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No word yet on completion of minister candidates screening

PHILIPSBURG--It has been more than a month since the submission for screening a minister candidate to join the Marcel Gumbs Cabinet and there has not been any word about whether and when the candidate will be sworn in to office. There also has not been any information about the progress of the screening from authorities.

The candidate, who is expected to take up the post of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), is former utilities company GEBE employee Ernest Sams.

Following a successful screening, Sams is to take up that post and current minister Claret Connor is slated to move to the portfolio of Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI. That portfolio is held ad interim by Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs.

Meanwhile, it is understood that a second minister candidate is undergoing screening. That person has been confirmed by coalition insiders as labour mediator Raphael Boasman. Boasman is a career civil servant who also has served his country on several boards and in other civic positions.

Boasman is pegged for the post of Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour. That portfolio is held ad interim by Education Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs.

The Marcel Gumbs Cabinet has been in office since December 19, 2014. The cabinet has five ministers, with two of them doubling up on portfolios. It is those two portfolios for which United People's (UP) party seeks to find individual ministers.

The Governing Accord states that all ministers will be appointed jointly by the coalition partners UP, independent Members of Parliament (MPs) Cornelius de Weever and Leona Marlin-Romeo, and United St. Maarten Party (member of the coalition since January). It is understood that Sams was put forward by the coalition for screening on Marlin-Romeo's recommendation, while Boasman was recommended by De Weever.

The UP-led coalition has been in office since October 10, 2014. After almost 10 months in office, many in the country are still waiting for any of the campaign promises to blossom into actual projects. The renovation of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) or the building of a new hospital has not been heard of for many months and there has been no apparent move to indirect taxes and the abolishing of direct taxes.

The coalition only presented its governing programme to the cabinet in mid-July 2015. That roadmap calls for "restructure" of the present tax assessment and collection process "to make it more manageable and efficient" and to "reduce" its complexity, thereby making it less complicated and less expensive, while increasing compliance

Simplification and restructuring of the tax system is "a priority," cited the coalition as it called on the cabinet to conduct a study aimed at revising and simplifying the tax laws as a matter of priority and to make this available to the public in the English language.

The coalition said in the programme that building a modern medical facility would establish St. Maarten as a regional healthcare centre. The coalition said it would support and promote medical tourism in conjunction with the "new" St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) by providing a broad range of specialists and emergency care that normally would not be possible in St. Maarten and by eliminating, for the greater part, the need for patients to travel off-island for medical treatment.

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