~ Still waiting on Finance Minister ~
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — A statement on St. Maarten’s liquidity position by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and a non-statement by Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion on the same subject, is resulting in more confusion from the NA/UP government, said Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel on Tuesday, adding that the game of making general and empty statements by government continues to do a disservice to the country.
MP Emmanuel pointed out that on Monday, as quoted in The Daily Herald, the Prime Minister “boastfully said” that the country is not flat on its back when it comes to finances and that “we do have for sure enough liquidity for us to continue to have this discussion.” The PM was referring to talks with State Secretary Knops regarding the freezing of liquidity support for St. Maarten.
The very same day, Emmanuel continued, the Minister of Finance was in Parliament and was asked what St. Maarten’s current liquidity position is. He could not answer and assured Parliament that it would receive the answer that same day. That information has not been provided Emmanuel said, “and has never been provided by the Finance Minister who have been asked for this specific information for months.”
MP Emmanuel said the Prime Minister has to realize that at this stage, general and empty statements only makes her government look worse. “What have we heard from this Prime Minister when it comes to St. Maarten’s finances? We heard that we had no choice. We heard that cutting salaries and benefits was a must. We heard that we were dead broke so we had to accept draconian conditions. All of a sudden now, we have liquidity. But what does this mean exactly?” MP Emmanuel asked.
He questioned if the PM’s statement means that St. Maarten can now meet its financial obligations and if so for how long. “Do we have enough confidence in the economy now to say we are good moving forward? What is this based on exactly? Will this mean getting the law enforcement personnel their money? Can we go back to overtime pay and lift the cuts on civil servant benefits? And what about the vacation pay that the Audit Chamber said was cut illegally? Does it mean that you are in a position to tell State Secretary Knops to keep his money? What is it?” the MP questioned.
He continued: “The Prime Minister made it sound like St. Maarten’s current liquidity is at a level where it somehow gives her leverage in a discussion with the Dutch about liquidity support. And if so, why have we not heard her say thanks, but no thanks, if the conditions for liquidity support are as bad as she says they are. The Prime Minister seems to be grasping at any opportunity to sound credible but still cannot or is incapable of speaking plainly and telling the truth. There are contradictions on almost everything.”
As for Finance Minister Irion, Emmanuel said he has asked the Minister since mid-2020, before the government signed the agreement with Holland, what exactly the country’s liquidity position is. “Not a word from the Finance Minister. Yet, the picture was painted that we had to accept the Dutch conditions, literally based on his word and no factual information. As usual, here we are again, still no answer but the PM can boast that we are not on our back. So if we are not on our back, tell us how are we standing?”