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St. Maarten minister Hassink: 2013 budget has critical deficit, further cuts, other measures necessary

FRIDAY, 28 JUNE 2013

~ 6,500 still have not paid road taxes ~

PHILIPSBURG–The 2013 budget still will have a deficit of approximately NAf. 30 million after the CFT indicated to government via letter that several of the listed income-generating measures are not realistically attainable.

Minister of Finance Martin Hassink disclosed that the 2013 budget approved by Parliament in April, but yet to be ratified, “was only balanced on paper” and Governor Eugene Holiday also has sent the budget back to government, as he doesn’t consider it balanced, as Hassink’s predecessor Roland Tuitt had proclaimed.

“Several income-generating measures were listed as income, but without the underlying law, there are no titles to collect. There was a levy on tobacco and alcohol, for example, and others that require legislation. If you don’t have that in place by the beginning of the year, you have a problem. If you look at the trajectory of most of the legislation (the process), it can take up to 40 weeks. Even if you want to implement them, it won’t take place prior to 2014. So we have to cancel those proposals and think of something else,” Hassink said.

Several short-term financial measures on the income and expenditure sides now will have to be implemented by government to bridge the gap in the budget. These include a stop on personnel hiring, re-evaluating certain commitments and further cuts by every ministry.

Hassink explained that all ministers had been apprised that “we have a budget problem” and measures would have to be taken. This also was communicated to the Secretaries-General of Government.

Hassink was not prepared to divulge what other measures are being discussed, but stressed that work was well underway. He said that hopefully the 2013 budget would be “realistically balanced” in August. He added that the process to prepare the 2014 budget also had started to have it in time for the start of 2014.

Road tax

One issue that is affecting the budget is outstanding road tax payments for 2013. Hassink basically confirmed what many in the community had argued: people will not pay once there is no control system (licence plates or stickers) in place. “I think this is the main cause,” Hassink said.

As of the end of June, some 6,500 people still had not paid their 2013 fees, leaving a gap of approximately NAf. 2.5 million. Approximately NAf. 6.6 million has been collected for the year. Hassink said some sort of control mechanism would be re-implemented in 2014. “A sticker or a licence plate, something,” he said.

Hassink said certain short-term measures for 2013 also were being considered to ensure that people pay, such as the implementation of fines. Hassink said he would have more details in two weeks.

Bron: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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