The bottom line

The bottom line

Parliament is set to start handling the draft 2024 budget in the Central Committee on Tuesday. Four days have been scheduled for this purpose.

That in principle leaves only next week to complete the process in a plenary session, not counting Good Friday. The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT wants it passed by the end of March.

The latter is important, as lack of a budget for this year means the 2023 version must be used, which leaves little room for additional expenditures. Continuing that situation into the second quarter is hardly a desirable scenario.

This regards a document prepared by the outgoing Jacobs II Cabinet. Its ministers will also defend such in the legislature even though they no longer enjoy majority backing there and four of the seven are currently members of parliament (MPs) too.

As known, an intended URSM/DP/PFP/NOW government based on January’s election result has not yet been installed and candidate ministers are still being screened. Governor Ajamu Baly extended “formateur” MP Luc Mercelina’s original deadline to present his final report from March 4 to March 29 particularly for this reason.

What it all means is that the budget probably will need to be approved pretty much as is and then amended later to reflect the governing programme of the incoming coalition. Caretaker Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs last month had expressed the desire that no politics would be played with the 2024 budget.

In her opinion “most of it – 90% at least – should not be a problem to be approved,” also because it reflect the 2030 National Vision for St. Maarten. She sees the biggest challenge and area of debate in revenue-generating measures.

The coming days will show how this all works in practice, but the current budget obviously can’t be considered the next government’s policy document. Nevertheless, at this stage it’s primarily about realistic figures and the bottom line.

The Daily Herald

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