St. Maarten Ministers to discuss trimming 2012 budget deficit next Tuesday

POSTED: 08/18/11 3:09 PM

St. Maarten – The budget for 2012 has a deficit, but Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, has stayed away from naming a figure because the document “is still so much under discussion” and she does not want the figure “to live a life of its own.” Sources close to the discussion have indicated that the deficit tops out at 130 million guilders. That will have to be whittled down to zero because the country is not allowed to have a budget deficit.
“Just understand, that what the Council of Ministers is faced with right now is that we want to spend more in 2012, than what is anticipated that we would be able to receive, also given the economic climate of the time,” Wescot-Williams said.
The prime minister was able to make the announcement the budget on Wednesday at the Council of Ministers press briefing because the body began handling the document on Tuesday. Each minister is expected to present their concrete proposals on what will be removed from the “wish lists” submitted to the Ministry of Finance by the secretaries general of the seven ministries, when the discussion resumes on August 23.
Though she would not give the figure of the deficit the prime minister has said the government finds itself between a rock and a hard place, especially where it comes to filling critical vacancies across all ministries. As part of this discussion the ministers have requested an overview from the Department of Personnel on what critical vacancies have been filled and which ones still need to be filled. That overview, which must be done per ministry, will allow a detailed discussion on what is affordable at this time and what not doing certain hiring will mean for each ministry’s ability to function optimally.
“It does not seem that all the positions will be filled. We had that in 2011, and it does look like financially it will be possible in 2012 and that brings me again to reiterate the government’s stance that because of the transition from Island Territory to Country St. Maarten and some of the revenue and income and funds that will come to St. Maarten because of the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles, we would have liked to see that happen as soon as possible to assist us in this matter of our budget and looking at the gap that exists right now,” Wescot-Williams said.
The prime minister has also announced the matter of what is to be considered new policy is weighing heavy on the discussions about the budget. The document before the Council of Ministers is reportedly a budget with no new policy, but ministers questioned that in their meeting on Tuesday.
“For example if there was a plan by (edi. what is now) some ministry developed in 2008 that received preliminary approval by whomsoever and now it is brought up as a proposal to be executed in 2012: Is that new policy? That is the question. If you have project ongoing and part of that project actually goes into another area for 2012 and you seek financing for that: Is that new policy? So even there, with respect to, new policy or not. Because actually, the budget in front of us now, should be without new policy and that is not totally the case, because we have determined that is impossible that, that budget does not contain elements of new policy and still the gap is so big and that is what needs to be reviewed and dissected at this time from within the budget,” Wescot-Williams said.
The entire budget process, including the request for and acquisition of advice, has been planned and placed into a schedule that includes when it will be submitted to Parliament for handling. Asked whether the budget will be submitted to Parliament by the second Tuesday in September the prime minister, “Yeah we might be. We’re hoping and we might be able to, but it is pushing it very, very hard.”
Article 100 subsection 3 of the Constitution requires that the first draft of the budget is submitted to parliament by September. It is common practice across the Kingdom of the Netherlands that the submission is done on the same day that parliament opens its new sitting year. In St. Maarten’s case that is the second Tuesday in September.

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