Central Committee continues budget amendment discussion – Financial supervisor under fire

POSTED: 09/13/13 4:02 PM

St. Maarten– The financial supervisor Cft was taking some heat in yesterday’s Central Committee meeting about the 2013 budget amendment, both from Independent MP Frans Richardson and from Finance Minister Maarten Hassink.

Richardson noted that the parliament now has to serve two masters – the constitution and the government accountability ordinance on the one hand, and the Cft on the other. “The Cft has become more demanding,” he noted, wondering whether the amendment Minister Hassink submitted to parliament already has the Cft’s approval. “There is little use discussing this if the Cft has not approved the proposals,” he said. “Why don’t we send it first to the Cft and then to the parliament?”

Later on in the meeting, after MPs had made their remarks and fired their questions, Minister Hassink acknowledged that the budget is a collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers. “We are under time-constraints and we are making efforts to avoid an instruction,” he said. “We have to work out the proposed measures in the coming months and we also have explained that to the Cft. I do not agree with their comments, because they approved the previous budget while there was no legislation in place for the measures the previous government proposed.”

Minister Hassink emphasized that the reserves in the accounts of the Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) and at the water company is government money. “All we are doing is bringing it back to the government. “We know how much money TelEm and UTS paid to BTP, and we also know that there is insufficient accountability for how BTP is spending its money. We sent them an invoice and after that a reminder to pay. If they don’t we’ll put liens on their accounts.”

Hassink has no qualms about dipping into the excess reserves of the water company either. “The water losses are very high, so the company has to invest in infrastructure. That will make the company even more profitable. The government is able to provide very cheap loans for their investments. So what is the problem?”

The minister said that, since the 2013 budget has not been ratified, the country operates under the 2012 budget and that it cannot spend more than what it in that budget. “The adjustments to the expense accounts were expenses that we were not allowed to make anyway.”

Hassink remained careful with information about the tax deal the former owners of the American University of the Caribbean in Cupecoy made with the tax inspectorate. “I received a report about this case, but I am not going to give any information until I have legal advice about my liability with regard to confidentiality concerning individual tax payers.”

The minister explained that the government intends to pay 7.5 million guilders into the AVBZ-fund and the ZV/OV-fund this year. “If additional revenue allows, we will pay more, up to the maximum of 18.2 million,” Hassink said. The balance of unpaid contributions will be moved to the 2014 budget.

The lease fees for a terrain for two fuel storage tanks near the airport will not be collected this year, the minister said. The charges to the two fuel-suppliers for making this terrain available outside of the airport are 2.5 million guilders each. “This will be compensated by the contribution from Gebe’s water company – 15 million instead of 5.6 million guilders – and possibly a payment from BTP that is higher than 3.5 million guilders.”

Independent MP Frans Richardson had counted 115 changes to the budget. “Only a few of these changes are addressed in the explanatory notes,” he said. Richardson asked for more detailed information – including a “total breakdown of the buildings the government is renting.”

NA-MP Louie Laveist proposed to levy a “national development fee” for visitors to the island to improve the health of the country’s financial household. He lamented the unequal treatment of locals by the tax inspectorate. “Citizens cannot owe anything to the tax inspectorate or they will be threatened with all kinds of liens,” he said. I have a concern that the government is treating citizens and for instance casinos differently. Why allow the casinos not to comply and what guarantee is there that they will pay now?”

DP-MP Roy Marlin forcefully rejected Laveist’s suggestion that the Democratic Party is out “to plunder government-owned companies.” He referred to the statements he made about these companies on Monday during the closing of the parliamentary year. Marlin noted that Laveist was telling “deceitful lies” about his faction.

 

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Comments (1)

 

  1. Peter says:

    If the budget-amendments were so simple why was is not done before? Government is shifting the problems again to the future. These solutions are not durable just windowdressing. A ” aanwijzing” will be given soon.