Some have blamed Member of Parliament (MP) George Pantophlet for “wishful thinking” when insisting the Netherlands ought to convert liquidity loans provided to St. Maarten because of the coronavirus-related crisis into grants. However, few will disagree with his latest argument (see related story) that the local government should first seriously tackle its own arrears at the General Pension Fund APS, Social and Health Insurances SZV and others.
He therefore wants a meeting with Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Roger Lawrence to discuss various topics including taxes and policies for casinos and lottery booths. According to him, the local gambling industry could produce a lot more income if relevant legislation were adjusted.
The coalition member also asks about backlogs in business and director’s licences, suggesting this results in less earnings for the national treasury. The same undoubtedly goes for building permits and several other papers often required, although – in fairness – steps are reportedly being taken to speed up many of these processes.
Perhaps most important is the veteran parliamentarian’s focus on enhancing fiscal compliance, which has been a major problem for years. It must be said, improving the effectiveness of collecting taxes was put in the so-called country package of reforms agreed on as condition for Dutch financial assistance received.
Some proposed tax measures like a small levy on individual (online shopping) consumer imports or modest increase of the excise on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages make sense and probably won’t hurt too much. The impact of a real estate tax for non-residents on the vacation home market and thus the tourism economy bears careful study.
But it’s not just about raising revenues. Lack of fiscal compliance creates a so-called unlevel playing field in business that gets in the way of fair trade and competition.
In addition, one can hardly blame people for thinking that those not contributing their lawful share need to be tackled before asking others doing their civic duty to carry an even bigger financial burden. It may not be quite so simple, but that’s how it feels.