Sunday , May 28 2023

Anwers to questions of Island Council

The Daily Herald reports that the Executive Council answered all Island Council members’ written and verbal inquiries in Monday’s public session within two extensive questioning rounds and an additional interpellation. On several occasions, the commissioners stressed that the separation of tasks between national and local government does not allow them to answer questions on matters outside their portfolio. Commissioner Chris Johnson first briefed on the recent Caribbean Netherlands (CN) week in The Hague and the state of the Saba Electric Company. He noted that the Director General on Economic Affairs could not meet with Saba and Statia’s delegation and that financing answers on diesel fuel tendering or solar panel use are forthcoming. The ministry, he stressed, had promised in March 2012 a profitable utility company with low electricity prices maintained through alternative energy investments. “We plan to hold the ministry accountable,” said Johnson. He specifically reassured councilman Nicholson that GEBE employees are not subjected to undue pressure and that a supervisory board is in charge. Commissioner Johnson answered Councilman Wilson’s question about the civil code article on old land property titles questionably certified and unregistered. Following legal advice, a policy would have to be submitted through the Island Council to formalise the handling of such claims about property transfers since many documents are signed by former executive members. The executive has no control over business tax incentives nor, therefore, on the business investment environment. The commissioners did request a 10-year property tax holiday which Finance State Secretary Weekers will raise with the national cabinet. Johnson also briefed on the CN week discussions centred on the national cabinet’s repetition of “financial constraints” and the 2015 evaluation process, especially the stifling ministerial bureaucracy that had been created. He acknowledged the imposed tax structure was indeed simplified, but for the tax department, not for the residents. “It is simple for them to put a boot on you but not simple for you to carry out,” said Johnson. State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment Jetta Klijnsma is expected to adjust social benefits based the recalculation of the increased minimum wage. Johnson added that if integration fails, deregulation and the division or responsibilities needs to be revised and the efficiency of the central government be scrutinised. He called for transparency on actual ministerial expenditures and wondered why the Kingdom Representative’s office, devoid of authority, needs extensive personnel while ministries send so many consultants for studies with no consequence. He threatened to no longer cooperate with ministerial tourists acting as consultants. Johnson also answered Levenston’s queries about the status of the Saba Banks and the separation of the national and island tasks on it as well as potential resource exploitation protocols.

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