St. Maarten Economy, electricity prices and crime remain prevailing concerns

POSTED: 09/13/11 12:55 PM

GREAT BAY, St. Maarten – The state of the economy, electricity prices, crime and condolences were among the prevailing themes at Monday’s close to the 2010 – 2011 parliamentary year. There was also a warm welcome for 1st Vice President Petrus Leroy de Weever, who returned after months of absence due to illness.
The condolences from all speakers were directed at the families and associates of Tiffany Reid, who was killed last week, Detective Anthony “Chiki” Elisabeth and former Chairman of the Board of financial supervision (Cft) Hans Weitenberg who died last week Friday.

Economy/Cost of Living
Democratic Party (D.P.) faction leader Roy Marlin began by stressing the urgent need for Parliament and the Government of St. Maarten to “urgently work on the economy” by creating new initiatives that will create jobs.
“Without new initiatives we will remain at the zero percent growth rate predicted by the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten,” Marlin said.
Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge tied improving the economy to reducing the cost of living. He’s pledged that he’ll work with his colleagues across party lines in the coming year to lower the cost of living “piece by piece.”
“I stand committed to cause of reducing the burden on the backs of the people,” Illidge said.
National Alliance faction leader pointed out that the current coalition is partly to blame for the spike of cost of living as they increased turnover tax by two percent and they continued to allow gasoline and cooking gas prices to rise even though the price of oil is falling worldwide.
United People’s Party faction leader Romain Laville pressed his colleagues to realize that the economy must be an area of focus in the coming year and spend time crafting and presenting proposals that will help ease the burden on the community.
“We must put proper laws in place like tax breaks for young entrepreneurs, exempting pensioners from income tax on their pensions. We need to look at our education system and also maybe we need to come up with some regulations for the pawn shops,” Laville said.
Later on he’d add, “The position of our people is deteriorating and our businesses must get involved.”

Electricity prices
The continued upset in the wider community over their electricity bills was also a part of Monday’s reflection with Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge calling for GEBE to come before Parliament. He doesn’t want a simple discussion on tariffs though.
“I will not champion any kind of temporary relief. I want to revamp GEBE, change both the Supervisory Board and the Foundation Board. We have to break that chicken open,” Illidge said.
UP’s Laville supports the need for driving down the tariffs at GEBE, but W. Marlin does not believe that Laville or Illidge have moral ground because, like the other members of the coalition – UP Party, D.P. and Illidge – gave and then withdrew their support for a motion to investigate the potential for GEBE to give up to 50 percent relief on its rates for six months.
“Electricity bills have skyrocketed and the people have been denied much needed relief,” W. Marlin said.

Crime
“We should not shy away from intense discussions with our ministers and institutions and we as the coalition believe that crime and murders must be addressed post haste. That is why we have asked for the Minister of Justice to come here and meet with us,” R. Marlin said.
Next to the request for the meeting the D.P. faction leader is hoping that he’ll hear clearly outlined goals for tackling crime when Governor Eugene Holiday delivers a national address on behalf of the government at today’s opening of the Parliamentary year. In fact R. Marlin wants to hear clearly outlined plans from all seven ministries tomorrow and also when the 2012 Budget is delivered.
“The crime situation must be dealt with,” Illidge said on his turn.
W. Marlin, was not as supportive, and said he doubted there’d be anything concrete on crime or any other issue because the government has yet to approve and submit its governing program to parliament.
“Many promises were made but there still is no governing program. I am sure that the government would have sent some document to the governor but based on what does the governor speak tomorrow (Tuesday) and what is there for us to truly judge the government’s actions,” W. Marlin said.
Later on he added, “People are losing confidence and that is why two weeks ago the faction of the National Alliance requested a public meeting with the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor with five agenda points. Not in a closed door session, but in a public meeting so we can find out what the government is doing about this spate of crimes.”
Laville suggested that one means to get a handle on crime was amending the National Ordinance on Self Defense so that people could “protect their family without fear of prosecution.”
“We have to bring real policies and amendments,” the UP faction leader said.

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