Finance Minister Richard Gibson
PHILIPSBURG–The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT has sent Finance Minister Richard Gibson five “suggestions” for the draft 2016 budget, which if taken up the Committee would be more inclined to give the budget its nod of approval.
Gibson said in a press conference on Friday afternoon that the suggestions will be worked on by Government. However, this will take time so Parliament has been requested to hold off on handling the draft budget in a plenary session on Monday. Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams has consented to this and the session is now slated for Monday, February 29.
The first “recommendation” of the Committee is for Government to explicitly state in the draft budget that funds received from the division of asset of the former Netherlands Antilles will be put to the paying off of debts to the General Pension Fund APS and Social and Health Insurance SZV. Gibson said CFT was “running a little behind the eighth ball” on this, because Government already has a signed agreement with the two social funds reflecting this. That letter will be forwarded to CFT with the other revisions to the draft budget.
CFT has requested the 2015 fourth quarter financial figures of Government to ascertain whether the year ended with a surplus or a deficit. Gibson, a former CFT member, said this request was understandable, because the figures would give a good picture of the financial situation. These figures were not submitted with the budget, because they are not ready, said Gibson. The Finance Ministry had been focused on preparing the draft budget and those figures became secondary. It is getting those figures compiled that has resulted in Gibson’s request for Parliament to hold off on the handling of the budget in the plenary session.
Thirdly, CFT has called on Government to incorporate the correct premium percentage to be paid to APS in the draft budget. Government has been only budgeting for the premium at 22 per cent for many years when the law regulating the payment establishes it at 25 per cent. Gibson said the correction will be made and this would be an addition NAf. 4.4 million will be needed to compensate for the adjustment. That money will be covered by funds APS has for Goverment related to land for parking garage. That outstanding money will be “enough to cover the shortfall.
CFT has also recommended adjustments to the multiannual budget, more explanation on Government’s tax compliance plan and more information on the capital expenditures listed in the draft budget.
If passed by Parliament with these recommendations, CFT has indicated the budget “stands a better chance” of getting its approval, said Gibson.
The recommendations were received by Gibson prior to the handling of the draft budget by Parliament in plenary session, because he opted to send it in advance to the Committee, a move that was not done in the past. He said this move was to ensure the draft budget did not meet the same faith of the 2015 budget which was rejected by CFT after it was approved by Parliament. With no corrections made to bring that budget in line with what CFT wanted, the country operated without an approved budget for 2015.
Source: The Daily Herald CFT sends Govt. 'recommendations' on budget, debate now set for Feb. 29