Budget cuts are hurtful, education minister says

POSTED: 02/11/13 2:42 PM

St. Maarten – Some 5.6 million guilders had to be cut from her projected expenditures to balance the 2013 draft budget, Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Silveria Jacobs told a central committee of Parliament on Friday. The meeting was a continuation of one held two weeks ago to discuss the sports and youth policy. After several questions on the costs associated with funding several programs, Jacobs told the parliamentarians that she was obviously not happy with the request by the Board for financial supervision (Cft) to cut 25 million guilders from the draft 476 million guilders budget that was submitted to them in January.

“If it affects the carrying out of serious projects, it would be detrimental to not only the ministry but also the country. None of my fellow ministers will be happy with the cuts that we have had to make to please the Cft. We look forward to the promises of the Finance Minister that the budget amendments will be made during the year as we will be able to project more income than the Cft feels we can prove at this time,” the minister said.

She added that since the most money is allocated to the education ministry annually, several items that were slated for increases had to be reduced.

With the stoppage of Amfo funding in December, Jacobs said that many of the foundations who cater to sport and youth development were looking to her ministry to sustain themselves.  The government had already launched its St. Maarten Development Foundation to source and distribute funds for many of these agencies, but Jacobs said that projects that specifically related to youth, education or sport fell directly under her instead of the foundation. The result was a 3.4 million guilders cut from the St. Maarten Development Foundation. The sum, the minister explained, was part of the 5.6 million guilders reduction.

She opined that the Cft may not be sensitive to St. Maarten’s developmental needs.

“The persons who are looking at our budget are really forgetting that we are a developing country and we have not had the responsibilities that we now have. Perhaps they did not take into consideration what the true costs would be, to be able to meet our obligations.”

The minister explained that in 2012 an amount was budgeted for the sports and youth foundation but since it was not established, the money that she reallocated to 2013 was removed because there was no assurance that the foundation would be up and running this year. She said despite this setback, she is the final stages of establishing the foundation which will see an integrated department splitting into two to deal with sport and youth separately. It would require more staff, Jacobs said, which would have resulted in additional salaries being placed on the budget.

Jacobs said that the government wants to go ahead with capital investments like the cricket stadium but nothing is certain until the Cft gives its final approval.

“These are capital investments and they hinge up the approval of the budget so they are not actually budgeted now. We cannot say that it is on our budget. It is a dream, a goal, a wish but not all of our dreams and goals will be realize din this budget year or the next.”

Finance Minister Roland Tuitt sent a reduced draft 2013 budget to the tune of 449 million guilders to the Cft last Tuesday. The Cft has to give a positive advice before it is sent to parliament for debate and approval.

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