PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Friday questioned Minister of TEATT Ludmila DeWeever about the financial status of the Bureau of Telecommunication & Post, in particular government’s role over the years with the much talked about BTP building in Philipsburg and “who owes who” in the process. Emmanuel also questioned if a person with a legal conviction on his record still sits on the board of BTP.
The MP used his time to speak in the Central Committee meeting to ask the minister how did BTP enhance its revenue generating capacity since its inception after 2010, from which industry segments are revenues generated and he asked the Minister to elaborate on revenue increase or decrease per industry segment and support with the probable cause for the increase or decrease.
MP Emmanuel was particularly interested in BTP’s efforts to collect outstanding concession and frequency fees from the telecommunications market, especially in light of BTP’s announcement that it needed US $784,000 to meet its September to December 2020 commitments. “What is the status now and how many of these commitments were fulfilled?” the MP queried.
“The situation over who owes to BTP and vice versa is always a confused set of information that nobody has been able to get a good grip on. Hopefully the Minister will be open and forthcoming with the information so we can finally understand what is happening with this government owned company,” MP Emmanuel said.
In the same context, the MP asked the Minister if Government was responsible for some of BTP’s debts since government chose not to occupy the building. In fact, the MP pointed out, government reportedly requested an additional two floors to be placed on the building in 2011. He went on to request a copy of all decisions taken by the government regarding his matter and all documentation from BTP.
“The Minister of Finance in a recent publication stated that millions of guilders would have been saved if the building had been utilized from the onset. So the first question that comes to mind is has government’s refusal to occupy the building contributed to this predicament? This indicates that the government had a building available for use, committed to occupy the building, and did not. My research has indicated that the Government had a commitment to rent the entire building in 2011, even asked for two floors to be added to the four-storey building,” the MP said.
“Through the years we have heard many times that BTP is not paying the Government and owes the Government of St. Maarten millions. I believe that the Government also registered a debt for BTP to be paid in the millions, based on BTP Netherlands Antilles accounts receivable listing and funds the Federal Government at the time had to transfer to St. Maarten from the federal budget. We need accurate information,” MP Emmanuel said.
The MP also asked about the status of the BTP board and if a member of the board who was convicted of a crime still holds this position. He said this issue has been lingering since 2019 when the former Chairperson of the Board resigned after government did not take a decision to dismiss the board member in question since retaining his seat on the board after a conviction is against Article 11 of the BTP ordinance.
Among other questions about BTP’s role in regulating internet service providers, the MP asked If BTP can impose fines on TelEm in 2017 for allegedly not providing adequate service to St. Maarten Cable TV’s paying customers, can BTP do the same for poor internet service? “If yes have this ever been done considering the amount of complaints about internet service providers,” the MP asked.