In the Tuesday edition of the Today newspaper, The Minister of Finance was quoted as saying that the compliance rate in St. Maarten is merely 22%. He further stated that the Caribbean Region average is 34% while Curacao and Aruba score 30% and 24% respectively. If this were correct, SHTA should advise its members to reconsider their participation in the funding of government’s expenditure, because those who ARE paying are one 2.2 persons out of 10 people paying. Naturally, what the Minister meant to say is that Government revenues equaled 22% of GDP and that the OECD average is 34%. Government revenues in Curacao and Aruba equal 30% and 24% of GDP respectively. This certainly has nothing to do with the compliance rate, although it appears to indicate that some of us take paying, to Ceasar what Ceasar is due, less seriously than we should. There appears to be room for improvement. The aforementioned is a clear indication of a serious lack of (quality) enforcement which has resulted in a negative impact on the Country’s revenues.

SHTA has been informed that the Tax Audit department of the Inspectorate of Taxes is now staffed by one person. Assuming a high production of this individual of say 4 audits per month (48 per year), the average audit occurrence in St. Maarten will be approximately once every 30 years. Hence why it was definitely a good time to cancel the technical assistance program worked on by the former Minister of Finance and the cancellation of the contract with the Foundation Tax Audit Bureau. Question remains; who needs enforcement? The political leaders of St. Maarten, and we mean all of them, have never shown an interest in securing a well-functioning fiscal authority in St. Maarten. Not even in the run up to the constitutional changes of 2010. And this is the result of that. In addition, in Parliament this week, we saw the Freedom Fighters making a case for legalizing Marihuana. This is a complex issue that needs thorough discussion before any decisions are made. But on this topic one can also conclude that lack of enforcement of the law, which prohibits the use, has already resulted in a less than exemplary compliance rate and “de facto” legalization.

It was perhaps unfortunate that Parliament discussed independence shortly after the marihuana session. In the Daily Herald of May 19th, it was reported that all Parliamentarians are in favor of this, some proclaiming 2020 as the year to achieve it. They must still have been in higher spheres as one Parliamentarian was quoted as saying that it was “not necessary” to try and improve functioning of Government before going independent; there is more than enough time to do that afterwards.

The Board of the SHTA would like to know what they had been smoking just before that session. Everybody, or so the Freedom Fighters would proclaim, has the right to (sometimes) be as delusional as the Honorable members of Parliament during that meeting. Let’s shelve the “independent discussion” until we have succeeded in keeping one and the same Government in power for (say) four years.

The St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association.

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