St. Maarten Minister Shigemoto: Government hopes to pay cost of living adjustment by June 30

FRIDAY, 04 MAY 2012

PHILIPSBURG--Government should be able to pay the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2010 by June 30, Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto announced Thursday night.

Shigemoto, who is currently serving as the caretaker Minister of Finance, said the payout should be "to the tune of NAf.17 million – inclusive of back service pension premiums."

The payment should have been made to government workers since January, but due to difficulties in putting together the 2012 budget this was not done.

Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) President Claire Elshot had said at a press conference earlier Thursday that the union hoped the COLA would be paid at the end of June together with the vacation pay. She had raised concerns that if the vacation pay was paid before the COLA and not together there would be need for recalculations.

In his press release last night, Shigemoto explained that his Cabinet "has been working diligently to secure the necessary funding" to meet government's obligations towards civil servants of Country Sint Maarten.

"The funding will come from the 2010 balance sheet prior to 10-10-10 and 2011 extended book year financial statement for which provisions have been made to the tune of NAf. 11 million and NAf. 2 million respectively, and the remainder, approximately NAf. 4 million, will be covered from the cash reserves," Shigemoto explained.

He cautioned that the arrangement would have to be approved by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and that discussions with the CFT would commence on a technical level.

The press release continued: "The Financial Statement 2010 prior to 10-10-10 is still being checked by the SOAB Accounting Bureau, and the 2011 Financial Statement is being finalised to be checked by the SOAB and subsequently to be forwarded to Parliament in August 2012."

He also stressed that a long-term solution had to be worked out with all stakeholders, as the current arrangement will not be sustainable in the coming years.

Meanwhile, the WITU board still has to be informed officially of government's plan to pay the COLA.

The union's board met Thursday evening to finalise an agenda for a May 12 general membership meeting. The COLA payment and tackling absenteeism are expected to feature prominently on the agenda.