PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — The community of St. Maarten paused this weekend to celebrate the 95th birthday of its longest leader Dr. Albert Claudius Wathey a.k.a. the “Ole Man”, who is still today considered the father of modern-day St. Maarten.
In a press release issued on Sunday, Member of Parliament and Faction Leader for the United People’s Party the honorable Grisha Heyliger-Marten remembered Dr. Wathey for his contribution to the growth and development of the people and nation. She called him an exceptional jobs creator and an innovator. She also reflected on a recent suggestion by the Committee for Financial Supervision, Cft, to impose a tax that “the Ole Man” fought against at the Central Government level for years to prevent them from imposing it on St. Maarten.
Shocked and disappointed are the words she used to describe the Cft’s suggestion to impose a Land Tax on the people of St. Maarten. “This is the latest attempt to subjugate the people the Ole Man fought to defend for over 40-years. These taxes will further burden and erode the financial safety and security of especially elderly retired individuals whose income has been reduced significantly. According to MP Heyliger-Marten, “the Ole Man” never believed in a bureaucratic and large Government, or taxes that would hurt his people.”
She called the Land tax “anti-local people”. “I will not vote for this or any land tax whether the Cft or the Dutch Government says to do it,” said Heyliger-Marten. On July 18th, 2021, an article appeared in the local media in which the Cft suggested that the Government should not only reduce expenditures, but also use the opportunity to reform taxes and impose a tax on property and land, calling it “essential to bring tax revenues to a much higher level.” Heyliger-Marten contends that as per the United People’s party’s stance on taxes, increasing compliance and streamlining existing taxes so they make sense must be a first step.
She vehemently opposes the property and land tax and says she, like the late Dr. Wathey, believes in creating jobs and good living for the people. “This tax is just a way to take away our people’s land and homes when they cannot pay in an already stagnant global economy. We are talking about people who have worked sometimes their entire lives building one room at a time until they have a house that they can be proud of.”
She referred to the common expression of Dutch Politicians who visit the island for the first time and comments on how big the houses are that St. Maarteners own. She said those types of statements show a clear disconnect between “Dutch politicians and St. Maarteners. ”St. Maarten does not have a large enough landmass for its citizens to build individual homes, and often because of a low paying pension system, people have had to start early building their homes while working so hopefully they could cater to their families housing needs later by the time they are retired.
“In Europe they put their money in the bank while our people invest in homes with sometimes a little apartment for the family could live in. If you impose this land tax, building a little room extra for your children will be viewed as an added value that has to be assessed for taxes.”
The MP is urging others not to support this attack on the security of the hard-working people of the island who are already struggling as it is. “Imagine the elderly man or woman who retires from years in construction, nursing, a hotel job, or from years as a civil servant after having spent the last 30-years building their home piece by piece. They may even have had to lay the tiles and blocks themselves to save on construction cost. Now they are retired after making their contribution to our small society, we want to knock on their doors and tell them that we will not raise their pension from the Naf.500, but we will impose a tax on their homes, punishing them for their hard work and taking away their piece of mind.
Heyliger-Marten said on Sunday, “This is one way of stealing the patrimony of the people via the law.” She questions the effects on succession property and how this proposed tax on property and land will affect those inheritances. She is also very concerned that the tax, if it is successfully imposed, will result in rent increases across the board.
“Single parents already struggle with their rent as the largest monthly expense, and they have to manage this while dealing with high utility bills and food cost. We cannot put them in a more difficult situation by forcing up the rent,” said Heyliger-Marten.
Tax reform should not be imposed by any external parties and must be carried out in a comprehensive manner. It should be tailored to what works best for Sint Maarten and its people. “The Cft’s suggestions does not take into account many factors, and to them I say: thanks but no thanks, we will do tax reform our way”, said Heyliger-Marten.
“Proposals for a more indirect tax system including a transaction tax, as suggested by the UPP’s Ministry of TEATT can achieve both of these objectives. I look forward to this proposal being included in the tax reform on which the Minister of Finance (NA) is working on”, the MP concluded.