PHILIPSBURG--With NAf. 1.2 million in outstanding long lease land fees and NAf. 500,00 in outstanding casino fees already realised, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion says he expects “a lot more” to come next year due to the efforts of the task force established to rake in outstanding fees for government.
Irion explained the premise behind the collection efforts. “On the budget … for the last 12 years, we have always indicated that we will collect revenue. We indicated to collect a certain amount of money from casinos, a certain amount of monies from lotteries, a certain amount of money from BTP [Bureau Telecommunications and Post – Ed.], concession fees, ‘erfpacht’ … long lease and so forth. So, we have a budget and we say that we will collect a certain amount of monies and then we allocate budget to the ministries,” he explained.
“What we then have is we don’t collect this money and then there is a run on liquidity to execute tasks. So, what we have been doing for the last few years is having an inflated budget to meet the goals, but not actually going out there and receiving and trying to receive the monies. So, I decided that we are not going to do that anymore. It’s either that we take it off the budget or we will go after it.”
He explained that some casinos indicated that they never received invoices in the past, hence they never paid their fees. “I don’t personally agree that [that] is a valid reason, because you know you have a licence, you know you’re operating a business, [and you’re] still in a business, [but] still we took that into account. We basically formed a task force between the Ministry of TEATT [Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication] and Finance to contact all the casinos to find out email address, proper address, even visited some of the locations to confirm that these were the addresses – also, a person of contact that can actually make decisions, so not just a random person, so when we do contact, this person is accountable for the information that is given.”
Agreements were also made for these establishments to settle their outstanding fees while remaining up to date with the existing fees.
“I saw a comment somewhere concerning why casinos are getting away and so forth. They are not getting away this time. Now we are actually getting payments in. It’s something similar to what we did within the Ministry of [Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure] VROMI. We formed a task force in VROMI to work on long lease and to date since that task force has been put together, we’ve collected NAf. 1.2 million in backlog payments. Casinos, I believe, we collected about a little under NAf. 500,000. So, it shows that the efforts that we made are paying off. When it comes to long leases and so forth, it’s also just communications: some individuals just didn’t get certain things, some decisions were not made properly in the past and you need to have legal on deck also to help with these situations. I am very happy with the progress that we are making. And I believe that we will see a lot more income coming in next year through the task force, the different task force,” Irion noted.