“Tax inspectorate is understaffed, under equipped and under trained”

POSTED: 06/22/16 9:34 PM

St. Maarten News – Finance Minister Richard Gibson repeated in a meeting of parliament yesterday that the country needs to diversify and expand its economy to build resistance against inevitable external shocks. He mentioned the development of hydroponics, fishery, the medical industry and education as viable options.

Minister Gibson repeated his warnings about de-risking and the potential loss of correspondents banking and pointed again to local banks that want certain customers – especially casinos – to close their accounts, because they do not want to accept the risks associated with this type of customer anymore.

To improve the country’s financial position it will have to invest in its tax inspectorate, the minister said. As he stated during last week Friday’s tax summit, a 1 percent increase in complains represents 20 million guilders in additional revenue for the government.

“We need to invest in this apparatus,” the minister said. The tax inspectorate is understaffed, under equipped and under trained. If we raise compliance from the current 22.5 to 26 percent, we would raise structurally 70 million guilders.”

That is the kind of money needed to invest in the tax inspectorate. “We could pay back such a loan to a bank within three years and they would receive us with open arms,” the minister said. “Unfortunately we are stuck within the rules of the kingdom law financial supervision.”

Those rules prohibit the government form contracting commercial loans. Next week Tuesday Minister Gibson will discuss the situation with the Cft. “Nobody should refuse us such a loan,” he said. “Otherwise you want to keep us in the situation we are in right now.”

The minister warned parliament against the Dutch decision makers who – among many other things – refused to honor the promise of debt relief in full to St. Maarten. “Why would you put these same people in charge of an Integrity Chamber, if you want an Integrity Chamber? “They have shown a lack of respect for the rule of law and agreements. I highly recommend that the parliament takes another look at the Integrity Chamber law and makes sure that we choose the people who run the Integrity Chamber.”

Minister Gibson said that, if the financial supervisor Cft does not agree to a commercial loan for investment in the tax inspectorate, “we will have to look for alternatives.”

The first quarter report for 2016 shows that revenue stayed below budget, but that expenditures were also lower.

UP faction leader Franklin Meyers noted that the country is in a financially tight situation due to the constant falling of governments. He also asked Minister Gibson for a solution. “Is St. Maarten in a recession? And if so, what are we prepared to do?”

MPs asked many questions during the meeting about a wide range of subjects. Minister Gibson will return to the parliament with his answers next week.

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