Wescot-Williams confidence about budget

POSTED: 09/9/13 2:36 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams commented on Friday that although items related to the 2013 budget are based in the law regarding financial supervision, it is unfortunate that there is a lack of discussion regarding the financial reality of St. Maarten both in a global context as well as within the Kingdom level.

“The point that we are making as a government is one of yes, indeed we are binded by the laws that govern financial supervision but it is unfortunate that discussions are refused to be held regarding the financial realities with which St. Maarten as a new country is faced. Since 2008 we have been strongly affected by the global political crisis that has impacted the financial sector significantly. And I must add not only impacted the sector here but even the Netherlands has its issues related to their budgetary responsibilities to the European Union for example. In a European context all countries of the European Union need to comply with budgetary conditions and procedures. A highly developed country like the Netherlands is having major issues with presenting a proper deficit to the European Union. Additionally St. Maarten never received its debt relief as was projected and what was agreed to with the Netherlands and thirdly the building up of country St. Maarten had to, in crucial instances, be started from scratch. There was no positive legacy in so many areas that we inherited from the Netherlands Antilles. We are catching up and that has serious financial consequences to it. Yes we agree to a balanced budget and yes it is in the law, but why cannot we talk about the issues that we are being faced with,” the prime minister said.

Wescot-Williams also updated on where the budget stands considering the advice of the Cft for St. Maarten to receive an instruction. The prime minister commented that the Cft will indeed be advising an instruction, but the people of St. Maarten should be made aware as to what that procedure entails. “The budget has been approved by parliament months ago. The question then is where the Cft comes in when they advise an instruction. The Cft is a body formed on the basis of a Kingdom law agreed to by the countries within the Kingdom. The Cft includes a representative of St. Maarten, in this case attorney Richard Gibson Sr.

The law mentions the dates by which the countries in the Kingdom should have an approved budget. Every budget that is submitted needs to be vetted by the Cft and once the Cft gives the go-ahead the budget will be accepted by parliament and the Cft needs to again be given the budget after it is approved by parliament. This year parliament took some time to approve the budget and the political stalemate also slowed the budget down considerably. When the budget was submitted to the Cft for final review the Cft had questions, specifically presented to former Minister Tuitt on various items he was responsible for, for example the excise duty on alcoholic beverages, especially considering there were no laws from parliament regarding the measures. Current Finance Minister, Hassink had to take those items out of the budget and has had to enter into discussions regarding the contribution of government owned companies, institutions etcetera. In addition to that all of these steps require consultation with the Cft to ensure that all items are feasible.

“An instruction means that St. Maarten would need to have a balanced budget by a certain date. In the case of the instruction of Curacao amongst other things they had to reduce the budget amount and present a plan as to how that would happen. In the case St. Maarten we will probably be asked to have a budget in place within a short period of time. The Cft as a commission cannot give an instruction. They would advise the Kingdom Government on the basis of the law and then they would issue an instruction. However I am confident that we can have an approved, balanced budget within short,” concluded Prime Minister Wescot-Williams.

 

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