Financial supervision (Cft) blames four ministries for delay in 2015 budget

POSTED: 08/12/14 11:16 PM

St. Maarten – The 2015 budget will be ready by the end of the month, Finance Minister Martin Hassink told this newspaper last week. That is more than a month after the budget should have been submitted to the Council of Advice and to financial supervisor Cft, who should have received the draft by July 9. Four ministries still have to downsize their wish list for 2015 to make it fit within the financial plan for 2015.

The Cft notes in a letter dated July 15 to Minister Hassink that the deadline of September 1 for submitting the budget to Parliament is at risk. The Cft published the letter on Friday on its website. By now it is clear that the September 1 deadline will not be met.

The Cft-letter shows that Minister Hassink had pulled the deadline of September 1 forward to August 25 because of the elections that take place on August 29.

“The delay with the budget is the direct result of the fact that some ministries have not been able to complete their budgets within the set ceilings. Minister Hassink had informed the ministries about the financial restraints that apply. The Cft identifies that following ministries in its letter that have not been able to comply with the budget-demands: Justice (Minister Dennis Richardson), Public Health, Social Development and Labor (Minister Cornelius de Weever), Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (Minister Ted Richardson) and Education Culture, Youth and Sports (Minister Patricia Lourens).

According to the Cft, these ministries have exceeded the ceiling with 37.5 million guilders, almost 10 percent of the total budget.

On July 9, Finance Minister Hassink said that the draft 2015 budget would have to be balanced at around 440 million guilders. Within that amount, the country has to compensate 13.8 million guilders in deficits it accumulated over the previous years. Hassink said at the time that there was a gap of 25 million guilders between the wish lists of the ministries and the 440 million target for the 2015 budget.

Once the Council of Ministers approved the budget, it has to go to the Council of Advice – a process that takes six weeks, This means that the Parliament will get to deal with the budget at best in the month of October.

Earlier in July, the Cft stated in a letter to Minister Hassink that it had become aware that St. Maarten had made financial commitments that are not part of the current budget. These commitments refer amongst others to the purchase of the Vorst-property in Cay Hill. The Cft requested that Hassink activate an article in the Kingdom law financial supervision that allows him to exercise prior supervision over financial commitments made by members of the Wescot-
Williams cabinet. On July 3, the Cft requested that Hassink submit a plan for this form of supervision within two weeks.

Failing to intervene, the Cft warned in its letter, could force it to report to the Kingdom Council of Ministers that the supervision over the country’s finances by the responsible minister is insufficient. This could lead to an instruction by the Kingdom Council of Ministers. It is at this moment unclear whether Minister Hassink submitted such a plan.

 

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