~ Public expenditure review soon ~
PHILIPSBURG–Education Minister Wycliffe Smith expressed concern on Monday as to whether St. Maarten is getting “the best bang for its buck” spent on education and said a public expenditure review of the country’s education system will be conducted, hopefully this year, in collaboration with the World Bank.
“I think we can do better in education,” Smith told Members of Parliament (MPs) during the closing remarks of his presentation during Monday’s debate on the draft 2019 national budget.
He said St. Maarten pumps a lot of resources into education, with 25 per cent of its national budget going into this sector. This represents approximately NAf. 93 million, which includes funds for subsidised and government schools.
“I am not sure that government and people of St. Maarten and the children of St. Maarten are getting the highest return on this very high investment,” Smith noted. “I am not sure that we are getting ‘the best bang for the buck’ that we put into education.
“When I look at the education budgets of countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere I realise that St. Maarten as a country pumps more money into education than other countries in the Caribbean and other countries internationally, and St. Maarten’s education budget is approximately 25 per cent of its [national – Ed.] budget.”
Smith said the budget norm for education established by UNESCO for the Caribbean is 17 per cent of the national budget. Several countries in the Caribbean spend less than 17 per cent of their national budgets on education.
“Because of the high expenditure in education, I have discussed with the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers that we need to do a public expenditure review of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (ECYS) – a public expenditure review of our entire education system.
“We need to know where the money is going and we need to know that we are spending the taxpayers’ money effectively, efficiently and wisely. We need improve our education product. We need our education system to have a broader impact on people and the community.
“With assistance of the World Bank, we are planning to execute such a public expenditure review and hopefully this can take off during this year 2019.”
Smith would like to engage in dialogue with Parliament on this matter and will be submitting a State of Education report to Parliament. He wants to return to the legislature to discuss the state of the country’s education system.