Finance Minister Ardwell Irion.
PHILIPSBURG–Government’s liquidity will be in a “critical” state by the end of this month or early next month unless income increases substantially or expenses are lowered, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion told Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday.
He was at the time responding to questions from an MP during the public meeting on the draft amendment of the 2020 budget. The question related to what impact the latest tranche of liquidity not being received will have on government’s operations and on the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP).
Irion told MPs that the depletion of government’s liquidity is imminent. “The projection is that this point will be reached by the end of May or the beginning of June at which point government’s finances will be critical unless the government revenues increase substantially and expenses decrease also,” Irion said. “I do know also – we have discussed this in COM [Council of Ministers – Ed.] – that all ministers have to continue to look at revenue generating measures. I know that one area that I have seen improvement is within the Ministry of [Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure] VROMI when it comes to ‘Erfpacht’ (ground lease). He [VROMI minister] has been working on that, and I have seen the efforts generating more income in that area.”
In a glimmer of hope, Irion expressed hope that the home porting initiative of Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever will result in increased income in what would typically be the country’s low season.
Regarding the SSRP programme, the finance minister said government will obtain information from Social and Health Insurances SZV on the amount of funds that need to be paid out the next request, after which a decision can be made. “From the portal, we will know the amount that we will have to pay out and then we can then look at the budget and see what we can pay or not [pay],” he said. “We already mentioned that liquidity will become an issue in June so we have to take that into consideration, but we rely on the information from SZV to be able to see payment.”
He explained that a decline has been observed in requests for the payroll support part of the SSRP and a slight uptick has been recorded in the number of income and unemployment requests.