Commissioner Xavier Blackman says ”Bad governance to ignore new tasks in budget”

It would be "bad governance and irresponsible" for the 2010 budget to completely ignore the acquisition of Central Government tasks and funds by St. Maarten as has been advised by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman said Thursday February 18th 2010.


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"It is unrealistic to present a budget without the expected changes that will come with the passing on of tasks, etc. [from the Central Government]. … It would be irresponsible and strange to do as if nothing is happening in light of the speed of the developments [dismantling and ongoing new Central Government formation talks]," the commissioner told the press.

His comments come after Democratic Party (DP) Island Councilman Roy Marlin urged the National Alliance (NA)/Heyliger coalition Tuesday to withdraw the draft budget that is yet to be approved by CFT and to file a new one by May 1.

CFT has submitted an advice to government of things it would like to see added, adjusted or removed from the draft budget. Among these is the removal of projections for tasks and funds the island will receive with the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles and the building-up of country St. Maarten.

If the agreements in place are not firm, the commissioner said, then chapter four of the Kingdom Budget, which outlines the tasks the Dutch Government will assume for the BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba when they become Dutch public entities on 10-10-10 is all off keel.

A budget is not static and can be amended or adjusted as circumstances change, he noted, adding that the idea of pulling back the draft budget and presenting a new one makes no sense. He also said he had never come across such a situation in the financial world.

Blackman said the CFT’s stance that the agreements on the transfers and other matters were not firm enough to be taken up and reflected in the budget made no sense, because the dismantling could not be ignored.

The DP has also been critical about government not complying with the CFT’s advice and had warned that this could jeopardise the constitutional change process and lead to the Kingdom Government instructing the island to follow the advice as is.

CFT has an advisory capacity in the budgetary process, which simply means it gives its opinion and suggestions to government for consideration, but if government decides or sees a matter differently it is not bound by the CFT’s advice, the commissioner said.

As for putting the process in jeopardy, Blackman said the Central Government had not followed all the advice of CFT and this had not triggered a negative advice or report to the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

CFT had given government until Wednesday to respond as to how it will follow its advice on the draft budget that will soon be tabled in the Island Council. Government sent its response Thursday acknowledging its receipt of the CFT correspondence and outlining some of its "preliminary" steps. Blackman declined to go further into the contents of the letter.

Blackman also blamed the former Democratic Party (DP) government for not having the foresight to negotiate a transition period for the application of the temporary measures on financial supervision that were agreed to in 2006.

Without a transition period like that afforded to the BES islands, St. Maarten has had to move from balanced budgets on paper that in reality had considerable deficits to a truly balanced one that stands up to the scrutiny of CFT.

No transition period also meant that St. Maarten has had no time to deal with its financial backlog and has had to face the pinch of the global financial crisis, all while preparing for the status of country within the kingdom, Blackman said in a press conference in the Parliament Building on Thursday.

The press conference was held at this location because the Government Administration Building was the base for the formation talks for the new Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles.