Minister returns to Parliament Friday

POSTED: 06/7/11 2:12 PM

MPs get specific with budget questions

St. Maarten – Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto heads back to Parliament at 10:00 a.m. on Friday to answer questions posed by MPs during Monday’s Central Committee meeting on new concept 2011 budget. MPs had only a few questions on Monday, but Shigemoto had asked for a week to answer them all. He eventually agreed to be back on Friday because a large number of MPs and the parliament’s Secretary General Jozef Semeleer will be in the Netherlands next week at the Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom (POK).
National Alliance MP George Pantophlet asked specific questions on his turn about the figures in the budget approved in December and the concept now before Parliament. For example the December version projected that government would collect 124.5 million guilders in wage tax. The concept projects that government will collect 115 million guilders. For income tax government projected they’d collect no income tax, and projects to collect -1.648 million guilders in the new concept. For turnover tax the government projected to collect 131 million guilders in the December budget, but projects they will collect 119, 184, 228 guilders in the new concept. There are also questions about the projections for gasoline excise. The December version shows a projection of 10.6 million guilders, while the new concept shows a projection on 8.029 million guilders.
Pantophlet also queried the one million guilders that government said it would collect from the lottery companies and queried if this could be increased so government could collect money. The MP is also curious when the Gaming Control Board would be established and whether or not the government would consider raising the fees paid by casinos. The Country’s debt to the Netherlands and whether or not the money set aside for the debt restructuring was a loan or a grant were other questions raised by the MP.
Dr. Lloyd Richardson, also of the N.A. wanted to know how the delay with the budget and subsequent cuts that have been, will affect the functioning of agencies that receive subsidy and whether there has been any mal or non-functioning because of the reductions.
Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge, United People’s (UP) Party MP Jules James and National Alliance faction leader William Marlin asked for an update on the new tax system, which is due to be in place by January 1, 2012. Marlin specifically wanted the minister to give a preview of what’s coming and how the system would “eliminate free riders.”
Illidge also queried whether the ministries had money allocated to improve their service levels. James further queried if there was a way to increase revenue in the Justice Ministry.
N.A. MP Frans Richardson asked whether or not the government could look forward to dividends from United Telecommunications Services (UTS) and whether or not a one cent savings per liter on gasoline that was given to gas station owners was passed on to consumers. He also queried a seven to 10 percent drop in gasoline sales, especially to airlines and the renovations of the Pointe Blanche prison. On the latter point he was curious about the cost, who would pay for it and when it would start. There was also a question on the allocation for sports and the specific plans to upgrade existing sports facilities.
Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin queried whether utility company GEBE was passing on the money it collected for stamp duty to government. He also asked that the minister provide an update on the new tariff structure and an overview of the price of electricity. Marlin also queried what the government was likely to spend on personnel costs going forward. The government is projected to spend 37 percent of its revenue on personnel costs this year.
Dr. Ruth Douglas of the United People’s (UP) Party faction asked whether or not the National Health Insurance would be ready on January 1, 2012, because she understands the legal trajectory will take eight to 10 months. She also queried the transition process for the social insurances.
National Alliance faction leader William Marlin said he found it difficult to have the discussion about the new concept budget because the government has not yet delivered a governing program.
“We need a sense of direction,” he said.
Marlin also accused the minister of being inconsistent with the reason why the budget ordinance was not signed by Governor Eugene Holiday in December.
“It is on record that the governor did not sign because he was awaiting the advice of the Cft and the minister now says that it was inconsistency with the figures. So which is it,” Marlin said.
The N.A. faction leader also asked the minister to explain if the government and Parliament followed proper procedures when they handled the budget and that the minister explain the agreements on the handling of the budget. This is based on his feeling that the Board of Financial Supervision (Cft) overstepped its boundaries. There was also a question of whether the Cft Board had informally rejected the country’s candidate for the board and that is why the appointment has progressed no further.
Marlin also asked the minister to explain why renters were being asked who they were renting from on their tax form and whether there was a legal basis for the question. He also wanted to know what the ministry did to businesses that charged the turnover tax separate from the listed price and whether people who still had their receipts could claim refunds from the businesses, who had engaged in the practice, which is against the law. Marlin also requested a monthly overview of the turnover tax collected versus the amount that had been projected.
D.P. M.P. Leroy de Weever asked the minister to explain the concession fee from the PJIAE and to explain the annual accounts of the government owned companies whether it was justified to ask them to pay concession fees.

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