Budget 2017scheduled for timely presentation

POSTED: 08/17/16 4:21 PM

St.maarten News – Finance Minister Richard Gibson expects to deliver a balanced draft 12017 budget on time, despite the fact that the process to get there “has been a struggle because economically things are not what we expected them to be,” he said at yesterday’s Council of Ministers press briefing.

“My aim is to be on time and that the budget is balanced,” the minister said. Delivering the budget on time would be a first, not only in the history of country St. Maarten but in the history of the island territory as well.

Minister Gibson pointed out that the United States initially projected 3.5 percent economic growth for this year; later this was downgraded to 2.5 percent. “Now we hear that it is going to be a meager 1 percent. This concerns matters that we do not control, but they do affect people’s disposable income and they are curtailing travel plans. The only product we sell is tourism services, so there is some pressure.”

Nevertheless, the minister remains optimistic: “We are still very hopeful that we can produce a balanced budget for 2017 and that the projections we made for 2016 will also end up balanced.”

The 2017 budget will be “at least the same as 2016,” Gibson said. “Certain measures have been taken that would result in an increase of the projected revenue for 2016. We have some margin in the 2017 budget to do something additional.”

Minister Gibson said that he wants to avoid what he had to do to the 2016 budget: cutting subsidies for social organizations. “The aim is to make sure that they get what we were forced to cut in 2016 and that this does not repeat itself. If I get my way, I think we will succeed in getting this done.”

The minister specified the “certain measures as being the indexation of the casino fees and the collection of tax arrears to the tune of 7 million guilders from the St. Maarten Medical center. “The establishment of the new hospital includes the sale of the land and the buildings of the SMMC in the financing structure from that payment taxes can be paid to the government.”

Currently, the government is under-spending by 9 million guilders on the 2016 budget, the minister said. “That helps to reduce the shortfall in revenue.” That the government has a grip on expenditures is due to the monthly controls the finance ministry put in place on the performance of the ministries.

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