Opinion: Residence permits

POSTED: 01/9/14 11:12 PM

Foreigners living in St. Maarten can breathe a little bit easier. In November 2012, Justice Minister Roland Duncan painted a picture that would have driven any foreigner with half a brain to North-Korea. Duncan’s megalomaniac ideas about a $100-million costing Justice Park were thirsting for money, and Duncan thought he’d hit foreigners with a whopping fee for their residence permits. Ordinary workers would have to pay 1,500 guilders a year for the pleasure of contributing to our economy, managers would see their skills punished with 3,000 guilders and company-directors would see their efforts to create employment opportunity rewarded with a 5,000 guilders residence permit. Mind you, these were – in Duncan’s mind – recurring fees. In other words, permit holders would have to pay them every year. Anybody with half a brain could see that this would never fly. Anybody, except Duncan of course but he has now wisely turned his back on politics – or was it the other way around?

Now Duncan’s more sensible successor Dennis Richardson has revealed in the draft 2014 budget that those fees will be levied, but not on the level Duncan had in mind. After all, the Justice Park is dead (except in the mind of MO Johan Leonard) and there is no need any more to fund this doomed fantasy. It’s a boon for the investment climate in St. Maarten if there ever was one.

We’re not home free yet in this department of course, because the draft budget indicates that legislation to underpin the more realist permit-fees is still in the works. Is it a recurring fee that holders of such permits will have to cough up every year? We do not know the answer to that question at this moment.

What we do know is that there is a huge difference between the flat fee of 750 guilders for permanent residency that the current budget proposes and the phantasy numbers Duncan released in 2012. In many ways, St. Maarten seems to be coming to its senses, and as long as this benefits the community, that is a good thing.

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