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St. Maarten minister Hassink presents 'skeleton' budget to parliament

TUESDAY, 14 JANUARY 2014

~ No new projects, not much flexibility ~

PHILIPSBURG–Finance Minister Martin Hassink presented what he called a “skeleton” draft 2014 budget to the tune of NAf. 426,695,000 in a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Monday.

The Finance Minister said his main focus this year would be on reducing cost and increasing revenue and compliance.

He described the budget as one of “bare minimum” with “not much flexibility” as authorities already have “cut as much as possible” from the various ministries.

The “biggest limitation,” he said, was the stipulation by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT that this year’s budget will be looked at critically and that income-generating measures won’t be approved without the proper legislation in place.

Government could have presented only a budget with realistic income. Any additional measures would have to be accompanied by supporting legislation. There are limited possibilities for additional policies in the budget as was presented.

Hassink said government had to start working on income-increasing measures immediately after the skeleton budget had been approved. Budget amendments then can be made to pave the way for additional policies.

“There are limited possibilities for new policies working with a skeleton budget,” he told the 15 Members of Parliament present.

Instead of increasing taxes and implementing new taxes, focus will be placed on compliance. One plan, he noted, is to have a better-functioning Tax Office.

Summary

According to the draft budget, NAf. 17,151,000 has been allocated to Parliament and the High Councils of State, NAf. 354,500 more than the NAf. 16,795,500 they received in 2013.

The Ministry of General Affairs has been allocated NAf. 74,313,800, NAf. 217,100 more than the NAf. 74,101,700 it received in 2013.

The Ministry of Finance will receive NAf. 41, 263,500, NAf. 125,400 more than the NAf. 41,138,100 it received in 2013; the Ministry of Justice gets NAf. 62,716,200, NAf. 4,203,300 less than the NAf. 66,919,500 it received in 2013; and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports NAf. 115,865,800, NAf. 31,800 less than the NAf. 115,897,600 it received in 2013.

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Affairs will receive NAf. 55,176,200, NAf. 8,176,900 less than the NAf. 63,353,100 it received in 2013; the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT) NAf. 26, 710,700, NAf. 1,312.400 less than the NAf. 28,023,100 it received in 2013; and the Ministry of Housing, Infrastructure and Environmental Affairs VROMI NAf. 33,492,800, NAf. 627,400 less than the NAf. 34,120,200 it received in 2013.

All seven ministries have been allocated a total of NAf. 426,695,000, NAf. 13,654,800 less than the NAf. 440,349,800 they were allocated in 2013.

Income

Of the NAf. 426,695,000 government expects to generate this year, NAf. 127,272,500 will be from the collection of taxes – NAf. 143,382,500 in turnover tax (ToT), NAf. 24, 240,000 in profit tax and NAf. 71,346,000 in other taxes (andere belastingen) – and NAf. 60,454,000 in other levies and retributions.

Hassink said he expected wage tax to continue to grow, as the economy was growing. He said too that profit tax was declining. The figure mentioned in the 2013 budget was not realised. However, he expects the figures mentioned in the 2014 budget to be realised, as the economy is “getting better.”

Hassink is “optimistic” that the figures in the budget will be realised.

Expenditure

Salary and social benefits will take up most of government’s expenditure this year. According to the draft budget, government is expected to fork out NAf. 162,527,400 in salary and social benefits compared to the NAf. 167,721,100 it paid out in 2013. Government is projected to pay out NAf. 165,777,900 in salary and expenditures in 2015; NAf. 169,093,500 in 2016; and NAf. 172,475,400 in 2017.

Medical cost will amount to NAf. 13,517,400 this year compared to NAf. 15,517,400 in 2013. Government is projected to pay NAf. 13,787,700 in 2015; NAf. 14,063,500 in 2016 and NAf. 14,344,800 in 2017.

Goods and services will cost government NAf. 111,433,200 in 2014 compared to NAf. 107,897,500 in 2013.

Government will fork out NAf. 100,579,600 in subsidies in 2014 compared to NAf. 106,755,300 in 2013; NAf. 8,649,700 in sickness and PP cards cost compared to NAf. 10,649,700 in 2013; NAf. 10,833,100 in interest cost compared to NAf. 9,652,300 in 2013; NAf. 4,000,000 in “duurtetoeslag/VUT compared to the same amount paid in 2013; NAf. 1,250,000 in pension and “ex gedeputeerden” in 2014, the same amount as paid in 2013; NAf. 5,000,000 in social and health insurance compared to NAf. 7,500,000 last year; NAf. 4,406,500 in write-offs (afschrijvingen) in 2014, the same amount as paid in 2013; NAf. 4,498,100 in study financing in 2014 compared to NAf. 5,000,000 in 2013.

Government’s total expenditure is budgeted at NAf. 426,695,000 compared to NAf. 440,349,800 in 2013.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

 

Parliamentarians protest lack of answers in budget debate

TUESDAY, 14 JANUARY 2014

PHILIPSBURG–The meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on the draft 2014 budget ended on a sour note on Monday evening with several Members of Parliament (MPs) protesting the move by President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell to proceed to the second round of the debate with most of their questions unanswered.

Only Finance Minister Martin Hassink had been in Parliament to answer the questions posed by MPs. Health, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Cornelius de Weever was in the building briefly during parts of the deliberations.

Hassink had referred many of the MPs’ questions to the ministers who held the respective portfolios. Arrindell’s decision led to National Alliance (NA) MPs William Marlin and Louie Laveist leaving the meeting after registering their protest.

Marlin estimated that while some 185 questions had been asked, Hassink had answered only the 32 that related to his portfolio, leaving MPs without answers to the majority of their questions in the first round.

When Hassink had completed answering his questions in the first round, Arrindell wanted to proceed to the second round. However, Laveist, Marlin and independent MP Frans Richardson protested, indicating that round two could not start when round one had not ended. Laveist had attempted earlier to obtain clarity on how the questions would be answered, but this led to a brief verbal spat among Laveist, Arrindell and United People’s (UP) party MP Jules James.

“As long as the other ministers have not answered their questions, you cannot proceed with round two,” William Marlin said, adding that while he understood that government wanted to “rush” the budget to avoid an instruction on recommendation of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, the meeting could not proceed in that manner.

He said MPs were expecting answers to their questions in the first round to formulate their questions in the second round. “Members have not been prepared for the second round unless answers have been provided,” he argued.

Laveist seconded Marlin’s position, saying that the answers related to the other ministers were needed before proceeding to the second round. “This cannot be handled as if we are dealing with a grocery store belonging to mom and pops,” Laveist said, urging Arrindell to adhere to best practices and good governance.

He said Arrindell should not engage in marginalisation of Parliament and noted that if she insisted on muzzling Parliament in this manner he would “graciously” leave the meeting so that Arrindell “could continue to make a mockery” of the budget debate.

NA MP George Pantophlet said the manner in which the meeting was being conducted was not in keeping with good governance practices. Pantophlet said Hassink had been able to answer only some the questions he had posed.

Arrindell said that while she noted the points made, the other ministers would answer the questions in writing and these would be forwarded to the MPs before the public session of Parliament. The public session has been called for tomorrow, Wednesday at 9:00am.

She said there had been meetings in the past where the first and second rounds were completed and questions had been left open. Arrindell said she had consulted with the Secretary-General of Parliament Josef Semeleer and had taken into account the way meetings had been conducted in the past.

However, William Marlin said that all ministers had been present to answer questions in the first round of the meeting with former Finance Minister Roland Tuitt to which he said Arrindell had been referring. He said answers had been sent to Parliament for questions asked in the second round, not first.

Independent MP Romain Laville said the manner in which the MPs had been protesting made it appear as though Parliament had been doing something “totally off the books.” He said that from the inception of Parliament the finance minister always had been the one to outline the budget and respond to questions.

Why ask questions over which the minister has no control? Laville asked. He said there had been “a trend” whereby ministers had given their answers at a later date in writing.

Democratic Party (DP) MP Roy Marlin suggested that the meeting be adjourned for 10 minutes to examine how the budget had been handled in the past.

Arrindell went on to adjourn the meeting, but said an adjournment would not change her conclusion. When the meeting resumed, Arrindell said her conclusion remained the same and noted that the answers related to the portfolios of the other ministers would be provided in writing.

William Marlin said NA did not agree with that conclusion. He said, amongst other things, that Arrindell had been trying to “confuse” the issues to rush the budget to meet a deadline. He then left the meeting.

Richardson said he was being paid to work and proceeded to ask a number of questions, then left. Laveist reiterated his concerns, then walked out of the meeting.

Roy Marlin said it was good to remind the MPs of the words of the former President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel, who had told MPs that they did not have the word in a previous meeting.

Roy Marlin was critical of the lack of respect shown by some MPs, who he said had used words such as “bombastic” and “impotent,” etc., during the meeting. He said MPs should receive training on their role, as it was the finance minister who had to be in Parliament to present the budget, which MPs had to debate

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

 

Salarisverlaging ligt niet goed bij parlementslid Laveist

14 JANUARI 2013

PHILIPSBURG – Het ziet er naar uit dat Sint Maarten op het nippertje de deadline gaat halen voor het goedkeuren van de 2014 begroting op 16 januari.

De Centrale Commissie besteedde vandaag aandacht aan de ontwerpbegroting en op woensdag komt het parlement ervoor bijeen. Een van de hete hangijzers wordt de mogelijke verlaging van de vergoedingen die parlementariërs voor hun werk krijgen.

De ontwerpbegroting bevat voorstellen om de salarissen van alle ministers met 30.000 gulden per jaar te verlagen. Dit leidt ook tot minder vakantiegeld, lagere onkostenvergoedingen en een beperking van de bijdrage aan het pensioenfonds. Leden van het parlement kunnen in dit verkiezingsjaar niet om dit initiatief heen.

National Alliance MP Louie Laveist voelt zich door de beslissing van het kabinet in de hoek gedrukt. Hij noemde het besluit “walgelijk” omdat dit niet vooraf is besproken, “wetend dat dit een boemerang effect op het parlement zou hebben.” National Alliance fractieleider William Marlin vroeg zich af of de verlaging van salarissen wellicht aanpassing van de wetgeving vereist.

Heel simpel
Democratic Party fractieleider Roy Marlin daarentegen zei dat de zaak heel simpel ligt. “Niemand houdt ons tegen als we 10 procent minder salaris willen ontvangen. Ik had verwacht dat leden van het parlement zouden laten blijken waar ze staan. Niemand heeft zijn kaarten op tafel gelegd.”

Marlin herhaalde zijn vorig jaar reeds ingenomen standpunt dat het parlement dient te bezuinigen op reiskosten voor het Latijns-Amerikaanse parlement Parlatino.

Bron: NTR Caribisch Nederland

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