DP:Balancing the Budget of the Island Territory Sint Maarten for the year 2010;

Do we have an approved budget for Sint Maarten?

Four and a half months into the year 2010, the status of the island territory’s budget must be classified as uncertain to say to the least.  

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The Democratic Party does not subscribe to the notion of a handful of persons in the community, that the reason the government of Sint Maarten is acting so unprofessional and ad hoc is due to the pressure applied by the Democratic Party.

The National Alliance (formerly SPA) has been part of the government system of our island for-ever, as an opposition party with short stints of governing.

They must understand what is required to govern our island in these trying times and they have the government apparatus at their disposal.

Governing clearly takes more than the NA gave as an opposition party in the island council and the people are tired of hearing what the Democratic Party did or did not do as the NA’s motto for its failures.

One responsibility that the NA/Heyliger government cannot pin on the Democratic Party is the budget 2010, although even the representative on the CFT for Sint Maarten seemingly tried to defend (t)his government by alluding to the budget 2010 not having been prepared before the government changed in June 2009.

Of all people, this representative should know better and should make it clear that what governs the budget process of the island territory is the General Kingdom Resolution (AMVRB) # 512, which clearly stipulates that the island territory should submit its draft budget to the CFT by August 15 of the preceding year and have an approved budget by December 15th of that year as well.

The budget process was started in November 2009 with the handling of the draft budget as presented by the NA/Heyliger government to the Central Committee of the Island Council.

We do not want to at this time, go into the inaccurate account by government of their communication with the CFT as far as the budget is concerned and especially government’s allegation that the CFT went along with them, only to pull the rug from under their feet midway the process.

When this correction was made to the budget and matters pertaining to Sint Maarten’s country status were deleted from the budget on advice of the CFT, the government found a creative financing tool, which would have brought in 33 MILLION guilders additionally in taxes, so-called not collected.

The government that insisted they had hard evidence to substantiate this claim, has up until the day of today refused to divulge this hard evidence to the island council or the CFT. It is our belief that the government never had this substantiation to begin with.

As a result, the CFT disapproved of the budget after following the process of consultation as prescribed by the same AMVRB # 512.

We heard the story of 3 "wise men" coming to St. Maarten’s assistance. Then information was leaked about government’s alternative plan, an important component of this plan being the increase of the TO Tax with 1% and several cuts in the budget, from all indications primarily cuts in the tourism budget.

The CFT gave its nod of approval to this proposal it received from government, albeit with reservations. In a meeting with the island council and the CFT on May 12th, the government stressed the feasibility and the thoroughness of their proposal to increase the TO Tax; the government stressed the feasibility of making this increase only applicable to Sint Maarten (and not Saba and St. Eustatius). The Government stressed the central government’s commitment to make this increase possible by June 1, 2010.

The Democratic Party:

1. Advised government from day one that their inclusion of items on the budget that related to country status lacked motivation.

2. That their assessment that 33 million guilders additionally could be collected in uncollected taxes was unsubstantiated and unrealistic.

3. That imposing an increase in TO Tax in such an ad hoc manner in these trying economic times tolls the death bell for business and consumers on St. Maarten.

4. That the central government is actually operating on a surplus presently that grows as the central government dismantles its operation.

5. That this surplus is also fed by St. Maarten through the collection of TOT, Transfer Tax, Foreign Exchange Fee (1%), gasoline excises etc., not to speak of the semi-government institutions such as BTP and SVB.

6. That this matter need not be complicated by suggesting St. Maarten gets an advance on its share of assets from the Netherlands Antilles.

7. That there are budget posts in the 2010 budget of the island territory that can be cut and or postponed, lowering the cost for government.

8. That incremental salary costs can be spread out more evenly.

Rather than bring this discussion to the island council where the representatives of the people can deliberate and come to a balanced decision, the government seems hell bent on making error after error and in the process embarrassing the people of Sint Maarten big time.

Again, the Democratic Party makes the call to government that before submitting any amendments to the budget, to sit with the island council and together come up with a plan that shows government’s seriousness and comprehension of the complexity of fiscal and financial management of our island.