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Plasterk empathizes with St. Maarten budget woes


~ But sees need for country to have no deficit ~

PHILIPSBURG–“We are all struggling with our budgets. I can tell you our country, [The Netherlands], is doing the same right now. In Europe, we have the euro crisis so I fully understand how difficult it may be, on the one hand, to simulate the economy and, on the other hand, to have a budget that closes at the end of the day. This indeed is a struggle,” Dutch Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk told the press on St. Maarten Tuesday afternoon.
However, despite that statement, the Dutch Government is still holding St. Maarten strong to the agreement made pre-October 10, 2010 to have a balanced budget, clear of any deficit. Government is working with the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT to get its approval for the draft 2013 budget.

Plasterk said it is more than the matter of the agreement. It also has to do with the Kingdom and the countries in it showing the world at this time of economic crisis that they are financially stable and are good places for investment.
Aruba and Curaçao, he added, have decided to have balanced budgets not because they were “forced” by the financial management agreements with the kingdom government. They have decided to pursue that path, “because it is in their best interest to have a balanced budget so that they can convince international markets that they are a solid investment basis … I think I would very much like to emphasise that aspect of it. It is in the interest of all of our countries to convince the world that we do what needs to be done.”

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who was also in the press conference, said she and her cabinet discussed the progress of the draft 2013 budget with the Dutch minister during their meeting. All ministers present gave a status report on the developments in their ministries. Only Education Minister Silveria Jacobs, who was tending to other matters, was not in the meeting. Issues related to the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten were also discussed.
Plasterk was also informed that government will be submitting a proposal to the Kingdom Government about the budgetary process in general and the bigger financial picture for St. Maarten.

“In making that presentation to the Kingdom Government we will highlight some of the issues that come into play in order to create the same kind of economic image we would like to portray,” the prime minister said, adding that longer term planning is needed for the annual budget preparations.

Tuesday’s visit was Plasterk’s first to St. Maarten since taking up his post last year. He described his trip to the Caribbean part of the kingdom as being “speed dating” as he is visiting all six islands in six days. The trip, while focused on getting to know the islands a little better, had at its core the need to look ahead at the future of the kingdom.
“If a Martian would come to planet earth and would draw a map of the countries, you would probably never configure a situation in which three countries are on one side of the ocean and one country at the other side of the ocean,” Plasterk said.

A “complex situation” was created on 10-10-’10 with the constitutional changes within the kingdom. “We are still trying to work out what all of that means and the details of our relationships and how we solve issues,” he said.
“I am looking forward to our collaboration. I think for the kingdom, it would be good for our children and our grandchildren if we can improve their lives” by finding “win-win situations” aimed at better understanding each other, the Dutch minister said.

St. Maarten and Dutch officials also discussed several matters regarding the relationship with Dutch Public Entities Saba and Statia.

Wescot-Williams also signed a joint agreement with The Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao aimed at improving the quality of laws drafted within the kingdom. This will allow the legal departments and advisors of the three island countries to work together with their Netherlands-based counterparts on the best formulas for drafting and amending legislation.

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