Kingdom Council of Ministers follows CFT advice on budget

THE HAGUE--The Kingdom Council of Ministers has followed the positive advice of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT on Friday, and adopted the new 2011 budget, called the first budget for Country St. Maarten.

According to CFT, the adjusted budget - now standing at almost NAf. 421 million - 23.5 million less than the original budget of 444.4 million, meets the norms of the Kingdom Law regarding public finances.

This, however, does not mean CFT is no longer concerned about the "structural tenability of government finances," it wrote to Minister of Finance Hiro Shigemoto in a letter dated April 13th.

The approval by the Council of Ministers does not mean that St. Maarten can now take a breather. Even though the budget is balanced, CFT is said to have "big concerns about the multi-annual figures," and recommended to direct "all energy" to the execution of this budget and the preparations for the 2012 budget.

CFT included a large number of recommendations in its letter to the Finance Minister, including providing it with all annual accounts of government-owned companies and foundations over the years 2008 and 2009, and if already available, also 2010.

CFT said that while waiting for the results of a Government Accountants Bureau SOAB investigation into figures on income, expenditures, deficits and debts of collective sector entities it cannot approve any planned loans. It stated that it is therefore of great importance to St. Maarten that a report will be forthcoming as soon as possible.

Seeing this is the first budget of Country St. Maarten it cannot be ascertained that all expenditures are included in the budget, according to CFT. Would new expenditures emerge these should be covered and included in a budget amendment.

CFT is also critical of the elucidation to the budget in connection with the coherence between policies, instruments and resources, as well as concerning the substantiation of figures presented, especially where multi-annual figures are concerned.

In connection with the projected financial position of St. Maarten, CFT considered it of importance to be provided with recent, accountant-approved annual statements, including those of "government-related entities."

CFT has repeatedly requested annual accounts of these entities, but has not received these to date. St. Maarten has promised to make the requested information available and CFT is assuming this will be done by May 31 at the latest.

CFT remains concerned about the structural sustainability of government finances. "In 2009 and 2010 it has been proven that only with great difficulty St. Maarten has remained within the financial perimeters or has surpassed these," CFT stated, which therefore recommended a good execution and monitoring of the budget, which should include monthly reports, strong direction by the Minister of Finance, and the implementation of a Financial Taskforce.

CFT further recommended the drafting of multi-annual budgetary translations of policy proposals as well as an analysis of government's core tasks, and an "x-ray" of the main elements of the budget, being health care, education, social security, justice, infrastructure and personnel.

It further stressed the importance of continued efforts to improve tax compliance, and by extension a better functioning of the Tax Department, and said preparations for the 2012 budget should start as soon as possible.

15 April 2011

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