PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — “We are in the month of April and the country is still without a national budget 2021,” said Independent Member of Parliament Christopher Emmanuel on Wednesday, adding that the Minister of Finance has gone completely silent on when the budget will reach Parliament for debate.
In the meantime, Emmanuel stressed, government is pressuring civil servants to work on reforms and other initiatives that has to be funded from the same budget. “A ship with no captain or rudder is what we have here. Nobody seems to know where we are going and nobody in this government seems to care,” MP Emmanuel said.
Article 100 of the country’s constitution states that the country must submit its budget to Parliament by September 1, in other words the budget for 2021 should have been at Parliament since September 2020. “The budget is 7 months and 7 days late. First we were told we would have it mid-February, then Mid-March. Whereas by now the government should be working on the budget for 2022, we are in April and still have no budget,” the MP said. He added that the Minister of Finance has once again added another notch of failure and incompetence to his long list of failures.
The Minister of Finance, the MP continued, seems to harbor very little respect for Parliament “judging from the so-called overview of the country’s liquidity position which he submitted last week. What we received from the Minister of Finance was one page with colors and numbers with no supporting documents or explanation about what exactly he submitted to Parliament,” the MP said.
He explained that the bottom-line of the document showed a total sum of NAf 32 million guilders apparently at the Central Bank of St. Maarten and Curacao as per March 26. “No other information was offered. We don’t know if that was before or after salaries, what other projections are in terms of income and expenditure, nothing. Just a number.
“To compound the obvious game playing, the President of Parliament declared that this information was good enough for him as an overview of the country’s liquidity position, and this from a person who used to criticize his predecessor for playing the same game of dodge,” the MP said.
MP Emmanuel said the lack of a budget at a time when St. Maarten and its citizens are looking ahead towards some sort of economic recovery is yet another failure on the part of Government. The situation is further confused by the Prime Minister who “all of a sudden decides to protest the Dutch conditions” and has refused to sign the implementation agenda which guides many of the reforms and government plans that should be funded by the budget.
“And there is still no guarantee that the budget will actually pass,” MP Emmanuel said. “We don’t have an economic plan from this government, we don’t have a plan for tourism recovery, for diversification, no plan for entrepreneur support, no plan for nation building on an economic level, wealth creation for our people, we have nothing. And we have no budget so this government has no direction. This is the government we have today,” MP Emmanuel said.