Parliament approves 2023 budget amendment, 2 motions

Parliament approves 2023 budget amendment, 2 motions

PHILIPSBURG--Parliament on Thursday unanimously approved the 2023 budget amendment as well as passed two motions tabled by United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison.

  Only eight of the 15 MPs were present for Thursday’s public meeting of Parliament in which the budget amendment was voted upon. Present were United People’s (UP) party MPs Brison and Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani, Party for Progress (PFP) MP Melissa Gumbs, National Alliance (NA) MPs George Pantophlet, Angelique Romou, Hyacinth Richardson and William Marlin and independent MP Ludmila de Weever. Absent with notice were independent MPs Grisha Heyliger-Marten, Solange Duncan and Christophe Emmanuel. A notice of lateness was also sent by United Democrats (UD) MP Sarah Wescot-Williams. Absent without notice were PFP MP Raeyhon Peterson, independent MP Akeem Arrindell and United St Maarten Party (US Party) MP Chanel Brownbill.  

  The budget debate began on Tuesday and continued over a two-day period with questions being posed by MPS and answers being provided. Some Ministers did not show up in person to provide answers to questions posed for their ministry and instead the responses were given by their backup ministers. Ministers Irion, Anna Richardson (Justice) and Omar Otttley (VSA) showed up in person to provide answers to questions for their ministries. Minister of TEATT Arthur Lambriex showed up once and the remainder of his answers were provided by his back up minister Ottley.

 During Thursday’s meeting, MPs voted on two motions tabled by Brison.  The first motion aimed at encouraging the use of taxis by local residents was approved by six votes for and two votes against. Richardson and de Weever voted against the motion. In motivating her vote, de Weever said when the motion was presented to her, she got “a little bit of the hibbie jibbies because of the fact that lately you saw a bunch of licenses being given out and then you also saw the license procedure closed. So, I thought it was questionable. So that questionable nature about it looks a little bit like this is also a quick fix to it. Also at the same time where you have some uncertainty about a current minister of TEATT that also said that Uber was going to come and it would have to be received and accepted here and so with all of the questions around this, this is why I cannot support this motion and I wanted to make it very clear the reasons behind it because there was just not enough clarity for me.”

  The motion in question calls on the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) to formulate and present a comprehensive plan, including draft budgets and policy proposals to encourage the use of taxis. The motion calls for the conducting of a thorough feasibility study with the objective of achieving a target of up to 10% of the population using taxis regularly. The study should explore factors influencing local taxi usage and propose strategies to achieve the desired increase. This should be completed by March 2024. The motion also called for the implementation of an inclusive approach that does not discriminate between associated and non-associated taxi members. All qualified taxi license holders should have equal opportunities to participate in and benefit from the initiatives proposed in this plan, the motion stated.

 The second motion, which was approved unanimously, is for the Minister of Finance to request that the Central Bank for Curacao and St Maarten (CBCS) publish clarification and or guidelines on the rights and responsibilities of residents of St. Maarten utilizing online commerce services, particularly focusing on platforms like Revolut. Brison explained that Article 2 of the National Ordinance on the Supervision of Banking states that "It is prohibited for anyone to conduct the business of a credit institution in St. Maarten without prior authorization from the Bank." He said online banking services such as Revolut are not currently established in St. Maarten within the context of this ordinance. Residents of St. Maarten use banking services like Revolut for engaging in e-commerce activities.

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