PHILIPSBURG – United People’s (UP) Party Member of Parliament (MP) Maurice Lake has mixed feelings about Tuesdays Parliament meeting with respect to the agreement between ZEBEC and the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies.
“No matter the agreement is legal and according to the law but if you look at it from an ethical and moral point of view I have mixed feelings. The Minister did a good job of answering the questions but he also raised some eyebrows with certain answers.
“I also am looking forward from the Minister to receive in writing the SZV written investment policy and their investment plan for the year or for the next five years for the people of Sint Maarten. The reason I asked this question is because most Institutions, Foundations or Government Owned Companies sit on a lot of monies but don’t have an investment plan for the people of Sint Maarten.
“They operate more on an adhoc basis and based on the situation and who is in power which is not good. Since I was in Government I have never seen a written investment plan for the people from these institutions.
“I was happy with the meeting because I have also learnt that SZV has set a trend where they can also invest in other projects with a return on investment for the people of Sint. Maarten. I am amazed that SZV, APS Pension Fund, sit on millions and have this 60/40 rule but after 10 10-10 have done little investment into our people and local economy, and that is a shame. Why they don’t invest within their island but prefer to lose the money investing abroad.
“Since these entities complain that there must be a return on investment for them and they had little proposals for local investments, I am going to encourage some local institutions and government to write some proposals that meet their criteria for local funding and they can also get their return on investment. As MP Leona Marlin-Romeo stated, if SZV can invest in the harbour, they can invest into our local University of St. Martin expansion plan and programs, the new Government Building and the expansion of the Hospital.
“Why they can’t invest in affordable housing for our local professionals which is a return on investment, invest in improving SZV health care and improving the service for the senior citizens and the people, create preventative plans for the people by educating the public of their improved services, medication and vitamins for the people and create financing by giving soft loans for local small business development and local entrepreneurs?
“Based on Integrity and all the discussions of checks and balances, I would like to know how an interim Managing Director can sign off on a 10 million dollar loan of the people’s money without the Board enforcing checks and balances. There should be a limit of Naf. 250.000 a Managing Director being able to sign off but on such a large sum of millions you need the Board’s approval, Investment Team of SZV and Government.
“We can’t have Managing Directors spending the people’s money without holding them accountable for it. That’s why I say in the House of the people, we need to review and update most of the articles of incorporation of Foundations and Government Owned Companies for them to be more transparent, open and accountable where it concerns the people’s business. Government has to come with some rules for Managing Directors to sign off on a certain amount but needs to Board approval.
“Since SZV set a new trend, I would like to know how much investment they did over the years for persons who are physically challenged and our senior citizens. I understand that SZV can only invest where they can get a financial return.
“I would like to know how much funds have been used over the previous years from the AVBZ funds for the elders and handicaps. I am sure a lot of seniors and handicaps don’t know much about these funds that exist for them. If there are not much funds in the AVBZ, please let the people know because they are paying a premium for these funds.
“I understand SZV looking for a financial return to regenerate monies for generations to come. The 60/40 rule which is implemented by the Central Bank, but then we need to see more investments into our economy and people.
“Prior to 10 10 10, we never did any investments at all and that’s why these institutions need to develop a yearly investment plan instead of investing in an adhoc manner.
“As a Community spirited person and a Representative of the people, I had some good and bad experiences with SZV which needs some serious improvements on communication with the service patient referrals, and following up with patient’s payments abroad.
“I had the opportunity to go to the Senior Citizens 5th Anniversary Celebrations at the Roman Catholic Church while the seniors was complaining to the Governor and the Minister of Education about the service at these institutions and Government needs to create a one stop shop for the seniors to get any kind of document from Government Departments. A lot of local families and senior citizens are upset with the long process of standing hours in line or are told to go and come back to get assistance or medical referrals for their family member or themselves.
“Civil servants need to understand they are there to serve the people and you are not doing the customer/patient any favours especially in a life and death situation. These are areas SZV needs to spend some money to improve their services to the people of Sint Maarten.
“In closing, we need to get back to basics and start investing into our people and local economy and start making decisions in the best interest of the people and Sint Maarten instead of making decisions in the best interest of politics,” United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Hon. Maurice Lake said on Thursday.