Deputy Prime Minister: "Country stuck with lots of Dutch supervision, but no funding."
Country status has brought St. Maarten less Dutch government funding and more supervision which has left Deputy Prime Minister Theo Heyliger to classify the current state of affairs as "modern day slavery." "Only thing the Dutch now provide is supervision. If you consider that as a major thing [we have] supervision out the nose, coming out of the eyes, you name it. There is no Dutch budgetary help, we have to suck salt."
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Heyliger said the budget only takes into consideration the day to day running of the country and there will be "real discussions" with the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) when government wants to build schools and carry out other projects.
Despite becoming a country, St. Maarten has limited access to borrowing on the capital market, he added.
"Emancipation day is coming up and I told the Minister of Culture, emancipation for whom I am not so sure because to me it is more of modern day slavery."
With the tight budget situation, offering relief to residents who are shouldering high prices of fuel and food, is not easy or at this point possible, he noted. Any changes to the budget as it is would cause "major problems" for the country with CFT.
Heyliger still holds to his view for independence, which he voted for in the past two referenda. However, he pointed out that as a politician, one has to live with what the people decide until they have a change of heart.
Meanwhile, government is looking at all angles to increase revenues without further burdening the people, he said. One such area is attracting expatriate well-to-do pensioners, which has been successful for Curaçao, but the system to encourage this would have to be reviewed.
A review is necessary because some expatriate pensioners who already call the country home have faced problems in renewing their residence papers because their current address had not been properly regulated in the Civil Registry.
Pointing to a specific incident with retired bank executives, Heyliger said, "They were not allowed to get the necessary documents. There are people who have invested a half a million dollars in a condominium, didn't ask for a work permit and they are not coming here to work, but want to be able to spend in the restaurant and on car rental etc, so it is a great help to St. Maarten but we basically turn them away."
St. Maarten is turning people like these pensioners away and then there is complaint about raising taxes, he added.