Government requests postponement of budget debate to Feb 29

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten -The government of St. Maarten has requested Parliament to delay the public debate of the 2016 budget to February 29, to provide more time to make adjustments in the budget as proposed by the Financial Supervisory Board CFT.

Minister of Finance Richard Gibson, at a press conference on Friday, February 12, disclosed that unlike the custom when the budget is sent to the CFT after it was approved by Parliament, this government sent the budget to the CFT for approval prior to the parliamentary debate.

A letter from the CFT this week pointed out four main areas in the budget for adjusting, which Minister Gibson outlined on Friday. These are: including in the budget the commitment to pay off the debts owed to SZV and APS; the total premium that has to be paid to the pension fund; the draft numbers of the 4th quarter of the 2015 budget, and outlining in the budget specific measures of lowering expenses.

The main area, the Minister noted, that prompted government to request more time for the budget debate was the request to include the numbers of the 4th quarter of 2015. “The numbers of the first quarter of 2015 have not yet been finalized and the reason they have not been finalized is because the department of administration people have been exhaustively trying to work on the budget so we can get that budget passed. But it makes sense because the number of the 4th quarter would tell CFT, and give the CFT the picture whether or not 2015 ended up with a positive balance or a negative balance,” explained Gibson.

“Either way it could influence the numbers for 2016 so they are asking us to incorporate those numbers in the draft budget for 2016 and it’s mainly for that reason that we’ve asked Parliament to postpone the public meeting for at least two weeks to give the department time to compile the numbers from the 4th quarter of 2015,” he added.

Regarding lowering of expenses and what savings government can generate, Gibson noted that was already included in the budget, but would be outlined more clearly to the satisfaction of the CFT.

Meanwhile, regarding payment of debts to SZV and APS, Minister Gibson stated there is already a commitment to pay this debt based on a commitment letter between the creditors and government.

“What the CFT did not know and did not have in hand was a letter of agreement that we consummated with SZV and APS on the Friday, because that had not yet been sent to the CFT where they could see that based on that agreement a commitment to that respect has already been made,” he said.

On that note, the CFT also wants to see in the budget the total payment from the government pension fund. “For years even prior to St. Maarten becoming a country, the percentage which was incorporated and budgeted was 22%. In every budget we have had from 10-10-10 to date, always the 22% was reflected in the budget without any comment or complaint from CFT,” Gibson said. He said the government is now required to use 25% payable to APS and include the amount that percentage reflects (4 million guilders). “Following what the tradition has been in the past, 22% was reflected as expense in the budget and not 25%. Nevertheless, we will take the necessary steps and find that 4 million, and include that in the budget 2016 to meet the requirements and the desires of CFT,” he disclosed.

The Minister also stated that government has already decided to lower the payment to 22% and this is currently in the legislative process.

Source: 721 news Government requests postponement of budget debate to Feb 29