St. Maarten Parliament wants elderly to pay less for identification cards

POSTED: 06/15/12 12:22 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams has told parliament she’s opening to hearing how they propose to have other age groups either partially or fully subsidize the price of identification cards for the elderly. She’s also warned that if members of parliament (MPs) want to give a discount or make the cards free for seniors that they’ll either have to identify a way for government to cover the loss of revenue or ensure that the cost to other groups does not become exorbitant.

“I look forward to a proposal to see how we can deal with that,” Wescot-Williams said.

National Alliance MP Louie Laveist believes the government must give the nation’s elderly an ease by not charging them higher prices and Democratic Party MP Roy Marlin has said maybe the government should consider having people in the age group 21 to 59 subsidize and/or cover the cost for both pensioners and children between 0 and 20. Marlin’s reasoning on also exempting the latter group is that parents have to cover the cost of their child’s identification card anyway. The point of departure in both cases is that working people have more money to cover these kinds of expenses.

The prime minister also informed parliament that the vast majority of the 602, 745 the government hopes to earn from the changes in the stamp ordinance will be generated from the issuance of driver’s licenses. Based on 2009 figures the increases means that pensioners will contribute 3, 022.50 guilders and young people will contribute 5, 842 guilders to the overall amount.

Wescot-Williams has also stressed the necessity of hiking the fees by pointing out that the government has had to invest over a million guilders to create a new design for both identification cards and drivers licenses. They have also added more security features to ensure that the cards cannot be fraudulently duplicated.

“We have yet to pay for even half of the costs for starting to implement the new cards,” the prime minister said.

Government must also raise the fee to pay the additional staff that have been hired in order to keep up with the demand for cards.

Wescot-Williams also announced that while government has the ability to produce machine readable identification cards, it will not have the ability in the foreseeable future to produce a single card that functions as an identification card, a driver’s license and a sickness insurance card. The idea for a single card with various functions and a flat fee comes from Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge.

“We are not at the stage to merge and have one card for various types of things. We also have to contend with the fact that there are different requirements for obtaining the various cards,” Wescot-Williams said.

What the prime minister could tell parliament is that government wants to merge and connect the databases of several departments so that they can correlate data. Parliament will be presented with a proposal on this issue.

The prime minister also informed parliament that the government is considering the introduction of a specific card for foreign nationals who are required to have residence permits. The Head of the Immigration Department called it a “foreigner card” but Wescot-Williams called it a “residence card.”

“That is under discussion. We are discussing whether it is better to issue cards or to continue handing people sheets of paper. A residence card though, will not supersede a national identification card,” Wescot-Williams said.

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