St. Maarten prominent in CFT meetings in the Netherlands

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten’s reconstruction following Hurricane Irma was a prominent item on the agenda of the meetings that the Committees for Financial Supervision CFTs of Curaçao and St. Maarten, of Aruba and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (Caribbean Netherlands) held with authorities in the Netherlands last week.

During their visit from March 26 to 28, the Committees met with State Secretary of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra, members of the First and Second Chambers of the Dutch Parliament and Ministers Plenipotentiary Raymond Begina of Curaçao, Guillfred Besaril of Aruba and Hasani Ellis of St. Maarten. The Council of State and the General Audit Chamber were also visited.  

During the meetings, attention was paid to the extraordinary situation in St. Maarten. In 2017, the country was reasonably well on its way to aligning its budget with the financial norms and complying with the legal terms. Hurricane Irma caused a substantial deficit on the budget. The need was emphasized to draw up the mandatory paperwork related to the budgetary and accounting documentation in a timely manner and to get the economy up and running again.

According to the CFTs, the Reconstruction Trust Fund obviously plays an important role in restarting St. Maarten’s economy. “The fund will also have a positive effect on the deficit, which will decrease as a result. This underlines the need to conclude the talks between the Netherlands, St. Maarten and the World Bank as quickly as possible,” it was stated in a press release on Tuesday.

It was the first time that the CFTs had met in the Netherlands in their current constellation. The main topic was the mostly troublesome situation of the public finances of the three Kingdom countries in 2017. Attention was given to the background of the current state of affairs and how it should be dealt with.

Aruba’s public finances require special attention. The public debt is growing towards 90 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Aruba will not manage to comply with the norms of the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision in 2017 and 2018.

The new Aruba Government, which took office in November 2017, has drawn up a plan to achieve sustainable public finances with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 50 per cent in the long term. Measures will be taken in 2018. On March 2, the Aruba Committee for Financial Supervision CAFT advised designing the budget for 2018 in such a manner that the deficit for 2018 would at least be lower than that for 2017.

The worrisome situation in Curaçao was discussed as well. For the first time in years, Curaçao does not have a balanced budget, while the national debt is on the rise. Curaçao has taken measures that will be implemented via a budget amendment.

Curaçao has recently submitted the budget amendment to CFT. The document is currently being assessed. Special attention will be paid to the structural effect of the measures. The need to have a risk analysis for the 2018 budget to manage the risks at an early stage was discussed.

The financial situation of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba was also a topic. The special mention of the three islands in the Dutch Governing Accord in financial terms was deemed positive. “This attention is good for the further development of the islands. Nonetheless, the public entities are still facing a number of challenges. While Saba has received unqualified audit reports since 2014, other islands still have some steps to take,” the CFT for the Caribbean Netherlands stated.

The purpose of the meetings was to get acquainted with the various discussion partners in the Netherlands. The role and function of the three Committees was discussed, as well as the evaluation of the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision and the deliberations between the Netherlands and Aruba on a new legal norms framework.

According to the Committees, the conversation partners in The Hague showed great interest in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom and the developments on the islands. Extensive exchanges of views were held on the various current events at the Council of State, where the CFT Committees were received by Vice-President Piet-Hein Donner and several Members of the Council of State. In particular, the challenges that Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire are facing in connection with the developments in the neighbouring country Venezuela were discussed.

In the meeting with State Secretary Knops, the CFTs talked about the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision and the question as to whether this law offers CFT sufficient tools to do its job. The situation in St. Maarten and the reconstruction were also deliberated on with the Finance Minister.

The meeting with the Ministers Plenipotentiary took place during an informal lunch during which the different situations of the countries were reflected upon. The CFT Chairman and the members look back on a successful trip. The Committees visit the Netherlands in principle once every two years.

The Committees consist of Chairman Raymond Gradus, Member on behalf of the Netherlands Sybilla Dekker, Member on behalf of St. Maarten Maria van der Sluijs-Plantz, Member on behalf of Curaçao Gregory Damoen, Member on behalf of the Caribbean Netherlands Herbert Domacassé and Member on behalf of Aruba Robert Croes.

Source: The Daily Herald