Do not be discouraged by those who seek to derail your vision.

The Minister did not run to the papers crying politics when the opposition sought to cause discord among teachers; she simply met with teachers and management to reassure them that the organization was diligently working on their concerns. Nor did the Minister neglect to meet with the school bus owners association once she realized that the policy framework and terms of reference that had been approved by the UP led government (August 2015) had not included any discussion with the school bus owners, and that the TEATT Ministry was actually working on its own policy and presented it to the school bus owners in October of 2015. The Minister just sought to clarify the situation to all concerned, after realizing that the former government’s two ministries were not working together to resolve the school bussing challenges and halted the process to allow collaboration. Currently the two ministries are working together to come to a viable short term and long term solution, which will be shared with the School bus owners association.

This Minister has been a reading volunteer at her son’s school as soon as she was working in the Philipsburg area, and has continued to be present, while never taking a picture to make a political statement. The Minister has always supported reading initiatives whether in or out of government, reading at Literacy events, whether at the Library or just recently at USM. The Minister has consistently sought the support of other parents and volunteers to give their time to the youth, whether in schools, after school activities or organized sports and arts. It is through this initiative that the Minister charged her staff to establish a committee which would work on the promotion of Education within the community, the “how” was left up to them.

The Minister challenged schools and members of the community to D.E.A.R. on Friday last as a first activity of EOM, and because it was not done for political gain, did not see it fit to go to schools and take pictures doing so. However, the Minister did encourage schools and parents to post pictures of themselves reading. Minister Jacobs was very pleased to attend the Oranje School Book week opening ceremony on Monday morning and say a few words to the school on the 29th anniversary of their Book Week celebration. This initiative by a school is a great example of Education on the Move and will be encouraged in all schools. All schools will be expected to execute a program geared at promoting literacy in the students, staff and parents of the school. The recently held literacy activity of the MAC Browlia Milliard grade 2 teachers at USM was a pleasure to experience and one the Minister would repeat in every school given the opportunity.

EOM simply seeks to highlight best practices that are already in place and encourage others to do more to promote education and learning in and out of schools. The Minister also looks forward to reading to a group of students on Thursday morning as part of the Book week events planned by the Oranje School.

As the Dutch saying goes, “Zoals de waard is vertrouwt hij zijn gasten” which means, the host judges his guests as he himself is! So if the UP feels that this promotion of education is political, it is only because that may have been their motivation, had they thought of it. The Minister of ECYS Ms. Jacobs stands on principle of working towards improving all areas within the Ministry she is charged with, and looks forward to the communities support for the initiative which will benefit the students and lifelong learners of St. Maarten. Education remains the most powerful tool to change St. Maarten, but all hands are needed on deck. Thank you St. Maarten for the support of this initiative.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - "Education is the main building block for any forward thinking democracy and we stand firm behind that belief," the United People’s Party (UP) board stated. 

"We are still reeling from the new education program titled, education on the move, of Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs which was recently unveiled. It wreaks nothing short of a campaign ploy on the eve of a critical parliamentary election for our country," the UP board added. 

"The new project alludes to reading but her support and visibility in any of the public or privatized schools was zero at the initial start date," the UP board empathically stated. 

The UP board went on to add, "In August the minister plans to disrupt regular school for what wreaks of a hidden election tactic to keep her in office by marching with no tangible objective to remedy the issues affecting education. We simply do not condone this as disrupting valuable teachable hours for our children in classrooms is of paramount importance to their continued educational growth." 

"Imagine this same Minister was critical of our MP Tamara Leonard as she genuinely supported teachers of the public schools and today nothing of substance is coming out of the education ministry," the UP board stated. 

"We are calling on the general public to remain vigilant of these apparent campaign ploys as the Ministers postponement of extended hours for public education schools adds to the list. Wasn't it this same education minister that initiated the idea for extended school hours for public education schools?  Our education system is moving back under this current minister," the UP board questioned.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten -

April 15, 2016

Honorable Minister Richard Gibson

The Government Administration Building

Clem Labega Square

Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Attention: Mr. Richard Gibson

                 Minister of Finance

Dear Mr. Richard Gibson,

     We have taken note of your statement indicating that it is your prerogative as Minister of Finance to impose a tax of six (6%) on goods imported into St. Maarten via the airport and we would imagine via the harbor also as per your discussion with the management of the Princess Juliana International Airport. You have also stated that one of your reasons is also because the business community is complaining about a reduction in business by some 30% that is partly being caused due to the importation of these goods by citizens of this country.

     The OSPP supports all measures that can be taken legally by the government to increase the treasury of the government of St. Maarten. It is for that reason that as a political party not represented in the parliament of St. Maarten or the government we have submitted various proposals to the parliament of St. Maarten during the 2016 budget debate. We proposed the installation of parking meters in the Philipsburg area that would generate additional income for the government and would create more jobs as parking attendants would be needed to monitor those meters. It would also increase the convenience of parking for the people coming to Philipsburg to shop and to conduct business. We also proposed a government tax for garbage collection; the setting up of the St. Maarten Sports Lottery and the implementation of some sort of import duties on alcohol and tobacco. Studies have indicated that the increase in the cost of health care in the Netherlands is attributed to the excessive usage of tobacco and alcohol. We believe that this is also the case in St. Maarten even though no studies have been conducted as yet.

     In reference to the reduction by some 30% of business by the business community we would want to conclude that this is due partially to the high prices that they are charging the consumers and the quality of their products. Many consumers also feel that in some cases, especially in the area of electronics that they are purchasing refurbished products at an alarming high price. But just imagine that a person orders a product from the U.S.A. and it cost U.S. $ 200.00 and the freight by boat is $ 25.00 and even with a six (6%) percent Turn Over Tax the cost of the product to the consumer would be $237.00. That same product in a store in St. Maarten would cost the consumer U.S. $ 400.00. As you can see your introduction of a six percent Turn Over Tax would not deter the consumer from buying on line. Secondly, how are you planning to introduce this Turn over Tax on these goods? Isn’t this tax supposed to be part of the selling price of the product? Will this tax be considered a sales tax and is this legislation already in place? Will St. Maarten be introducing an import duty only on these products that are purchased on line? Is this measure being considered in order to punish our people by forcing them to buy locally at astronomical high prices and to purchase refurbished products?

     The OSPP believes that the business community must realize that the worldwide economy is not like it was many years ago. Business like government will have to try to make do with a smaller amount. And this, the business community can achieve by reducing their selling prices and indirectly their bottom line, namely their profit margin. They must also begin by selling good products and not refubished. Secondly, the government of St. Maarten that owns 100% shares of NV GEBE and the Harbour Group of Companies N.V. should reduce their rates that they are charging the business community for those services. These savings should be passed on to the general public and the consumers will prefer buying locally as opposed to buying on line for a savings of perhaps U.S. $ 20.00 to U.S. $ 30.00. This would be a win, win, win for all, the government would generate additional income; the business community would increase their profit margin comparing to now and the consumers will acquire a product at a reasonable price here on the island and hopefully a non-refurbished one.

   We hope that you will consider our proposals and together we can give our economy a small boost.

   We are hereby including copies of the proposals that were submitted to the Parliament of St. Maarten during the 2016 budget debate.

Yours truly,

One St. Maarten People Party

Lenny F. Priest

Leader of the OSPP


cc: The Parliament of St. Maarten

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten – The One St. Maarten People Party has taken note of the statements of the Minister of Finance, the Honourable Mr. Richard Gibson to impose a 6% tax on goods purchased on line and his concerns about a 30% reduction of business reported by the business community.

As a political party we are also very concerned when we hear about such a reduction in business because most of the time this also results in the loss of jobs, a very scarce commodity now in St. Maarten. And most of the time it is our people that are the first to be affected by the loss of jobs.

The OSPP has forwarded a letter to the Minister of Finance, Honorable Mr. Richard Gibson informing him that imposing any type of tax on the importation of goods that were purchased on line would not deter the public from buying those products.

Firstly, even with the implementation of a 6% tax on those goods the cost of those products would still remain lower than the prices that these same goods are sold for in our stores. Secondly, the general public feels that most of the products purchased locally, especially electronics are refurbished goods.

   In our letter to Minister Gibson we questioned how his ministry is planning to introduce this tax. Will it be a Turn Over Tax? If such, this tax must be part of the selling price and the seller from the country of origin of the products would have to collect it and pass it on to the government of St. Maarten? This is very unlikely. If the airport and the harbour are assigned to collect this tax then it is a Sales Tax. “Do we have this legislation in place we asked the Minister of Finance? One other way to collect this tax that the Minister of Finance is proposing would be in the form of an Import Duty. Is the government of St. Maarten willing to introduce import duties on these products only? If the answer to this question is yes, then we would like the government of St. Maarten to also consider our proposal to introduce an import duty on alcohol and tobacco.

During the 2016 Budget debate we submitted various motions to the Parliament of St. Maarten including one to implement an import duty on alcohol and tobacco. Studies in the Netherlands have indicated that the increase in the cost of health care is attributed to the excessive usage of alcohol and tobacco. We believe that this may also be the case in St. Maarten however no studies have been conducted in this area as yet.

Once again we have submitted the same motions to the Minister of Finance that were submitted to the Parliament of St. Maarten during the 2016 budget debate, namely; the installation of parking meters in the Philipsburg area; a government tax for garbage collection; the setting up of the St. Maarten Sports Lottery and the implementation of some sort of import duties on alcohol and tobacco just to name a few.

We also suggest to the minister to consider reducing the cost of energy to the businesses and the rates that they are charging for containers at the harbour. These savings would be passed on to the consumers.

NV GEBE and the Harbour Group of Companies are owned 100% by the government of St. Maarten and by extension the people of St. Maarten. Let’s not punish our people but let’s improve on the quality of their lives by reducing the cost of living to start with.

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - Through time we have sought destinations away from home for our leisure. In creating traditions annual family vacation were often planned and enjoyed to bond, enhance the love for one another and to have joyful experiences.

Experiences to last a lifetime. In fact through such vacations permitted exposure to other cultures and religions bringing a vast knowledge and experience that would permit us to better partake in the world.

Throughout our youth many of us were rewarded with travel abroad after having completed a school year successfully. Travel was for a longtime associated with, pleasure, adventure, and mere enhancement of personal wellbeing. Travel however is undertaken with greater frequency for business.

Business growth and so economic development have been contingent on expansion of market opportunities exceeding borders. Whilst telecommunications now enable business to be undertaken anywhere any time, in a global environment this means of communication has not mitigated the importance of travel. So travel is done by means of vehicular transport (over continents having such connections), by train, ship or aircraft. In an article written by Chris Isidore for CNN money[i] the many means of travel were compared based on the number of fatalities over a five year period. It was established that scale most dangerous to least dangerous was represented as follows: Motorcycles-cars and trucks-trains-metros/subways-busses-planes.

One may assume that these figures were based on the fatalities caused during a crash of such transportation means. However anno 2016 we should question if the fatalities which occur in and around airports, train stations and metro stations should be considered as fatalities related to the transportation means being sought. Terrorism attacks have in a short period of time made most means of mass transportation to be the most dangerous means of transportation.

The utilization of aircrafts, the bombing of metro stations and recent bombings in the departure hall of the Brussels airport are just some of the examples in which the use of certain transportation means are targeted, simply because of the greater number of people that are transported by such means at any given time. For years we believed that travel by air or by train were by far the safest means of transportation, that believe is now rapidly dissipating. The use of such transportation means now may make us sitting ducks in and enclosed pond, highly vulnerable to malicious attacks.

The open borders in Europe once seen as the means to attain a European Union, a higher form of economic development through trade and free movement of people, may now be the cause of its vulnerability to terrorist attacks. It is suggested that many more attacks are in the planning and probably execution phase, cautioning travel to Europe. Yet we have seen that acts of terrorism are not confined to any area, continent or country.

In fact its non-discriminatory nature is the reason why no country can become complacent or deem itself not a target. With that being said would it be conceivable that travelers would find themselves playing Russian roulette with their lives every time travel by aircraft, train, metro or even by ship was ventured? That realization may have far fetching consequences for destinations strongly dependent on tourism. How do we ensure that travel through these means remains the least dangerous means of transportation? What is required to maintain safety and security so that travel not only for business but for leisure continues? Has St Maarten embarked on this journey to ensure that travel to the country remains a desired and safe option? World events as far as they may seem, can have an impact on us so it is essential that mechanisms are put in place in the country to aid in the fight against acts of terrorism.

Compliance with FATF recommendations as set forth in the AML/CFT (Anti Money Laundering /Combating the financing of terrorism) standards is a step in the right direction.

What’s the safest way to travel May 13, 2015


PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - What past do St. Martiners (Sint Maarteners & Saint Martinoise) long for, when they talk about the good old days? St. Martiners have been described as those Born Here and those Born to be Here.

This nonethnic and non-racial definition, brilliantly introduced by the honourable governor of the island, Drs. Eugene Holiday, is meant to be both accommodating and normative. St Martiners are those who put the island first. They are patriots, persons who love the island. Dr. Louis Jeffry who can trace back his ancestry to the time of slavery, and Father Charles, the island’s revered Catholic priest, who was born on Saint Lucia, equally qualify.

I found this definition rather inclusive until I spoke to my long-time friend, Ruford Serrant, who I dare say was one of the first St. Martiners I got to know. Ruford was born on Dominica but having arrived on the island at a young age, he knows the island inside out. He is one of those Born to be Here St. Martiners. I fell in love with the island due to persons like him. For Ruford St. Martiners were simply those persons Who Are Here.

Among all of those Who Are Here, you will encounter many who are not deeply patriotic, in other words, those who are not necessarily in love with the island.  They may be here on St. Martin as a means to escape poverty and earn a decent living, a step towards career advance, a rite de passage after graduating, an internship, a flight from an oppressive family, or as a way to get rich quick. In addition, Ruford continued there were those who were Born Here—locals—who simply feel that the powers that be have abandoned them, and they actually did not want to be Here. Knowing my position, he reasoned that the mission of education was to find a way of making all those Who Are Here—who are fed up— acquire a sense that they were Born to be Here.

I took his advice earnestly, and recognized that one had to start listening with a charitable ear to the cries of dissatisfaction of those Who Are Here. When they state their anger in terms of “long ago things were better when locals were in charge” or “where I come from we do it better” or “this is such a corrupt country”, it is quite unhelpful to answer them by calling them a “xenophobic racist” or telling them “you too ungrateful, go back to your own country”. Engagement with them about the past they are referring to clarified matters for them and for me, and made me better able to hear and recognize their cries as a plea for more decency.

Here is what I learnt:  
The past and the former country the dissatisfied here on St. Martin refer to is not something that ever was. It is a country to come and a past in the making. I will limit my examples to the St. Martiners from the Netherlands and the St. Martiners referred to as locals. Locals who speak about the good old days, are surely not referring to the days when those with a lighter skin tone would refer to their darker skinned brothers and sisters as niggas. They are not talking about the days when the latter group could not reside in Simpson Bay. They are not talking about the days when those with money and political power and a proper surname, regardless of the colour of their skin, had to be called mister and miss
even when one knew that they were cheating and oppressing you (the poor white and black locals). They are referring to the dream and the work they did to create a society where all locals enjoyed the benefit of upward mobility, showed respect towards each other, and displayed solidarity regardless of name, skin, or size of pocketbook and they sense that this dream is being impeded by the indecency and greed of the powerful today.   
Similarly, when St. Martiners from the Netherlands rave about the enlightened nature of their place of birth, they are not talking about the country that after World War 2 engaged in the murdering of 150.000 Indonesians who simply wanted their independence, nor are they referring to the terrible fact that of the 140.000 Jews residing in the Netherlands, 107.000 were deported to Nazi Germany (the Netherlands ranks highest percentage wise with regard to the extermination of Jews during the war). And they were not talking about the country that bore the blight of being a slave trader and slave maker; or the discrimination of Catholics up until the 1950s, or their former country’s wilful participation in a global socioeconomic system that is strangling the vast majority of humankind.  I understood that what they are referring to is their hope to live in a country that lived up to the creed of equality, liberty, and fraternity.

These examples can be multiplied by talking about the Indian-St. Martiners, the American St. Martiners, etc. Time and again I found that the past and the country they are referring to actually never existed. It is a thing of the future. Among all those Who Are Here, there is a longing to inhabit a future where respect, solidarity, liberty, equality, and fraternity is concretized by having upward mobility as the norm; this is what binds us; our common pursuit; yet regrettable we often forget it.

To get there, to get to this Promised Land where everyone is valid and feels validated, we will all have to plant the seeds for this future. In conversations with Ruford and several of the signatories of this piece, the USM has come up with a ritual enactment that will make us remember what binds us. It is based upon a St. Martin that the old folks know. One where there was an abundance of fruit trees on the hill tops that allowed everyone some nutrition; trees that were fairly sturdy against wind storms. In the ideal past they were part of the commons: the property of all, and thus cared for by all. St. Martiners of various social classes met each other and exchanged while picking fruit. It was our public sphere. I can remember as a little boy following Ruford up the hills where we enjoyed mangoes and tamarind with boys and girls from other neighbourhoods. And I am sure many of you who have been on the island for some time have similar experiences. To be together and to hear each other, we have to leave our comfort zones.

Coming October the Student Government Association (SGA) of the USM, chaired by Ms. Kiran Manglani, will do hikes throughout the island and replant the fruit trees on our many hills. The American University of the Caribbean (AUC) has also committed. We will need the help of experts in hiking, persons who know about planting, and business and individuals who are willing to donate seeds—of mango, tamarind, knepa, cashew, and other fruit trees. The coming weeks and months, SGA representatives will be contacting you—and you can contact us—to make this a reality. The SGA, board, management, staff of the USM, and the list of distinguished signatories, pledge to do weekly hikes for 12 months caring for these seedlings as their commitment to remember what we share in common.

On these hikes and care for our common habitat, the island, St. Martiners of all walks of life will have the opportunity to dialogue about that which matters most to them in a respectful manner, and establish friendships and create partnerships for the betterment of all. Join us and let us converse truthfully with each other while we plant the seeds of our past in the making. A public meeting and a press conference will be organized after the carnival period to further concretize this collective effort with you.

Authored by Dr. Francio Guadeloupe – President of the University of St. Martin Lorraine Talmi – President of the SHTA Kiran Manglani – President of the USM Student Government Association
Cosignatories Tamara Leonard – Member of Parliament Leona Marlin – Romeo – Member of Parliament Dr. Cornelius DeWeever – Member of Parliament Maurice Lake – Member of Parliament Silveria Jacobs – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet – Chairwoman or Social Economic Council Mercedes Wyatt Wycliffe Smith Jordie Halman –  Researcher The University of Amsterdam    Micheal Benjamin – Integrated Health and Rehab

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten - During the recent budget deliberations in Parliament the query on how a higher tax compliance would be ensured was answered by the Minister of Finance along the lines that prompter action would be undertaken after one issued warrant of payment to the tax payer. This response seemed to satisfy the Member of Parliament who posted the question. This response however suggests that higher tax compliance will be sought from those tax payers who are already in the system and paying taxes.

These taxpayers are too often confronted with bogus assessments on supposed late payments, simply because the receiver and the tax department do not have a synchronized system permitting the latter to instantaneously view the payments made by the receiver. Almost on a monthly basis tax payers are forced to issue payment receipts, issued by the receiver, to the tax department in protest of a baseless warrant for payment (due to supposed non-payment or late payment) issued by the tax department. If this protest (sending a proof of payment from their own system back) is not filed the promised new actions may not be prevented.

Yes, at times the tax payer may not have paid enough and receives a warrant for additional payment. In such cases immediate real action to collect may be expected sooner, well soon after all legal remedies have been exhausted.

Yet this promise of prompter action alone will not translate in enhanced tax compliance in the country. For it is not only those who are registered and paying taxes that are supposed to bring about a higher compliance. Is it not a fact that currently a small portion of society is carrying a far larger portion of not registered, non tax paying entities? Enhanced tax compliance should coincide with the promise to broaden the tax payer base and to ensure that those who are operating outside of the system are introduced to the obligations others have fulfilled for years.

To highlight a few examples of entities that should be brought in to broaden the tax payer base:

1] There are so many entities who enjoy a tax holiday without expiry date. The tax holiday was intended to permit a viable start-up to these businesses. Being in business for years now may be a reason to assume that the tax holiday may now be withdrawn and these businesses may now be included in the group of tax payers.

2] Businesses, not registered or licensed, are offering products and services, generating revenues outside the system and having no contribution obligation as they are not known. The fact that these businesses are undermining our secure business environment is one consequence, that they are permitted to engage in unfair competition practices is another.

3] Some individuals, who should be part of the tax payer group, simply abuse the dual tax system between Dutch and French St. Maarten and ultimately do not contribute in any jurisdiction. These individuals declare at our tax department that they are declaring and paying on the French side and on the French side they declare to have a foreign income and are paying in a foreign territory. The Tax department on the Dutch side seems to be satisfied with that declaration and undertakes nothing to verify with the French counterpart on this declaration and payment. So many prominent and outstanding citizens, misuse this dual tax system, generate an income and pay no one.

4] Then there are the villa rentals conducted, through which revenues are generated in the Island, yet it remains unclear if this income is taxed in any jurisdiction.

Is this not a tax compliance issue as well even if it can easily be qualified as tax evasion? Yet no one deals with these forms of tax evasion (permitted or not), and of course that is simply because these evaders are not known. The promised actions above can only help to enhance the tax compliance of the known tax payer who did not file or pay correctly when prosecuted for tax evasion. The real tax evaders look on, comment and criticize those “caught” for improper tax compliance.

The need for more revenues by the country should have placed a focus on this segment of society as well, instead of a continued focus only on those known and within easy reach. Enhancement of tax compliance is therefore much more and should be much more than the promised action against the known tax payers. Enhancement of tax compliance should include all those businesses in operation under the radar and all those citizens who peddle between Dutch and French side. A simple declaration that you are declaring elsewhere should not be sufficient, this declaration should at least be supported by a copy of that foreign declaration filed. That is a start and not a costly one at that. We can only hope that tax compliance from all will be sought and not just from a few.

Page 9 of 53

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