Cft gives mixed review of St. Maarten

POSTED: 05/19/11 12:11 PM

Monthly, quarterly reports outstanding

St. Maarten – The Board of Financial Supervision (Cft) has ended its most recent visit to St. Maarten with a mixed bag of positives and negatives. The two day visit included meetings with the Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, 12 Members of Parliament who assembled for a Central Committee meeting and the Council of Ministers.

Among the negatives in the discussion is the fact that the Cft has not yet received the quarterly report for the final quarter of 2010 – October to December and the quarterly report for the first quarter of 2011 – January to March. The government pledged to deliver the two reports between the end of June and August 31. The annual accounts for 2010 are due by that later date. The Board in turn expressed a level of understanding for the late delivery.

“There has been a delay with good reason and that is the changes that were made on October 10, 2010 and so we can understand that there would be some issues with the compilation of statistics. Delays are the most positive thing though and we are not happy with them,” Cft Chairman Has Weitenberg said.

Another negative is the fact that government stopped creating and sending the Cft monthly reports in October 2010. The monthly reports, which show the progress of revenue collection and key expenditures, were an agreement between the Cft and former Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman, but Weitenberg said the board has not gotten one since October.

“We’d like to see them start again and this information is not just good for us, but it is good for the country itself so they can monitor how things are going with their finances,” Weitenberg said.

One thing the Cft considered positives is that the Secreteriat has confirmed receipt of annual accounts from twelve government owned companies. The reports, sent Friday, mean 14 of the 16 entities that were supposed to report have fulfilled their obligation. Once the final two comply the Foundation Government Accountants Bureau (SOAB) will be able to establish the country’s collective sector. This has bearing for the government because it will also help establish the interesting bearing norm – the amount government can borrow beyond what it will collect in revenue.

The Cft has also engaged the government in discussions on the fact that two studies the body requested as part of the preparation of the 2011 budget have not been completed. One study relates to creating a master list of the essential duties of the government and what can be done by other parties. Government has promised to open the discussion on this in the second half of the year. The other study is a review of the expenditures in key ministries like Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Public Housing, Physical Planning, Environment and Infrastructure and Justice.

“There are benefits from the results of these analyses and so we believe that they should be completed,” Weitenberg said.

The Cft said it has also advised during this trip that the island move to use international standards laid out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its sister organization the World Bank, when crafting and implementing financial management policies. At the moment the island has a five year program on financial management and is also implementing a project, funded by USONA, focused in this area. The project is at a standstill though, because there is no project leader.

The St. Maarten government has also informed the Cft that the problems around funding the Corporate Governance Council should be ended soon. To date the body has yet to receive a promised 400, 000 guilder advance to help cover its expenses. The Council had requested this from government in 2010 but it has not been finalized as yet.

“In general we would favor more speed in the responses that we get from the government of St. Maarten on our recommendations, but we also believe and understand that will take some time because of the changes that have come,” Weitenberg said.

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