Heyliger not ready to give up debt relief money

POSTED: 02/17/12 12:23 PM

St. Maarten – Deputy Prime Minister Thedore Heyliger has minced no words in decrying the unfair measuring of compliance with agreements that St. Maarten has with its partners in the Dutch Kingdom. His comments come after Monday’s meeting between the Council of Ministers and the Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies.
“Two sides, in my opinion, are graded completely differently. We have a Cft. We have all of these mechanisms in place that oversee our finance. You have another committee that oversees these plans of approach. If you turn left they want to know how far you turn left. If you turn right,” Heyliger said.
One area with which he is particularly concerned is the statement by both representatives in the Dutch government and factions in the Dutch parliament that the country will not be given 120 million guilders in left over debt relief money. The argument from the Netherlands is that the deadline for submitting data under this program has gone and thus the government can no longer access the funds. Heyliger does not see it the way and has stressed how the money can have a positive impact on the country’s budget and its implementation of the plans of approach.
“Basically the Dutch government has washed their hands of that and said no I don’t think the 120 million should be given to you all anymore. This was discussed with the Second Chamber which basically blew it off, but to me there is an agreement and if we are doing our best to live up to the agreements we have signed, where you have financial oversight, where you have others looking into your plans of approach – which also costs money – I think they too should also live up to their commitments on the committed 120 million that is supposed to come to St. Maarten. And if they are saying that bills were not submitted in time well how can you have a bill from a contractor or a bill from a supplier that is open, not been paid and we’re saying it does not completely comply with the position they have. I mean then we’re moving the goal post and I think that’s also wrong,” Heyliger said on Wednesday.
Later he’d add, “You’re telling St. Maarten you have to keep subsidizing Saba and Statia with electricity and you’ve got to exempt those two islands from turnover tax and keep a balanced budget. I can understand for those two islands. I think the cost of living on those islands is ridiculously high and I think the Dutch government should look at that, but it cannot be St. Maarten’s blame for that. I think it’s a bit of a one way street that we have to comply with everything and the things they have to comply with. For one year we had no member on the Cft, but now we do. The issue of the 120 million is still outstanding and they just told us forget about it. I don’t think that’s the right way of being in a Kingdom that’s supposed to be trusting one another.”

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