RSA debt ‘a Damocles’ sword over our heads,’ Gibbs cautions

MARIGOT–President of the Territorial Council Daniel Gibbs has given a sobering reminder, that despite a balanced budget, there is still a matter of 48 million euros owed to Caisse Allocation Familiale (CAF) from the social benefit Revenu Solidarité Active (RSA), describing it as “a sword of Damocles dangling above our heads.”

   “I am fully aware of it and I will as soon as possible start negotiations with the State in order to solve this critical matter,” he said. “I have the figures of our debt in mind, but will also point out the 47 million euros of social benefits that have never been compensated by the State to our Collectivité.

“This is an issue on which I intend to make my point as soon as possible, because the future of St. Martin depends on it. If the Collectivité has duties -which I intend to assume with the greatest responsibility- it also has rights that I intend to claim and have respected.”

Gibbs also commented on the 2017 budget of 177 million euros recently adopted by the Territorial Council but prepared by the previous administration.

   “The new majority that I have the honour to lead has made firm commitments to the people of St. Martin, both in terms of projects, actions and schedule. Expectations are high, and we intend to fulfil every one of our commitments and despite the extremely short time that we had to work on this budget, we will be able to meet our objectives.

“As a reminder, the method and the political project of Team GIBBS 2017 is based on a first year-long phase, which includes both the launch of fundamental reforms needed to build our long-term project, but also a series of simple and inexpensive measures to quickly improve the lives of the St. Martin people.

“The initial budget in balance today is 177 million euros; 141 million in operating expenditures and 36 million euros in investments. We also managed to release a bit more than 2 million euros to finance our commitments by streamlining and redirecting certain budget lines. Thus, the financial and organisational audits, but also the fiscal and institutional ones are budgeted. The same goes for the pattern of economic development and the future Economic Development Agency (EDA), the improvement measures for our economy, for our living conditions, our environment, our security etc.  

“I am pleased to announce to the people that we are able to meet our commitments. We took pride in our work of reassigning this initial budget, to maintain the 22 million euros attributed to structural equipment, but also the budgets dedicated to youth programmes (4.4 million euros) and in support of businesses and associations (7 million euros).

“The budget is balanced, that’s good: nevertheless I’m well aware of the drastic efforts that must be made today in terms of savings on our operational costs. I don’t mean austerity: I’m talking once more about assuming responsibilities. The financial and organisational audit of the Collectivité that I want started as soon as possible, will allow us to have a clearer picture.

“The Territorial Audit Chamber (Chambre Territoriale des Comptes) should make its final report on the Collectivité in a few weeks so we will soon have a real inventory of our dysfunctions and the first concrete recommendations to address them. I welcome that. Especially because I have many unanswered questions: I would like for example to know how the payroll budget was able to climb from 40 to 44 million euros in a year.

Without pre-judging the results of the report of the Territorial Chamber or the financial audit of the Collectivité, I am convinced that by better organising of our services, by working transversally, we can certainly make valuable time and money savings.”

Gibbs noted that the decrees related to the delegations of the Vice-Presidents have been signed, allowing it to function. This process will be completed only after the Territorial Council meeting of April 25, 2017, which will address the issue of the functioning of the assembly, including the roles of each in the various working committees.

Source: The Daily Herald