St. Maarten government will not meet December 15 budget deadline


~ Budget stands at NAf 427 million ~

PHILIPSBURG--Government will not meet the legally prescribed deadline for the approval of the 2014 budget. The country's budget for the coming year should be approved by Parliament annually by December 15. However, the 2014 draft budget is still with the Advisory Council.

Finance Minister Martin Hassink was very direct about government not meeting the budget deadline. He said at Wednesday's Council of Ministers Press Briefing: "We are not going to make that [date -Ed]." The reason for missing the deadline, according to the minister, is the extended period of time government spent fixing the 2013 budget.

The Advisory Council should send its report on the draft budget by today Thursday. Government will have to then review the council's advice and make necessary adjustments before the budget is submitted to Parliament for review and approval.

Hassink said the aim is now to get the budget debate in Parliament on December 19-20. If those dates are not feasible, the budget approval will be pushed to the week of January 13.

The draft budget stands at NAf. 427 million. This is "a minimum amount" on which to run government's operations.

Allocations for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports is NAf. 116 million (mostly earmarked for education), General Affairs Ministry NAf. 74 million, Justice Ministry NAf. 63 million, Ministry of Public Health, Social Development, and Labour NAf. 55 million, Ministry of Finance NAf. 41 million, Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure NAf. 34 million, and Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunication NAf. 27 million.

Parliament has an allocation of NAf. 17 million in the draft 2014 budget. Government's income for the budget is primarily generated by taxes.

Some ministries will not be able to carry out plans and programmes in the coming year due to the financial cutbacks, Hassink said. This means the ministries will have to do their utmost to stay within the budget. Additional activities can only be executed when income is higher, new income measures are implemented and budget amendments are made.

"It will be very important for the coming year to implement additional income measures and cost saving measures," Hassink pointed out.

The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT has already given a preliminary advice on the draft budget. Government has been informed that before a positive advice can be given by CFT "a little bit more proof of certain income items," including cost saving measures, is needed, said the minister.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten