St. Maarten Finance Minister sticks to position in face of instruction advice

POSTED: 04/1/11 12:50 PM

St. Maarten – Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto says government is seeking to guarantee a certain basic level of public services to the people of St Maarten under the Constitution of the country by maintaining its stance about the budget.

“It is totally unacceptable for the people of St. Maarten to receive substandard public services that is not acceptable throughout the European Union. Why should the people of St. Maarten be pushed in that direction? Government understands the position taken by the Board of financial Supervision (Cft) based on the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision for Curacao and St. Maarten; however everybody should also have an understanding for the position of St. Maarten after attaining country status. We had to start departments and ministries from scratch, and we are moving forward in doing what has to be done. Under the principles of good governance we will not be pushed into a corner and allow our people to receive substandard public services. Government is working to improve services as well, but this will take investments and will also take time,” Shigemoto said on Thursday.

The Board of the Cft has advised the Kingdom Council of Ministers in a letter dated March 30, 2011 to give an instruction to St. Maarten regarding its 2011 Budget. The Cft believes it necessary for the Kingdom Government to issue an instruction because the island still does not have an adopted budget, which meets the criteria of the law. They also state that they’ve attempted to reach joint agreements but St. Maarten has “come back up on previously made agreements and an attempt at the beginning of this week to have a joint discussion failed.”

“Considering this situation no other possibility remains based on the Kingdom Act than to advise the Kingdom Council of Ministers to give St Maarten an instruction. It will be up to the Kingdom Council of Ministers to decide on the following steps to come to a solution concerning the problems around the draft budget 2011 for St Maarten,” the Cft said in a statement.

Shigemoto has pointed out, “St Maarten has worked tirelessly and will continue to work to get the additional funds that will continue to guarantee a proper level of public services for the people of the island. We have worked with the Cft over the past months and will continue to do so, but we won’t be rushed into anything.”

The Parliament of St Maarten passed the budget in December 2010 for a sum of 444 million guilders. The Cft has set a budget ceiling of 416 millionguilders; however, due to cost of living adjustments for civil servants and some additional investments in various areas based on agreements with the Kingdom Government, additional revenues are needed.

The global recession has also impacted the island just as it has other countries around the world.

“We are slowly coming out of the recession; however, we must not increase taxes further that would put pressure on our slow economic recovery. I am very sympathetic to the people who are hurting, and we cannot go raising taxes again that would impact the average man. Those out there need to realize that the reality of the situation is St. Maarten has an open economy; the increase in global oil prices is impacting every household; increase in global food prices are also impacting every household; a further increase in the tax burden on the average man is not acceptable,” Shigemoto said

“This budget challenge will be resolved as long as everybody is working in the interests of the people.  It will be a win-win for everybody, but most importantly for the people of our country,” Shigemoto stated on Thursday.

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