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St. Maarten parliament adopts amendments to 2013 budget


~ With votes from coalition and Illidge ~

PHILIPSBURG–An instruction by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to government to put the country’s financial house in order may now be off the table with the adoption of several amendments to the 2013 budget by nine Members of Parliament in the wee hours on Friday.

The amendments now put the budget at NAf. 440,349,856, down from NAf. 457,5 million. The downsizing of the budget was achieved by several cuts across the seven ministries based on realised income in the first half of the year, the deletion of a number of items for which legislation or policy is not yet ready (such as financing of free education, funds estimated from a one per cent increase in the property transfer tax, etc.) and tapping into unpaid surpluses from government-owned entities.

The budget amendments now must be signed by Finance Minister Martin Hassink and Governor Eugene Holiday and published following the procedures for a national ordinance. A copy of the approved amendments will be sent to the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT for its review.

Parliament’s approval of the amendments now means that Hassink can respond to Dutch Minister Roland Plasterk before the deadline of September 16. The minister has to give a response to the CFT’s advice to the Kingdom Council to issue an instruction to the country to have its budget balanced and approved.

The advice stemmed from CFT labelling the 2013 budget, prepared and adopted by the former National Alliance (NA)-led coalition, as having a perceived deficit of NAf. 30 million. That amount had to be trimmed off by the current United People’s (UP) party-led coalition.

Minister Hassink presented a budget with only NAf. 17.5 million shaved off, with the explanation that unpaid surpluses from government-owned companies/entities could be tapped into. Surpluses that should have been paid to government by the Bureau Telecommunication and Post, and the water company managed by utilities company GEBE will be pursued by government.

The budget amendments were voted for by coalition MPs Roy Marlin and Leroy de Weever of the Democratic Party (DP), UP MPs Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce, Jules James, Gracita Arrindell, Dr. Ruth Douglass and Johan Leonard, and independent MP Romain Laville. Independent MP Patrick Illidge, who is not a member of the coalition, also voted for the budget amendments.

The list of MPs voting for the budget amendments mirrors the votes for the 2011 budget when the UP/DP/Illidge coalition was in office.

Opposition MP Louie Laveist (NA) voted against the amendments, saying he considered the figures “fictitious.” Fellow NA parliamentarians William Marlin, George Pantophlet, Dr. Lloyd Richardson and Hyacinth Richardson, and independent MP Frans Richardson also voted against the amendments.

MP De Weever, in motivating his vote, said it was obvious that the MPs who voted against the amendments showed their true purpose and commitment to carrying out promises they had made in the original budget passed in April. The amendments and the ultimate balancing of the budget were in service to the people of the country, he said.

Illidge said, “There is no need to see our people suffering.” He called on the ministers to work together and for dialogue on the way forward for the country to take place among MPs.

MPs had a long day of meetings, starting at 10:00am Thursday with the continuation of the Central Committee meeting that began Wednesday morning. The plenary session of Parliament to adopt the amendments was set by President of Parliament Arrindell for 3:00pm even before the Central Committee deliberations were completed.

At the appointed hour, Arrindell adjourned the Central Committee meeting and opened the plenary session, only to postpone it until 5:00pm. The deliberations in the Central Committee wrapped up in time for the restart of the plenary session at 5:00pm although opposition MPs not completely happy with this.

MP Frans Richardson especially was not in agreement with the rapid succession of the meetings. “We are making history here today,” he said, adding that if it were the NA-led coalition, UP members would have complained about unfairness.

Both the Central Committee meeting and the plenary session of Parliament were dominated by issues that were not related directly to the budget amendments. Opposition MPs suggested other means of income for the budget such as increasing casino fees and implementing a new fee for “the use of the country” by tourists.

One issue that stood out was the taxes and fees the former owners of American University of the Caribbean had not paid when the medical school was bought by DeVry University. Opposition MPs demanded details of the tax situation and the reported agreements made between the Tax Department and the former owners.

Hassink told MPs he would not give any information about the situation without proper legal advice, as tax information was covered by confidentiality enshrined in a number of tax laws.

That response was not welcomed in particular by MP Laveist, who continued to demand the information and had vowed that he would get it “one way or another. … What’s so secret about this AUC deal?”

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten



Parlement Sint Maarten keurt begrotingswijziging goed

13 september 2013

PHILIPSBURG – Het parlement van Sint Maarten heeft donderdagavond laat het langverwachte amendement goedgekeurd dat moet leiden tot een sluitende begroting van 2013. De onafhankelijke parlementsleden Patrick Illidge en Romain Laville stemden mee met de UP/DP regeringscoalitie.
Het onafhankelijk parlementslid Frans Richardson stemde mee met de oppositiepartij National Alliance, waardoor de begrotingswijziging met negen tegen zes stemmen werd goedgekeurd. Met de goedkeuring lijkt de dreiging van een aanwijzing door de Rijksministerraad vooralsnog van de baan, al zou het College financieel toezicht (Cft) nog roet in het eten kunnen gooien door een negatief advies uit te brengen.

Minister van Financiën Maarten Hassink en het lid Frans Richardson zetten zich beiden af tegen het ‘wispelturige beleid’ van het Cft. In april voorzag het Cft de begroting van 2013 nog van positief advies terwijl de wetgeving, die inkomens verhogende maatregelen had moeten ondersteunen, ontbrak. Richardson zei dat het Cft “veeleisender” is geworden en hij vroeg zich af of het amendement een positief advies zou krijgen.

Minister Hassink zei dat de voorstellen onder tijdsdruk tot stand zijn gekomen en dat de maatregelen de komende maand verder worden uitgewerkt. “Hierover is ook met het Cft gesproken. Ik ben het niet eens met hun kritiek dat de maatregelen nader onderbouwd moeten worden, omdat het vorige budget een positief advies kreeg terwijl onderliggende wetgeving ontbrak.”

Volgens de minister zijn de nu voorliggende maatregelen simpeler en directer; ze vereisen geen nieuwe wetgeving want er zijn alleen afspraken met partijen nodig om ze uit te voeren.

Bron: NTR Caribisch Netwerk

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