Casino fee legislation into effect August 13

The disappointing revenue levels during the first quarter of this year were mainly due to a “lower realization of casino and lottery fees,” financial supervisor Cft remarked in its reaction to the first execution report of the year, but that is about to change.

Finance Minister Richard Gibson said last week that the hiccup with collecting casino fees is due to legislative issues. “The receiver had to be provided with the tools to collect these fees and that required legislation. The ordinance has been completed but before it can go into effect it needs a waiting period of six weeks to see if the Ombudsman has any objections. That 6-week period ends on August 12. I have promised the receiver that on August, 13 I will knock on her door with the completed legislation so that she can do her job.”

Asked whether the 2017 budget is on schedule for the first time in six years, Gibson said that he was “doing his damnest” to make this happen. The Cft needs to receive the approved budget for the following year by December 15.

Gibson said at last Council of Ministers press briefing that the net revenue from income tax in 2015 was “zero” even though, according to IMF-data, St. Maarten has the highest income per capita in the region with around $26,000.

On June 10 the Cft rejected a request for loans for capital expenditures. After the parliament approved the balanced 2016 budget in March, the door opened for capital loans up to 77 million guilders. Part of that money, 33.9 million is already in the bank and the government had requested a loan for the difference between the 77 and 33.9 million.

“The Cft said that it was premature to ask for this loan,” Minister Gibson said. “They would like to see first how we are going to spend those 33.9 million. That does not happen overnight; architects and engineers are working out the details, but once we have done that the Cft will revisit our request for that loan. It is a challenge because we have quite a lot to spend and there are only five months left in the year. The expectation is that we will not spend all that money.”

Hilbert Haar (Today)