St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce signs agreement with ambassador to Panama

POSTED: 11/5/13 12:26 PM

St. Maarten – The Chamber of Commerce signed an agreement yesterday with the Dutch ambassador to Panama, Wiebe de Boer at its first business symposium at the Westin Hotel. The agreement is designed to promote St. Maarten as a transport hub for the Eastern Caribbean in anticipation of the opening of the widened Panama Canal.

Ludwig Ouenniche, the personal advisor to Economic Affairs Minister Ted Richardson, emphasized that the country needs to tackle its economic issues through public private partnerships.

He expressed in particular his concern about the effect Fatca could have on the local economy. Fatca stands for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. It is an American piece of legislation that obliges foreign banks to report accounts held by American citizens with a value of $50,000 or more. “This legislation is penetrating the financial sector everywhere in the world,” Ouenniche said. “we’ll have to see to it that it does not disturb our economy, so we have to be very vigilant.”

In July of last year, retired banker Jan Beaujon said in a reaction to the American Fatca-demands that the legislation could make banking more expensive for everyone in St. Maarten. Beaujon said that the banks have no choice but to comply: “All our international bank transfers go through New York. If we do not comply we are no longer able to do business with the United States.”

Banks have had to invest in upgrading their computer systems to enable them to comply with Fatca. Beaujon estimated the cost for his bank – the WIB – at “several hundred thousand dollars.”

To improve the business environment, Ouenniche said yesterday that the establishment of the St. Maarten tourism authority (which is now “scheduled” for January 1, 2014) would eliminate bureaucracy and “make sure that St. Maarten gets what it needs for its promotion dollars.”

On a different note, Ouenniche referred to the need for an effective economic control department. “This department now has one-and-a-half car,” he said. “We are working towards a more effective control department.”

Ouenniche furthermore acknowledged the need for flexible policies and regulations and said that “certain rules” have to be reduced.

Lastly, Ouenniche said that St. Maarten has to consider its relationship with the European Union. “It is important to know where we want to go,” he said, adding that the needs of St. Maarten are not similar to those of Curacao.

Jude Houston, a senior policy advisor at the Department of Economic Affairs presented key economic indicators to the symposium from the recently published macro-monitor report.

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