Shigemoto counters Donner’s comments on St. Maarten’s debts

POSTED: 04/8/11 11:53 AM

St. Maarten – Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto has maintained his point that St. Maarten did not benefit sufficiently from the 1.5 billion euro debt reorganization facilitated by the Netherlands to pay off the Netherlands Antilles debt. He also pointed out that St. Maarten had a manageable debt based on international financial criteria where debt ratios are concerned. The comments are a reply to statements made by Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner.

“Minister Donner mentions in a media report on Wednesday that the 280 million guilders extra debt that St. Maarten would have gained had the Netherlands not re-financed it. The honourable minister must also bear in mind that it is the undivided debt which remained from the previous Netherlands Antilles and as such is divided among the different entities based on the agreed upon division key. However, if you take the total debt and compare St. Maarten’s debt in the total Antillean debt it is basically within the realm of what we call manageable debt. The fact that St. Maarten was not allowed to borrow in the past is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because then we were not able to build up a huge debt but a curse because in the end we still got financial supervision, which relatively speaking St. Maarten’s actual debt was minimal,” Shigemoto explained.

Donner has also reportedly claimed that the deadline to submit all bills for debt relief was 10-10-10, which was the date the United Peoples (UP) party/Democratic Party (DP) government took office.

Shigemoto says, “Prior to 10-10-10, the National Alliance (NA) led government was sitting for 15 months prior to the UP/DP coalition. Unfortunately this was out of our control that the previous government didn’t submit the bills of the SOAB in a timely fashion in order to be able to come into consideration for this relief. Notwithstanding this, there should be room for negotiations especially considering that St. Maarten was not allowed to borrow in the past for capital investments or otherwise. This in turn forced St. Maarten to have to pay for capital investment projects via the regular budget via pre-financed arrangements. It was a creative way for St. Maarten to be able to develop the island without going in major debt. The people of this great nation do not sit idly by for handouts. If we did, we wouldn’t be where we are at today. Although the Netherlands gave its approval for St. Maarten to borrow prior to 10-10-10 this only became a reality after 10-10-10 which limited St. Maarten in several ways.”

The Minister added that even though St. Maarten has been part of the Dutch Kingdom for centuries, there is still much to learn and he hopes that the new relationship will bring the countries closer together where Dutch ministers and parliamentarians will have more understanding for the islands socio-economic development.

“One of the key things is a lack of communication and factual information within the parliament of Holland.  Most information that Dutch parliamentarians receive seems to be based on newspaper articles and online news media sources. With respect to future Kingdom relations, a closer working relationship is needed at both levels of government; at the ministerial level and at the parliamentarian level.  Our country status, I am confident, will allow us to put a mechanism in place that would allow for increased communication and better understanding of our countries based on mutual respect,” Shigemoto concluded.

 

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