Opinion: The budget (of Country St. Maarten)

POSTED: 01/20/13 7:46 PM

The publications from the board for financial supervision Cft are practically always more revealing than the press conferences of our finance minister about the same topic: the budget.
While Minister Tuitt shed some light on the findings of the Cft earlier this year, he left out a few poignant points of criticism the Cft expressed in a letter dated December 24, 2012.
We picked up several things from that letter that ought to be real reasons for concern. First of all there is of course the hint that the Cft could ask the Kingdom Council of Ministers to give St. Maarten an instruction – a walk of shame Curacao had to undergo last year. One could shrug off this remark, arguing that the Cft only refers to an article in the Kingdom Law Financial Supervision. What’s new? Well, new is of course that the Cft in perfect diplomatic language is giving St. Maarten a clear warning. Clean up your act or else.
A second interesting point is the apparent lack of cooperation the Cft is getting from the government. The Kingdom law financial supervision obliges the country to provide all information the Cft needs to perform its task. There have been earlier confrontations in this field and it is apparently not over yet. This time the Cft has to send several reminders before the SZV came up with its multi-annual budget. A request for an explanation about Minister Duncan’s Justice Park fell on deaf ears. The government simply did not answer.
This makes us think of the way governments over the years have dealt with reports from the General Audit Chamber. For decades the approach has been the same: do not react. It is this ostrich-mentality that drives St. Maarten deeper and deeper into a big pile of you-know-what. Instead of confronting situations, they are ignored.
And at the place where this hurts most – in the field of financial management – the government is apparently completely, utterly, and hopelessly deaf. How else does the financial supervisor arrive at the conclusion that the improvement of the financial management has mainly been at a standstill?
Is this incompetence or unwillingness? The draft budget for 2013 ought to give an answer to this question. If the government really wants to improve its financial management (that is the way the government handles the people’s money) it ought to use part of its budget to implement and execute improvement plans. But the Cft doubts whether the government has put enough money aside for this purpose.
The conclusion is therefore that the government is not interested in sound financial management, no matter how often it claims otherwise. Since the island obtained autonomy, all budgets were balanced on paper and no budget has lived up to its expectations. That’s nothing new: this has been going on for decades and it does not look like anything will change anytime soon.

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