Draft budget up for approval Monday

PHILIPSBURG–Parliament will be cutting it close to the May 8 midnight deadline of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to pass the draft 2018 budget come Monday, May 7, when the plenary sitting is scheduled to start.

  Dissection of the five-month overdue budget took place in the Central Committee session in the past three days. The deliberations there wrapped up on Friday morning after a presentation of answers by Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Jorien Wuite. Her delivery of answers was interrupted on Thursday night due to an electrical issue in the Parliament House.

  The secretariats of both Parliament and the Council of Ministers are expected to work overtime and through the weekend to get the reports on the Central Committee meeting prepared for Members of Parliament in time for Monday’s sitting.

  Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams said the timing of the sitting will take into account the funeral of the late veteran politician Joseph “Joe” Richardson.

  This May 8 midnight deadline was communicated to the Council of Ministers on Wednesday in a meeting with Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus and Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Affairs Raymond Knops.

  The Dutch government officials told the local government, according to Finance Minister Mike Ferrier, that “the absence of an approved 2018 budget no later than midnight on May 8 upcoming will have consequences from country St. Maarten.”  

  Ferrier said he “foresees an instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers if we fail to meet this new May 8 deadline.”

  The 2018 draft budget is “not a pretty picture” and is at no stretch an adequate budget that can meet the needs of the St. Maarten population, Ferrier told Parliament on April 26.

  The draft budget is NAf 197 million in the hole with income (from taxes and other fees) standing at NAf 303.4 million and expenditures at NAf 505.5 million. This leaves “a gaping hole” to be filled by, among others, cost-cutting measures.  

  The original budget deficit stood at NAf 257 million. That amount was reduced to current NAf 197 million. “We are still in a huge, huge hole” even with the reduction, Ferrier pointed out.

   On the income side, government has projected to collect NAf 234.8 million in taxes, NAf 12.9 million in permit fees, NAf 32.5 million in concession fees, and NAf 22. 9 million in other income.

  Personnel cost continues to be the lion’s share of government’s expenditure, standing at NAf 199.8 million. That is followed by cost for goods and services NAf 110.7 million, social benefits NAf 58 million, depreciation NAf 14.1 million, subsidies NAf 101.7 million, study financing (so-called scholarships) NAf 4.1 million and bank and interest charges NAf 14.1 million.

  Personnel cost in 2017 stood at NAf 198.9 million. For that same year, goods and services cost NAf 98.5 million, depreciation NAf 8 million, subsidies NAf 99.7 million, study financing NAf 4.1 million, banks fees and interest NAf 13.4 million and social benefits NAf 38.3 million. The some NAf 20 million increase in social benefit pay-out in 2018 compared to the previous year is connected to growing requests for benefits and medical aid requests.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/76281-draft-budget-up-for-approval-monday