PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Independent Member of Parliament Christophe Emmanuel said that the non-answers and unclear answers provided at the recent budget 2021 leaves plenty room for much more questioning in the weeks ahead and stressed that he will continue holding government accountable.
“I will not be deterred,” the MP said pointing to the fact that consistency in holding government accountable has led to a possible payment of vacation pay, the truth about the vendors along Pondfill, some clarity and truth about government’s financial position, legal basis or lack thereof outstanding police payments, massive over spending such as the Pretty Boy affair and blatant lies from a government foundation (SOG – Stichting Overheids Gebouwen) that will be dealt with in due time.
“The budget debate was an unsatisfactory back and forth with the government about a budget that has clearly shown the government’s dishonesty and lack of vision. It is an empty budget with no strategy, no direction and definitely no solutions for anything,” the MP said.
“This budget has provided many contradictory aspects and therefore many opportunities for follow-up on the many actions of this government. Amazingly there is nothing in the budget about how the deficit will be realistically tackled. It is amusing at this stage to talk about cost-cutting since this seems like a foreign concept to government with increases throughout the budget.”
The MP said he was not surprised at the answer he received when he asked the Prime Minister when St. Maarten will be in a better position financially to forgo requesting liquidity support. “The response I received is that the country expects to present a balanced budget in 2024 or 2025, if projections from the IMF holds true. I can interpret that to mean that we will be in a dependent state until 2025. I can also interpret that as a typical answer from a weak government that truly has no clue and no direction to even attempt to project leadership in answering what is essentially a leadership question,” he said.
MP Emmanuel said in the COVID era the realities of the local economy are glaring. Yet, he said, government has put forward the same proposals as we have seen year after year after year. He said although Parliament received a presentation of an economic recovery plan in late 202, government has not implemented this plan for the country at a time when competition in the region has already implemented their post-pandemic plans. The MP said there is no cohesion between any Ministry in terms of recovery and new policy. “The answers you got was either they will get back to us or a dance around information which was obviously thrown together at the last minute,” he said.
“This budget reflects the government’s character of being guided by short-term politics rather than long-term vision. Our economy was already struggling coming into the corona crisis with slow growth, stagnant wages, declining productivity, business investment going backwards and rising debt. This budget leaves people behind and is filled with repackaged schemes and no central ideas.”
He continued: “More spending, more loans and liquidity support and maybe more taxes are not a prescription for economic growth. Workers, families, entrepreneurs and small businesses have to make tough choices each day when it comes to their budget. They don’t go out and spend outside of their means, or rack up huge bills and push them down the road for another generation. Challenging times call for leadership and tough choices and this budget fails our people on both counts.”