MP Brison Expresses Serious Concerns on 2018 Budget Handling

Budget schedule as suggested paramount to relegating Parliament to a “Rubber Stamp”.
Member of Parliament Rolando Brison, through a letter to the President of Parliament MP Wescott-Williams, expressed various concerns with the proposed process for the perusing and debating of the budget 2018 for St. Maarten.
In his letter, Brison references the Memo from the Minister of Finance regarding the proposed schedule for budget 2018 (10/apr/2018 IS/454), the convocation to meetings this Wednesday (CC 23) regarding various crucial topics (Recovery, Waste Management and the Cyber Attacks), followed by the Central Committee meeting regarding the Budget 2018 (CC24).
“I am deeply disturbed by several issues related to these meetings,” remarked Brison, “While I am aware that the Central Committee is Thursday and it affords me the opportunity to raise these concerns in that meeting, I feel it would be irresponsible of me to let more time pass without having these urgent items addressed before any such meeting take place.”
Brison’s first concern was regarding the time various bodies that must review the budget, such as the council of advice, governor and council of Ministers, have had to review the budget. “For example, in the Memo IS/454, the Minister has only allowed for 1 full business day for the council of advice to render advice on the budget. As you know, the Council had advised us recently that they try to get the most urgent requests completed within 2 weeks.”
The preparation time parliament will have to review this budget is also a major concern. “Based on the schedule, and now on the convocation for meetings, we see that the first meeting regarding the budget is scheduled for Thursday April 26th, with the budget needing to be approved on Monday May 1st, just 5 days of deliberations even if we work through the weekend and holidays (something I have no issue doing in the interest of the country). But this is after giving us just 3 days ahead of the CC24 meeting to prepare for said meeting, with a flawed document to make matters worse. On top of that we have to debate 3 crucial topics Wednesday (CC23) and we must to prepare for that too,” continues the MP.
“The budget is 191 pages long, is the first budget in the history of St. Maarten to have a deficit, and I believe it to be one of the most crucial budgets approved by our country, paramount to the recovery of this island. To have this budget schedule proceed as suggested by the Minister of Finance with the lack of preparation time would be paramount to relegating Parliament to a “Rubber Stamp”.
The MP also finds it unclear where the “promised deadline” of May 1st that the Minister of Finance spoke of. “We need clarity on this date and why it has come to this,” Brison noted.
Budget Format far from ideal
Brison found that the budget submitted in PDF form digitally is far from ideal. He remarked that it is a poorly scanned document, with most of the headings illegible, with most of the document having many illegible headings and figures.
“I know that there is a working Excel document that many civil servants have access to, I think it only practical to ensure parliament has this at our disposal as well, which with just a few mouse-clicks can be made into a Read-Only documents and sent to all members of Parliament,” suggested MP Brison. He also noted that the budget is in Dutch, despite many requests by several factions in the past that the budget be presented in both languages.
Regarding the review process: Brison queried whether parliament can ascertain the actual time the advisory bodies, council of ministers, governor and others have had to review this budget, and ensure that they feel they have had sufficient time to review this budget before presenting to Parliament, unaffected by the undue pressure of an unrealistic schedule hanging over them.
Regarding the deadline of May 1st, the MP requested in explanation as to why this deadline, who imposed it and whether the Minister of Finance expects parliament to “Rubber Stamp” the budget without any real deliberation, scrutiny and preparation in order to meet said deadline.
Lastly, the MP requested the President’s assistance in having the Minister of Finance send a fully digital version of the Budget (Excel) and the explanatory notes (Word or PDF) to allow us to better evaluate the items within the budget, search through the document (“CTRL-F”), as well as confirm at least the rudimentary mathematical accuracies and calculations of said budget.
“Our faction, and all my fellow MP’s, have taken the oath to uphold the constitution. As we know, Article 100 and other articles of our constitution are very clear about the mandate and responsibility of Parliament in deliberating, approving, and amending the budget. Through this letter today, my goal is to ensure all MP’s have what is necessary to uphold this constitutional responsibility granted to us by the people.