PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — “St. Maarten is not Bonaire, it won’t be as easy as you think,” says Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel in reaction to an article published by The Daily Herald last week in which CFT Chairman Raymond Gradus made references to increasing taxes on St. Maarten.
In that article Gradus is quoted as saying: “I think that more taxes should be levied in St. Maarten, and not less. The tax burden is low in St. Maarten, while the expenditure level is rather high. The Dutch government is now providing liquidity support. However, that is not forever. We are calling for an increase in taxes in St. Maarten and a reduction of expenditures.” Gradus also said: “Property tax is an efficient tax which is easy to levy, much more so than taxes on capital.
In response, MP Emmanuel said the CFT is telling the people of St. Maarten quite blatantly that “we are coming to tax you and tax your property. If you can’t pay up, we are taking that property. The CFT can say this because the government of St. Maarten has been dishonest about the increased role that the CFT will have along with the COHO (Caribbean Organization for Reform and Development). I have told my people that it is a takeover and the comments of the Chairman of the CFT show it,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP said that all legislation has to come to the floor of Parliament and it would be inconceivable that this government would bring legislation to tax people more, tax generational properties, after trying to cut salaries and benefits. “So we cut your money, but we want you to pay more taxes. We cut your money, but that piece of property you have sitting there you better pay up else we taking it. These will be interesting times in St. Maarten but I can assure the Chairman of the CFT one thing; St. Maarten is not Bonaire. It won’t go down as you envision, it won’t be as easy as you think,” MP Emmanuel stressed.
He went on to state that in the country packages that will be coming up for debate soon in Parliament there is mention of the possible imposing of a VAT tax (Value Added Tax) on St. Maarten. He explained that a VAT tax is very regressive. “Simply put, your basic products, bread, eggs, butter ect would become more expensive,” the MP said.
“It is a tax on consumption which means that poorer households pay the most. Most of the tax dollars that are generated by a VAT come from those who can least afford to pay them. “A VAT is also usually added to other taxes. SO we have a %5 TOT and now want to add a 12.5% VAT? This is not sustainable on SXM. Why would government agree for this in a country package knowing that costs would be passed on to the consumer?
“The same CFT Chairman also mentioned increasing the pension age to 66 or 67. Well something must be wrong with my people for working hard, taking less pay and benefits and now working till 67? When do you get to enjoy your years? The CFT, the Dutch government and the COHO finally believe that they have St. Maarten where they want it because they believe they have a complicit government. They forget the people will have a say,” MP Emmanuel said.