SXM is under Tropical Storm Watch, with Gonzalo (wind now 40mph) expected to strengthen before is passes close by south early Monday. To safeguard our employees who work at night and especially including those who have to go on the street to distribute the paper in the morning, management has decided not to publish The Daily (or Miami) Herald on Monday, October 13 and instead bring out a bigger paper on Tuesday with a combined content. The office will open normally on Monday as soon as it’s considered safe outside.
PHILIPSBURG--The General Audit Chamber presented the report of the performance audit "Optimising Tax Revenue" to Parliament on Friday.
The audit was carried out to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the reform of fiscal system and tax revenue compliance.
In carrying out the review, the General Audit Chamber sought to determine the extent to which the minister of finance was able to effectively and efficiently optimise tax revenue. The result of the audit contributes to the social significance of a fair and balanced tax system and the importance of having a professional, customer-focused and impartial tax authority.
The 2011, 2012 and 2013 budgets contain policy objectives for optimising the tax system by means of improving the process of assessment and collection, harmonizing the tax system with French St. Martin and eliminating free-riders, the Audit Chamber said in a press release.
The General Audit Chamber said a large discrepancy existed between the content of approved budgets and the practical reality at the Tax Department and Fiscal Affairs. Activities related to optimising tax revenue included improving the assessment and collection of taxes through simplification of the tax system. Progress was found to be limited, despite substantial use of external experts and the establishment and equipping of a number of working groups, the Audit Chamber said.
Efforts to reduce the cost associated with assessment and collection were also not very successful. In 2011, the operational cost related to assessment and collection was 2.7 per cent and in 2013, the percentage was 3.5.
Scientifically derived data related to compliance was not available from government, though estimates provided in approved budget documents range from 30-40 per cent in 2011, to 40-60 per cent in 2013. Adequate research is needed to determine the extent of compliance in St. Maarten, the Chamber said.
Planned upgrading of the Tax Department, including integrating the services of the various departments (Inspectorate and Receiver, for example), has not taken place. Based on approved policy, the minister also wanted to optimise tax revenue by harmonising the tax system with French St. Martin. The various meetings and negotiations in preparation for the harmonisation have not yet taken place. It is still not clear whether the required cooperation with the French is achievable, the Audit Chamber said in the release.
The General Audit Chamber made several recommendations to the finance minister in its report including reiterating the need to use policy-based budgets that are executed based on specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic, time-related and consistent norms. It said the minister of finance should periodically give account to Parliament with regard to the realisation of approved and intended policy.
"The General Audit Chamber endorses the point of departure contained in the yet-to-be approved Plan of Action for the integration and strengthening of the Tax Department of St. Maarten. That plan requires that the organisational reform of the Tax Department, specifically the integration of and renewal of ICT [Information Communication Technology – Ed.] systems and housing of the department in a single location is given precedence. After these fundamental requirements are achieved, reform or simplification of the tax system can be addressed successfully."
The General Audit Chamber reiterated the need for drafting additional rules regarding the execution and tendering procedures. These additional rules, as required by article 47 of the National Financial Accounting Ordinance, will guarantee that procurement of goods and services is carried out in a more transparent, objective and non-discriminatory fashion.
The Optimising Tax Revenue report is published in English and Dutch and is available on the website of the General Audit Chamber at:
~ Marlin-Romeo VP, De Weever second VP ~
PHILIPSBURG--Democratic Party (DP) leader Member of Parliament (MP) Sarah Wescot-Williams was elected President of Parliament during a plenary session on Friday.
United St. Martin (US) Party elected MP Leona Marlin-Romeo was elected First Vice-President of Parliament, while DP MP Cornelius de Weever was elected Second Vice-President.
Marlin-Romeo has joined the United People's (UP)/De Weever coalition government, but it could not be ascertained whether she has declared herself an independent MP and severed ties with US Party, with which she had publicly pledged to remain when rumours were circulating shortly after election that she was engaged in talks to lend support to UP.
All three persons were elected by 10 votes in favour. Five votes were blank. The voting was overseen by a committee comprising National Alliance (NA) MP George Pantophlet and UP MP Johan "Janchi" Leonard. During the voting for Wescot-Williams, a total of 16 ballots were counted, although there were just 15 MPs voting. Six of the votes were blank.
US Party MP Frans Richardson requested an explanation of the discrepancy and wanted to know why there had been an extra ballot. Pantophlet said 16 ballots had been in the box – six of which were blank.
The meeting was chaired by UP MP Dr. Lloyd Richardson, who was the eldest MP. The new Parliament will sit for four years – 2014 to 2018.
At the end of the voting Wescot-Williams expressed hope that MPs would work together "for the people of St. Maarten" and pursue matters that need to be pursued for the wellbeing of the country.
Marlin-Romeo said there was ample opportunity to show residents that "we are here to work in their best interest." She said the broad-based government would bring stability to St. Maarten and noted that she would be voting across party lines for issues that would benefit the country.
De Weever said Friday was "a clear demonstration" of the right decisions being made going forward. He expressed hope that the new Parliament would be one that represented all people.
Tamara Leonard said she had high expectations for Parliament.
Jacobs expressed hope that MPs would put the people of St. Maarten first and that decisions made would be in the best interest of the people of the country. She hopes that MPs will represent the people of St. Maarten to the best of their abilities.
Pantophlet said he would hold to their word the MPs who had promised to work across party lines in the interest of the population. He said St. Maarten was at a crossroad politically and the people of the country should be placed first.
The meeting attracted a large number of spectators, family members and supporters of the elected MPs.
~ MPs sworn in ~
HARBOUR VIEW--The fifteen Members of Parliament (MPs) elected during the August 29 Parliamentary Elections took their oaths to serve in the presence of Governor Eugene Holiday on Friday.
Sworn in were United People's (UP) party MPs Theo Heyliger, Franklin Meyers, Silvio Matser, Tamara Leonard, Maurice Lake, Lloyd Richardson and Johan "Janchi Leonard; Democratic Party (DP) MPs Sarah Wescot-Williams and Cornelius de Weever; United St. Maarten (US) Party MPs Frans Richardson and Leona Marlin and National Alliance (NA) MPs William Marlin, Silveria Jacobs, George Pantophlet and Christopher Emmanuel. Leona Marlin has joined the UP/de Weever coalition. It could not be ascertained whether she has declared herself an independent MP.
Holiday told the MPs that they have a central and critical role to play in fostering good governance in St. Maarten with due observance of the principles of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, the dignity and value of the individual and the entitlement of all individuals to the fundamental rights and freedoms, as anchored in the preamble of the constitution.
"Members of Parliament-elect, these important principles are the foundations on which the constitutional order and governance of our people are based. They are intended to foster and ensure that we are governed freely, honestly, fairly, justly and respectfully in the pursuit of the building of our nation," he told the MPs.
The new Parliament will sit for four years – 2014-2018.
Holiday said it should be clear that the MPs' individual and collective mandate comes with high expectations. "It is no secret that there are questions among our people in regard to the commitment of parliamentarians. To meet the high expectations and discard questions about your commitment, you must have high expectations of yourselves. The law acknowledges that and, as a result, requires that parliamentarians must take an oath. It is against the background of that legal provision that you are here today. Taking an oath or making a pledge as a representative of the people is therefore a serious legal, but also personal and public matter."
Holiday urged the MPs to the four aspects as stipulated in the oath they took. He said accepting the function of parliamentarian through the taking of an oath is a solemn expression of the MP's commitment to perform his/her function independently and with integrity, that is that they have not accepted anything from or given anything to anyone in connection with their election as an MP.
"Second, taking the oath is your pledge of allegiance to the king and the Kingdom Charter. Third, taking the oath is your sincere pledge or promise to always uphold the Constitution of St. Maarten and finally, by taking the oath, you unconditionally swear to always dedicate yourself to foster the wellbeing of the people of St. Maarten," he said.
"In taking this solemn oath, you accept and agree to our constitutional principles as the cornerstone of your mandate as representatives of the people of St. Maarten. In that regard, there rests on you individually as Members of Parliament, and collectively as the Parliament of St. Maarten, a great responsibility to represent and serve the general interest of our people and meet the high expectations that come with the function which you are about to fulfil."
Holiday urged the MPs to use their oath as a guide in the performance of their function to fulfil their mandate aimed at addressing, amongst other things, the education, employment, health care, cost of living, housing and challenges in crime. "I trust that in doing so, that you will embrace our constitutional principles and that you will act with purpose, but with reflection, courageously, but with due thoughtfulness, deliberately, but prudently, self-reliant, but with compassion, working together with honour and respect to continue to build this our beloved nation St. Maarten," he said.
The ceremony was held at the governor's Cabinet at Harbour View.
~ Stakeholders leave with good impression ~
POINTE BLANCHE--The business-end of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference and Trade Show came to a close yesterday after another busy day's worth of networking, one-on-one meetings, exhibitions and discussion panels.
It was the largest conference in the event's history. Russell Daya of Disney Cruise Line said in his parting words that it was the most successful he ever had attended.
Unique to Thursday was the first-ever FCCA Open Day, where around 300 businesspeople came to see what the event was all about. Normally strictly a business-to-business event, the Open Day was meant to show attendees how the variety of cruise tourism stakeholders showcase products to industry partners.
Various attendees approached by The Daily Herald said that they were very impressed by the facilities, enjoyed the atmosphere, and got the chance to network – especially with stakeholders from other islands. One attendee commented that she appreciated the level of sharing knowledge, which she sometimes misses in the everyday St. Maarten business atmosphere.
Given the theme, the Trade Show doubled seamlessly as a business-to-consumer event for attendees interested in various destinations.
Over 1,200 cruise tourism stakeholders, more than had been expected – along with 100 cruise line Executives, Presidents and Chief Executive Officers – gathered for the business sessions, networking opportunities and insight into maximising the sector's impact, able to learn from key decision makers.
Destination St. Maarten/St. Martin was jointly showcased, in and outside of the conference: a joint pavilion represented the ports and tourism authorities of both sides of the island, and the closing party last night was held at Le Galion Beach.
The island apparently made a very good impression, as various delegates and two cruise line executives volunteered their praises on the local destination product and hospitality to The Daily Herald. The quality of the destination product and harbour in particular were also commended during workshops.
"Attendees must now return to their home countries, but a sense of success and achievement still lingers from their private, pre-selected one-on-one meetings with cruise executives and casual discussions during social functions that displayed St. Maarten's destination product, culture, gastronomy and engaging atmosphere that helped attendees and executives feel comfortable so they could talk freely and forge relationships," a St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies (SHGC) press release read.
Delegates heard about what cruise lines really look for in shore excursions, products, services, infrastructure and destinations, information geared at helping them establish a clearer vision towards success. A strong focus was laid on product differentiation and branding, creating and delivering on customer experiences, infrastructure development, innovation, opening up to new markets, and taking global competition seriously.
SHGC Chief Executive Officer Mark Mingo addressed the audience twice as an industry expert during panel discussions. On the last day, he highlighted the importance of innovation, investing in infrastructure, sharing knowledge, as well as how he has approached harbour management, human resources and keeping in touch with key FCCA executives.
FCCA President Michele Paige, along with key cruise line Executives, Presidents, CEOs and island Ministers shared knowledge, debated and mingled with the delegates.
Today, various delegates will be taking part in complimentary tours.
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