UP-leader Theo Heyliger trashes spending habits National Alliance

POSTED: 01/16/14 2:56 PM

Emilio Wilson Estate purchase under fire as well

St. Maarten – United People’s party leader Theo Heyliger attacked the previous National Alliance-led government for draining the country’s reserves. At the end of 2011, St. Maarten’s liquidity position stood at 84 million guilders. Now it is down to 18 million. “Every time the National Alliance holds the Ministry of Finance we are confronted with this situation. They have been spending money like never before and what do we have to show for it? Nothing, nada,” Heyliger said.

The UP-leader also waved with a document dated June 3, 2013, signed by then Vromi-Minister William Marlin in which the government commits to buying the Emilio Wilson Estate from owner Henri Brookson form $17 million. When Heyliger held the same minister’s post in the first Wescot-Williams cabinet he had a deal for $10 million to buy the estate.

Heyliger ridiculed the opposition’s urging to protect the island’s national heritage. “The deal from June 3, 2013 included the construction of 1200 homes on a part of the property. That was not desecrating the Emilio Wilson Estate. Apparently, that depends on who is building,” Heyliger said.

He urged the Ministries of Education and Vromi to work together. The maintenance of schools leaves much to be desired, Heyliger said. “It takes too long to get repairs done. There must be a faster way to achieve this.” Heyliger also drew attention to the type of tiles that are used in the schools and that in some cases cause children to slip and to fall.

Heyliger asked about the situation at the University of St. Martin. “do they still have financial issues? Or have they been rectified?” he asked.

Another issue Heyliger brought up concerns hindrance permits. He asked how many of these permits had been asked for, how many had been granted and how many had been rejected. For the handling of building permits, Heyliger suggested to give the fire department an office at the Vromi-ministry to speed up the process. The fire department has to advise about these permits.

A priority must be the purchase of land for the construction of affordable housing, Heyliger continued. He wondered why institutions like the General Pension Fund and the SZV are investing their money in the United States, while they could also invest at home.

To the amusement of other MPs, Heyliger went all the way asking Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake about the state of affairs with the tunnel-project – an initiative that dates back to the tenure of William Marlin at the ministry. Marlin postponed the upgrade of the Union road in Cole Bay to research the possibility of a tunnel that would connect Cole Bay with St. Peters. It was Marlin’s answer to the causeway that he labeled in the past as the bridge to nowhere.

“Has this tunnel project been investigated?” Heyliger asked with a straight face. “Did the minister see plans for the tunnel project, and did he sit with the company that is going to finance it?”

Heyliger noted that the building the Justice Ministry has now designated for the Youth Detention Center in Cay Bay, was once promised to the Crystal Home. “Usona paid for the building,” he said. “How is the government going to compensate Crystal Home?”

The UP-leader also touched upon what he called the fiasco with the road tax in 2013. “so many have been left off the hook for the road tax,” he said. “Could the Justice Ministry not have done something?”

Finance Minister Hassink said at a recent press briefing of the Council of Ministers that no controls were conducted last year to catch motorists that had ducked the road tax. Instead of 8.5 million guilders, the government collected just 7.2 million in road tax last year.

Heyliger pointed to the FCCA-conference that will be held in St. Maarten in October of this year. “This is going to cost us $2,6 million,” he said. “We have to put up $600,000 for the right to hold the conference here and another $2 million market it and to do it.”

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