Heyliger: Government, MOT must be clearer to businesses about measures

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PHILIPSBURG – Government via the Financial Intelligence Unit MOT must be clearer to the business community and residents about MOT policies and why the rules on St. Maarten vastly differs from that of the United States and elsewhere, said United People’s (UP) party leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger on Monday.

The role of the MOT as the vanguard of the country’s financial standing in the world is understood and is indeed vital, said Heyliger. “Measures are needed. However, if the measures are not properly and thoroughly explained, businesses and residents will continue to be affected and at a loss about the way forward.”

Credit card purchases on St. Maarten over US $10,000 must be accompanied by a copy of a buyer’s passport and a statement about the origin of the funds. This is a different approach than the United States and many other countries where such a requirement do not exist for credit card purchases.

“The United States is our largest trading partner by way of the number of cruise ship and stayover passengers we get daily and annually from that country. Why is our approach different? This must be better explained and, where possible, changed,” said Heyliger.

“Take for example cruise ship passengers. They leave the ships often with just an ID card and a credit card, not their passport. What is a business to do when one of these passengers wants to make a purchase over the US $10,000 limit? Are they to tell the shopper to go back to the ship for their passport? In such a case, businesses may as well tell cruise ship passengers ‘your money is not good here’ and let the money go to another island,” said Heyliger.

“Cash, of course, requires scrutiny, but this issue with credit cards has made St.Maarten less of a attraction in attracting the global shopper. With the economy is severely hurting, these measures are not good for business. Mind you, these measures on credit cards do not exist outside of St.Maarten,” said the UP leader.

Representatives of the MOT met with Parliament’s Committee for Finance over week ago on the request of Heyliger. The meeting was called to give MPs a clearer understanding of MOT’s functioning and challenges.

“My request for that meeting was an attempt to not only get information, but to communicate to the MOT the challenges being faced in the community,” Heyliger said.

“Inspite of calls for a review of the policies and measures, last week the MOT again called for businesses to adhere to their directives of the past. It is as though the meeting with Parliament and the request of MPs never happened. This is going against what was told to Parliament by the MOT,” said Heyliger.

The UP leader calls on MOT to again look at its economically damaging measures and find a way that allows St. Maarten to  continue to be attractive to shoppers and safe in the financial world.

Heyliger also called on Government and the management of MOT to sit with businesses, banks, St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a  open and transparent dialogue about the impact of MOT’s measures “before we fall to far behind.”