PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — National Alliance (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet on Sunday lauded the new Dutch government and in particular State Secretary for Home Affairs and Digitization Alexandra van Huffelen for “keeping her promise giving the people of St. Maarten hope” that future talks would be more on an equal basis and better understanding for the financial conditions of St. Maarten.
He said the country has not yet recovered from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The MP said he had no doubt that the Kingdom Council of Ministers would approve the country’s request to deviate from article 15. He would not have felt this way had former State Secretary for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops been part of the present Dutch government.
Pantophlet called it “unfortunate” that United Democrats (UD) leader MP Sarah Wescot-Williams and Independent MP Christophe Emanuel “still continue to look for ways to discredit what has been achieved.”
“What is consistently being left out of their discourse is the fact that government requested and received approval from the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) to deviate from Article 100 paragraph 1 of the Constitution of St. Maarten. If government had acted illegally, why was the CFT and the Dutch Government quiet on the matter,” Pantophlet said in a statement on Sunday.
“The United Democrats leader is maintaining that she would like to see the conditions under which this deviation was allowed although Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs was quite clear that no conditions were attached to this deviation. It was the former State Secretary [for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond – Ed.] Knops who created the fiasco and they (opposition) jumped on board. It is a fait accompli. If one can recall, it was in June 2022, that I submitted a motion in Parliament which was supported by all 15 Members of Parliament [for government to – Ed.] in their discussions with the Dutch government, request Debt cancellation.”
Pantophlet said he is convinced that these discussions are ongoing and should be continued. “If one can recall, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on two occasions, one during the handling of the 2020 Budget and again during the handling of the 2021 Budget stated that unless these loans are turned into gifts or grants we will return to pre-pandemic days.”
He said converting the loans into grants will make available the necessary funds that will allow government to restore the benefits that were taken away from civil servants, government owned company employees and other affected persons. It will also address other needed social responsibilities.
“Such an action will restore the purchasing power of the workers. This will be a positive driver for the economy. On the matter of the NAf. 124 million budget deficit the UD leader is not concerned that this amount will not be approved by the Dutch government.” He said the Oxford Dictionary defines a Budget as “an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time.”
“In other words, this amount is estimated. It is hoped that if the economy improves this amount will definitely be reduced, as has happened in the past. We also hope that we don’t experience any hurricanes this year either, hence whether the amount will be approved or not is not a point of concern nor debate for me. Deviation approved,” Pantophlet said.