High regard for Saba finances, less so for Statia, St. Maarten

THE HAGUE–A reward for Saba for its solid financial management. Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA on Thursday asked about this possibility. Critical remarks towards St. Maarten and St. Eustatius came from André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party.

The general consensus at the meeting of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk was that Saba has been performing the best of all islands under financial supervision.

“Saba in on the road of improvement and has a budget surplus in 2014, approved annual accounts and a 2016 balanced budget. A beautiful result,” said Bosman, who also complimented Bonaire and Curaçao for the financial improvements. He said that St. Eustatius and St. Maarten were “another story.”

Bosman pointed out that the poor financial management of the St. Eustatius Government was a reason for the Kingdom Council of Ministers to give an instruction, and to put the island under financial supervision. “This is very unfortunate, also because we see positive results on other islands. It seems that the shortcomings in financial management are also related to the quality of the local government,” said Bosman, who asked about capacity support for St. Eustatius.

The frequent government changes in St. Maarten seem to have had an adverse effect on a stable management of the country’s finances, suggested Bosman. “Many things that were being planned have been stopped or are not being executed. The 2015 budget was not even handled anymore and the focus is now on the 2016 budget.” In his opinion, the overdraft facility was a form of a loan.

For Bosman and the VVD the removal of financial supervision for Curaçao and St. Maarten was out of the question. Both countries want the Kingdom Law Financial Supervision ended. But, said Bosman, “The countries don’t have their financial management in order.”

According to Bosman, the Kingdom Law Financial Supervision clearly stated that financial management is an integral part of the total review of the government finances. “It is not a matter of moving goal posts. The target is high and they simply have to comply.”

Bosman was critical of the rising construction cost, so far NAf. 87 million, of the new Curaçao hospital. He questioned the business case and said the project presented a risk to the country’s budget.

MP Van Laar barely spoke about financial supervision and the islands’ finances, and focused on children’s rights. But, he did suggest rewarding Saba for its decent financial management and balanced budgets. “Can we reward Saba for the work it has done? Possibly in the format of being able to acquire loans?”

Minister Plasterk replied that the financing possibilities for Saba would be part of the formal policy reaction of the Dutch Government to the report of the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee. “We will get back on that,” he said.

Statia’s Government is receiving assistance in the process of improving its finances and strengthening its governmental apparatus, said Plasterk in response to Bosman’s request for more manpower. Several hundred thousand US Dollars have been allotted for this purpose. The strengthening of the administration is also part of the Multi-Annual Programme that Plasterk and the Statia Government signed on February 1 this year.

The political situation in St. Maarten remained “unpredictable,” said Plasterk, who added that he did have confidence in the new Finance Minister Richard Gibson and his efforts to get the country’s financial household in order. The Kingdom Law Financial Supervision has been prolonged for three years.

Plasterk concluded that financial supervision did have advantages. “Nobody is worse off with financial supervision,” he said. Even the Netherlands is under financial supervision of the European Union, he added.

Source: The Daily Herald High regard for Saba finances, less so for Statia, St. Maarten