CFT sees 2016 possibly ending with a surplus

PHILIPSBURG–All signs are that the 2016 budget will end in a surplus. This is the first time in recent years such a surplus will be registered, Committee for Financial Supervision CFT Chairman Age Bakker said on Friday.

The surplus announcement comes after CFT had expressed concerns earlier in the year about Government incomes falling below budgeted amounts. Bakker said those concerns had stemmed from economic growth bring flat not only locally, but globally.

The surplus was boosted by the payout to Government by utilities company GEBE of some NAf. 17 million.

Bakker did caution while it is “not impossible” for the year to end on a surplus, the reality of this will be known when Government submits its annual report to CFT early next year.

CFT has again called on Government to broaden the tax base by tackling people who are not paying their fair share. This will lead to Government receiving more structured income and reduce the dependence on incidental income to balance the budget.

   St. Maarten has had “a successful business plan” for the past years, but it now “needs some upgrades.” Those upgrades could come from the development of “an integrated vision” for the country that has some focus on diversifying the economy and reducing dependence on tourism. The country’s main economic generator – tourism – is “putting pressure on the infrastructure.”

By the same token, Bakker said the planned Pearl of China project is “a positive sign” that investors are interested in the country. However, focus must be put on revamping the country’s competitiveness and on attracting different tourists.

St. Maarten has been successful due to “its can-do mentality,” but it is time to take a step back to see what is needed and then take a step forward again, said Bakker.

CFT met separately with Governor Eugene Holiday, Finance Minister Richard Gibson, Council of Advice, the representatives of St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies, Princess Juliana International Airport and Social and Health Insurance SZV. Government policies and finances were discussed as well as the financial state of affairs of the government-owned entities and the risks they could possibly pose regarding the country’s budget.

Bakker urged government, yet again, to develop a dividend policy for its companies to provide better structure and tackle tax collection.

Bakker said CFT was happy to have had some meetings in the Government Administration Building on Pond Island. The move to this building, he added, will “result in savings in due time” for the country and the rental savings can be put to better use by Government.

Source: The Daily Herald