PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On Tuesday February 06, the Minister of Finance Michael Ferrier open the Round Table Conference between the Netherlands, the World Bank, the IMF, the Cft and Country Sint Maarten below you can read the speech of the Minister.
Good morning friends of Sint Maarten …. on behalf of my colleagues in the Leona Marlin Cabinet, I bid you good morning.
The topic is sustainable financial government.
In my immediate past life, I was a business owner and as such I know that transparency and insight on income and expenditure, as well as accurate and timely reporting of same are paramount for any business is to be successful. Talking about sustainable financial situation in a business, is like talking about the unrestricted intake of oxygen by man. Take away either one of them and death is sure to follow. So too for government and it is therefore crystal clear to the ministry of finance that the phenomenon of sustainable government finances is a “conditio sine qua non” for a secured future of this very young country and that of the children that come after us.
The financial situation this cabinet has found the Government in, since taking office 2 weeks ago, is alarming.
Besides having to deal with the effects of obvious man-made disasters of the past, the havoc caused by hurricane Irma has yet to be totally ascertained. We have a lot to do in a very short time, with very little financial means available. A quick assessment has revealed that our organization suffers from a serious lack of reliable data, information, systems and in some areas capable staff to not only provide the insight, but also the comfort that what we have as information, is reliable enough to steer the country and its economy.
A glaring need is the right set of ICT tools that properly link the entire organization from top to bottom and left to right. As government we need to acknowledge our own shortcoming and that of those that held office before us. We need to rebuild trust and respect within the Kingdom and we need to accept help when it is offered and today we say thanks and graciously accept the generosity of the Dutch politician, the Dutch Government, the World Bank, the IMF and the Commission of Financial Supervision.
It is my desire that at the end of the day, we firstly: come away with a clear view of what the current realistic outlook is for Sint Maarten for 2018, accepting the fact that we do not have a crystal ball and that nobody can accurately, or adequately predict where we will be financially in the end of 2018. God forbid that we are confronted with another natural disaster in this, or the coming years.
We must all acknowledge that we will have to reset along the way as we progress through the year; secondly: that we come away with a good understanding of the financial challenges we face on the short, medium and long terms, especially as they relate to our liquidity; thirdly that we come away with clarity on the financial support the Netherlands has generously offered for the recovery and the reconstruction of Sint Maarten. It is in these difficult times, that we can appreciate the true strengths of our Kingdom. With the help of the World Bank, we are convinced that by 2022 the 550 million Dutch euros that have been made available, will be well spent, using an open and transparent methodology.
I hasten to add that I agree with those members of the Dutch Second Chamber that have stated that the entire amount should go to recovery, rather than to liquidity support. While there is an important relation between the funding of recovery and discussions on government finances, I believe it is crucial to separate the two issues as much as feasible. In the context of our meeting today, besides finding out what part of the 550 million euro facility will be a grant and what part will be a loan, I also believe it would be helpful to find out what additional possibilities may exist for the Netherlands to support the efforts of the Government of Sint Maarten to bring its finances back in order, taking into consideration that we are in the process of identifying serious cost reducing and revenue increasing measures.
We fully understand that in order for us to expect help from others, we must first show willingness and ability to help ourselves. We may be small (a 16 sq mile half of an island), but we are a proud nation of resilient people. Our aim is clear: we need to come away from this meeting with a clear path forward, a plan on how all participants in this exercise will move forward in communicating with each other clearly, and in finding sensible and sustainable solutions.
And speaking about communicating clearly: from relief we move to reconstruction and from there to sustainable development. As far as development is concerned our government will seek to engage with our brothers and sisters on the northern part of the island to hand in hand identify projects which benefit the economic development of both sides and then with Paris and the Hague approach the EU for funding.
In conclusion, I pray that this conference provides us with the necessary tools to progress in the interest of the people of Sint Maarten on whose behalf I now formally thank you in advance for your role herein.
Michael J. Ferrier
Minister of Finance