CFT asks when St. Maarten Parliament will take pay cut | THE DAILY HERALD

THE HAGUE–The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT wonders when the members of the St. Maarten Parliament will take a ten per cent pay cut. The CFT is also not too happy that the parliament still has not taken a decision to raise the pensionable age from 62 to 65.

The CFT stated this in a letter it sent to St. Maarten Finance Minister Perry Geerlings dated February 25, and published on the CFT website on Tuesday, the day of the handling of the adapted 2019 draft budget of Country St. Maarten in parliament. The letter contains the CFT’s advice on the revised draft 2019 budget. The Kingdom Council of Ministers will discuss St. Maarten’s budget this Friday.

The CFT concluded that the revised draft budget which it received mid-February showed NAf. 478.8 million in expenditures, “a clear drop compared to the NAf. 502 million” in expenditures as stated in the original 2019 draft budget. The CFT was content with the quality of the revised budget and concluded that the anticipated revenues of NAf. 411.6 million were “sufficiently plausible” based on an economic growth of 2.3 per cent.

However, the pension expenditures increased in the revised draft 2019 budget because no decision was made in 2018 to increase the pensionable age per January 1, 2019.

“The CFT finds it disappointing that still no content has been given to the part of the 2015 instruction of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, with as deadline late 2016, despite the financial necessity,” CFT Chairman Raymond Gradus stated in the letter. “The pension law has been submitted to parliament in 2018, but no decision was taken, contrary to what was promised. The CFT again and urgently advises to increase the pension age from 62 to 65.”

The CFT warned that the continued delay will be included in future advising.

The fact that the members of the St. Maarten Parliament have not followed the example of the Council of Ministers to take a 10 per cent pay cut did not sit well with the CFT either. The 10 per cent pay cut of the ministers was included in the draft 2019 budget, but the salary reduction of the members of parliament was not because parliament has not officially reacted to the proposal aimed at cutting cost in the financially and economically hard times after the 2017 hurricanes.

“The CFT repeats its request to St. Maarten to indicate when the parliament will take a decision. The draft 2019 budget also shows an increase of 12.5 per cent for salaries of parliament compared to the 2018 budget. Information supplied by the government shows that the salary of the members of parliament remains the same in 2019, but there is a visible increase due to the increased expenditures of the parties’ support staff.”

The capital expenditures in the revised draft 2019 budget stand at NAf. 132.3 million. The income for those expenditures comes from a planned NAf. 40 million loan from the Dutch government and a NAf. 63.9 million arrangement with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. The CFT wants clarity on this “arrangement” with the BZK Ministry.

The St. Maarten government plans to make capital investments in the restructuring of the Tax Department (NAf. 60 million), improving the financial management (NAf. 15 million), repairing and improving the Pointe Blanche prison (NAf. 5.8 million), the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM (NAf. 5.8 million), paying off existing loans (NAf. 7.7 million) and study financing (NAf. 5.3 million).

The CFT was moderately positive about the revised 2019 draft budget. The reduction of expenditures and the budget deficit is a step towards tenable government finances, the CFT concluded.

“The CFT supports St. Maarten’s choice to give priority to projects to restructure the Tax Office and to improve financial management.”

The CFT did note that there were no approved projects in these two areas as yet.

Source: The Daily Herald