PHILIPSBURG—The Finance Department is finalising a “new” Draft Budget for 2019, which it will submit to the Parliament of St. Maarten in February. The new budget is an updated version of the one the Government of St. Maarten presented to Parliament in November of 2018, but with specific changes to projected spending as recommended by the Committee on Financial Supervision Cft.
Minister of Finance for St. Maarten, the Honourable Perry Geerlings said on Monday this week, “The new Draft 2019 Budget will be sent to the Governor of St. Maarten by February 19, who will then send it to Parliament. He said, “The draft budget will reflect the consensus reached with the Cft on the total projected spending of Government for the year 2019.”
In the meantime, the original Draft 2019 Budget which was submitted on November 15th 2018 will be withdrawn.” Geerlings sent a letter on Monday to Parliament informing them of the planning and next steps surrounding the 2019 Budget, explaining that instead of working with an amendment the Ministry finance has restarted the procedure to introduce a new Draft 2019 Budget.
Geerlings originally submitted the Draft 2019 Budget on time on November 15th, 2018 as promised. He had also requested through the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations BZK that St. Maarten be allowed to apply Article 25 of the Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision and submit a deficit budget, “considering the extraordinary circumstances St. Maarten still endures after the hurricanes of September 2017.”
For St. Maarten to be allowed to make use of Article 25, the State Secretary of BZK requested an Advice from the Cft. In that Advice, the Cft suggested that Government reduced its projected spending for 2019 from Naf.503 million to Naf.475 million and proposed limiting St. Maarten’s loan capacity for capital expenditures/investments to Naf. 40 million in 2019. The increased allowable loan capacity is an improvement from previous years when it was much less. As such, the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR agreed to St. Maarten’s request to apply of Article 25, but asked that the Government revise the Draft 2019 Budget based on the recommendations of the Cft, and resubmitted.
By that time, the original Draft 2019 Budget was aready sent to the Governor of St. Maarten, His Excellency Eugene Holiday. As such, Minister Geerlings immediately entered into discussions with BZK and the Cft to find a consensus on the differences of views and at the same time asked the Honourable Chairlady of Parliament Ms Sarah Wescott-Williams to postpone the handling of the Draft 2019 Budget due to the new developments.
St. Maarten is in the process of finalising a revised Draft 2019 Budget that complies with the RMR decision, including the adjustments suggested by the Cft. Once completed that Draft 2019 Budget has to be re-submitted to the Cft by February 19, who will issue its formal advice to the RMR.
Since December 2018, the Ministry of Finance has been working around the clock to prepare the new version of the 2019 Budget. Geerlings said, “The work being done by the Ministry is commendable especially considering the enormous sacrifice made by the team to get the job done.” He said, “They work extended hours, sometimes nights and weekends to get the adjustments to the 2019 Budget completed and I must commend them for their dedication.”
Geerlings met with the Finance Department on Friday last week for an update on the progress made to revise and amend the proposed spending projected in the Draft 2019 Budget. Based on the update given, Geerlings sent his letter to Parliament in which he stated, “The process, including the advice necessary from the Council of Advice (RvA) and Legal Affairs (JZ&W), will most probably take until February 19. On this date, we intend to submit the new draft budget to his Excellency the Governor to present it to Parliament as well as to send it to the Cft for its advice toward the RMR.”
The Ministry of Finance is working in close collaboration with the Cft on handling the revision of the 2019 Budget. Geerlings said thanks to the excellent working relationship with the Cft, and his Ministry “we are making headway on improving the 2019 Budget to see how close they can come to the recommended level of expenditure by amending the draft Budget.”
A video explaining the process for the Draft 2019 Budget has been posted on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Finance “Ministry of Finance – Sint. Maarten.” The Ministry will use this medium to provide future updates about the budget and other pertinent activities as it relates to the Ministry. Residents are encouraged to log on to the Facebook page for updates.