PHILIPSBURG - St. Maarten’s United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament (MP) and former Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says the country could run out of the funds in its coffers within two months, by the end of May, without any continued liquidity support from the Netherlands.
Wescot-Williams provided the alarming possibility during a press conference just before the Easter holidays. She used calculations from figures provided by Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, who said in a letter to MPs on an overview of the country’s liquidity situation that as of March 26, 2021, the country had 27.4 million guilders in liquidity. An amount of one million for capital expenditures is designated for a weather radar.
According to Wescot-Williams, Irion also said in the letter that the country also has the remaining liquidity assistance and stimulus funds at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS), bringing the overall total in liquidity for the country at 32 million guilders.
Wescot-Williams said the information from the minister is insufficient and indicated that an analysis of the figures provided cannot be done without knowing projections and without information such as whether government had already paid salaries, for example.
“If I look at the liquidity position of government, I need to make my own calculations based on the limited information I have received,” she said. Assuming that salaries had already been paid, Wescot-Williams said taking the average monthly income and expenditure based on the fourth quarter financial overview of 2020, which showed an average monthly income of NAf. 29.5 million and average expenditure of NAf. 45.9 million, she concluded that by the end of April, the country would have about NAf. 16 million left in its coffers.
“If I use the same average numbers, come the end of May, we will have no liquidity without receiving any additional liquidity,” she said, adding that if the rough calculations that she has done are incorrect, the games being played should stop and Minister Irion should clarify the figures.
“If I missed something in here, maybe some amount of money that you [Irion – Ed.] did not mention, then you make it clear and you let the people of St. Maarten know how long you have the flexibility and the maneuvering space to play the game of holding back or at least frustrating the negotiations for the liquidity assistance,” Wescot-Williams said.
“That’s all I want to hear right now, and if you have two months [liquidity left], then I say to the Presidium of Parliament that is now trying, in all kind of ways and means, to figure out what they are going to tell State Secretary [of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond] Knops without jeopardizing the petition that has been filed and without losing face with the petition that has been filed. … I am sure Mr. Choharis will understand what is playing here and would cooperate with what is necessary.”
She said the governing coalition MPs need to stop “playing the game” being played that has put the country’s liquidity assistance in jeopardy. Alluding to the country’s precarious financial situation, she said the liquidity situation can only be fixed if the November 5, 2020, motion of Parliament is revisited and the petition sent to the UN is pulled back “in a nice, diplomatic way.”
“As far as I am concerned, with the little information financially that I have and haven’t received from the minister, I look at basically no liquidity, no money by the end of May and if the Minister of Finance comes out and shows where we can still paddle our own canoe for the next three to four months – so June, July, August – then he will have to make that clear to the people of St. Maarten – those who rely on the government such as civil servants, school boards, you name it.
“So, while this game is being played … this is the direction we are going into.”
Wescot-Williams was again critical of Parliament entering into an agreement with Choharis Legal Solutions to file a petition to the United Nations requesting it “to investigate violations of a UN mandate right to a full measure of self-government for the people of St. Maarten.”
The petition was sent to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on behalf of the Parliament and people of St. Maarten.
“Parliament is not a government and cannot enter into these kinds of contracts and agreements,” Wescot-Williams said. “When you have a majority in parliament taking decisions such as these with disregard to the role and scope of parliament, what can be done in a case like this, because I don’t think given this motion [of November 5, 2020] that this is the end of what we will see coming out of the motion where a select few feel that they have the mandate to act on behalf of the people of St. Maarten.”
She said this issue is more than the petition. “The root of the petition is in the motion of November 5, 2020, by the majority in Parliament, and unless we address what is in this motion … if we don’t address some of the points of departure in the motion, we will be back in here in another month or six weeks when the majority of parliament feel that they should invoke another part of that motion.”