Statia’s govt. budget to increase by 10 per cent | THE DAILY HERALD

Flooding as here at F.D. Roosevelt Airport and associated erosion should be a thing of the past thanks to US $50 million earmarked for efficient water management in St. Eustatius. This site is also a prime breeding ground for mosquitos.

 ST. EUSTATIUS–The government budget of St. Eustatius for 2019 has recently been posted to the Statia government website, but some questions remain. The published figures show that next year’s budget takes into account a ten per cent increase in expenditures from US $14.5 million to around US $16 million.

The increase in expenditures is not because of more funds going to the various foundations on the “Historical Gem.” They will receive the same level of subsidy in 2019 as this year. Furthermore, provisions have been made for an Island Council election next year.

Much of the increase in expenditures is attributed to an upswing in personnel and operational costs. Personnel cost is expected to increase 24 per cent next year to US $9.4 million, whilst operational cost will climb by nine per cent to US $1.9 million.

The government intends to invest US $150,000 extra in the Civil Registry (Census Office). Local politicians will welcome such a decision since the current list of registered residents is largely inaccurate and accuracy represents a vital component for eventual electoral purposes.

Figures for much-needed road improvement on the island appear separately from the main budget. Nevertheless, the government intends to spend US $4.2 million next year on such infrastructural improvements, compared to US $1.45 million this year.

Originally, US $6 million was earmarked for this purpose and it is unclear as to how the road-building programme will be financed. However, a water-management renovation programme of US $50 million planned by the central government will incorporate road works and associated drainage.

Dutch Government Commissioner Marcolino “Mike” Franco, who presented the 2019 budget, has indicated that the road from the Queen Beatrix Medical Centre to Governor de Graaff and Seventh-Day Adventist schools will be surfaced, this despite expectations that the road would be widened.

Investment in F.D. Roosevelt Airport is also not evident. Although mention is made of upgrading the airport tower and terminal, provisions for such purposes are not clear.

On the revenue side, harbour income is set to increase by 40 per cent to around US $2.4 million and tax returns by 28 per cent. Reasons for this optimistic assessment are not given, and the anchor fees are not specified.

Also excluded from revenue figures are the dividend earnings from government-owned utility company STUCO and telecommunications company Eutel. Both companies are required by law to publish their accounts. Local politicians have long criticised the relationship between price hikes and service performance.

“Despite large investments in these public companies, their operations are conducted very much in private,” an administrative source told The Daily Herald. “Their charges are the highest in the Dutch Caribbean and the quality of their services is the lowest. Internet comes and goes without explanation whilst energy bills are ramped up and remain equally unexplained.”

In the past, government budgets were scrutinised and voted on in Island Council meetings. The online publication of the 2019 figures is seen by some political observers on the island as reducing the lack of transparency. Up until now, the public has not been invited to express an opinion on the scope and scale of the budgeted figures.

The 2019 budget, alongside forecasts for the years 2020 until 2022 still have to be signed off by State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops.

Source: The Daily Herald