“Opening Cft-office more than a symbol”

POSTED: 01/18/12 12:16 PM

Chairman of the Board of Financial Supervision (CFT) Age Bakker (right) hands over the keys to the CFT’s office to the two staffers that will man it while Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto (2nd right) looks on. (Milton Pieters photo)

St. Maarten – “The opening of an office here on Front Street is more than just a symbol. It shows that the Cft and the country of St. Maarten have a firm belief that working together is the best guarantee for a sound budgetary policy,” Cft-chairman Age Bakker said yesterday afternoon at the official opening of the Cft-office. It is housed in the Convent Building in the former digs of the public prosecutor’s office, next to the offices of the Dutch representative.

Bakker said that Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto had been instrumental in convincing the Cft that it ought to open an office in Philipsburg. He referred to the agreement he signed earlier in the afternoon with the minister. “It stipulates in a concrete manner the ways in which we will work together and the objectives we both share.”

The Cft-chairman displayed his sense of humor by saying that he had visited the island for the first time in 1973. “Most of the current Cft-board members weren’t even born then,” he joked.

Bakker noted the “tremendous progress” St. Maarten has made over the past decades. “The island has come a long way, and I feel that developments have sped up since the referendum in 2000. I have particular admiration for what has been achieved since 10-10-10, although we all acknowledge that a lot of work still has to be done.”

The clear determination of getting things done is an entrepreneurial spirit that will help to achieve the roadmap ahead, Bakker said.

He added that St. Maarten is well placed to face the economic challenges. “With the right policies in place it should be able to cope with the current economic crisis.” Bakker said that there are still many opportunities to improve the financial and economic situation.

The Cft intends to organize a seminar in March to discuss opportunities the country has to bring back growth into the economy. The seminar will be organized together with the university and the government.

“Stability of the public finances is a crucial success factor for sustainable economic development, Bakker pointed out. “Fiscal stability is at the core of the cooperation between the government and the Cft.

The chairman said that the Cft’s setup is internationally unique, “in a period when financial supervision gradually becomes the standard and is no longer an exception. You are all aware of the stringent forms of public financial supervision that are presently discussed in Europe to cope with the euro crisis.”

Bakker added that public finances are increasingly scrutinized by financial markets and by rating agencies.

The chairman did not go through a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony. Instead, he handed over the office keys to the two permanent employees that will work for the Cft in St Maarten – Erik van Engelen and Marnell Bosma.

Minister Shigemoto welcomed the Cft’s continuous presence. “We will be able to approach the office whenever it is necessary,” he said. “This will ease the burden of work related to the budget. It will also help the Cft understand the economic realities of St. Maarten.”

The Minister added jokingly that the Cft would now also contribute to the country’s economy, because its employees will live here and pay taxes as well.

Lastly, Shigemoto said, “this office is good for our identity. The Netherlands Antilles no longer exist. There are two countries – Curacao and St. Maarten and it is therefore just that we have a Cft-office of our own.”

The opening was attended by, among others, Governor Holiday, Ministers De Weever and Heyliger, Cft-board members, General Audit Chamber Chairman Roland Tuitt and Parliament President Gracita Arrindell.

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