Finance Minister Gibson: “No reasons to vote against the budget”

POSTED: 03/10/16 7:12 PM

St. Maarten News – “There should not be any reason to vote against the budget,” Finance Minister Richard Gibson said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing. ‘If you don’t vote for the budget, what message are you sending to St. Maarten? That is loud and clear: St. Maarten’s interest, welfare and economic success are not foremost on your mind as a representative of the people. That is the only message you will send. I do not believe that any Member of Parliament will vote to deprive St. Maarten of its economic success.”

Minister Gibson listed a number of looming threats to the local economy that make improving the budget imperative.

“The United States issued a travel advisory against traveling to St. Maarten in connection with the Zika-virus. This will have an effect on the number of people who intended to and will be traveling to St. Maarten as long as this problem exists.”

Another issue is the price of oil. “Recently oil prices have been creeping up again. TTI was $26 a barrel and now it is $40. The effect is that people will have less disposable income in the United States and that means people will travel less. This too can impact travel to St. Maarten.”

Minister Gibson furthermore pointed to the decline in the number of cruise passengers that visited St. Maarten last year. “That too poses a threat to economic activities on our island.”

“When you expect a decline in economic activities it behooves the government to invest in infrastructural projects in the country to make sure that you are not confronted with a recession,” the minister said with a reference to economist John Maynard Keynes.

Minister Gibson said he’d shared these issues to emphasize the importance of the budget debate that is scheduled to continue today. “It is important to get the budget approved, because it will give us access to 55 million guilders for capital investments. That will balance out the serious risks our economy is facing.”

“Keynes knew what he was talking about,” the minister continued. “If you see a truck coming that is going to knock you down you do not wait until it knocks you down; you take action before it hits you. Passing the 2016 budget to allow St. Maarten to invest in infrastructure and to make other capital investment expenditures needs to be done now to avoid that truck that is going to hit us later this year.”

Minister Gibson said that during the first round of the budget debate he had heard “nothing serious against the budget” and that therefore there is no reason for voting against it.

Minister Emil Lee (Public health) later added that part of the capital investments goes to medical equipment that would allow SMMC to expand its range of services, to equipment to test viruses, including Zika, and to the Health Information System. “These projects have all tremendous value for the people,” Lee said.

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