CFT sees ability to meet pensions, social service as St. Maarten government ‘challenge’



WEDNESDAY, 18 JANUARY 2012

PHILIPSBURG--One of the economic challenges the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT foresees, based on global trends, is "the ability of the government to provide the social services and pension the population expects," CFT Chairman Age Bakker told Parliament in an introductory meeting Tuesday.

Bakker, who was in the country for the opening of a CFT office and to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with government on further cooperation, met Parliament with other members of the CFT board and secretariat staff.

He explained that the challenge for government stemmed from the worldwide developments on this front where governments were looking at the pension funds and social services to see if there were adequate reserves.
To this end, CFT has asked the United People's (UP) party/Democratic Party (DP) coalition to look at the prospects for those two issues and make sure "all available data" on these services are available to government and Parliament to make informed decisions on the service that can be provided in the medium term.

Speaking of the draft 2012 budget, the new CFT chairman said government was still discussing it with CFT. When it is finally presented to Parliament it will come with a positive informal advice from CFT on its meeting all set norms. He sees this process of discussions prior to the budget's presentation in Parliament as "a positive step from the situations in the past."

Budgets were presented in the past and passed by Parliament only to be rejected by CFT. Those rejections arose because CFT judged the budgets as not in line with the Kingdom Law on Temporary Financial Supervision for Curaçao and St. Maarten, the law that gave birth to CFT.

"The budget will be presented very soon," Bakker told Members of Parliament (MPs). "It is a big improvement compared to last year. We are making progress, but we are not there completely, because the law says the budget should be ready before December 15." The deadline was not met because the 2011 budget process was lengthy.

The improvement to which he referred relates to government and CFT being at odds in the budget process in 2010 and 2011. That led to the 2011 budget receiving final approval from CFT in August 2011 after Parliament had passed a revised budget in June. "We have good hope that the 2013 budget will be within the framework."

The 2012 budget is presented in "challenging times" for St. Maarten and the world. Bakker said it would be "a challenging task" for Parliament and government to fulfil the requirements of the law. He indicated that there might be a need during the course of the year to assess the situation again to decide whether to adjust the budget.

Dealing with the Annual Report for 2011, Bakker said this would take time, seeing that the process to adopt the budget had only ended in August. "We have heard that it will be probably before the expected date of August."

The 2010 Annual Report is in the final process and will be sent to the General Audit Chamber and Parliament soon. These reports are "important in Parliament being able to play its role." Without the reports, government, Parliament and CFT have to operate "a little in the dark" to a certain extent, because not all information is available. However, Bakker is optimistic about progress being made.

CFT has a role in seeing that corporate governance is implemented and fostered by government, he said. The progress of this has been discussed with the Council of Ministers and progress is being made. MPs George Pantophlet, Frans Richardson, Patrick Illidge and William Marlin made comments and asked Bakker questions about the role of CFT and its relationship with government, and on the budget.