PHILIPSBURG--The country will have to wait a while longer before it has a working budget for 2019. The handling of the draft budget was put off yet again on Friday morning after a proposal of order aimed at giving more time to Members of Parliament to peruse the fiscal document was carried by the full complement of seven opposition members and one coalition MP.
MP Luc Mercelina of the United Democrats, as he has done several times now, put his support with proposals of opposition National Alliance and United St. Maarten Party, when his fellow coalition members were against the tabled proposal.
The proposal of order, verbalized in the meeting by MP Rolando Brison (US Party), was based on a letter, signed by him along with MPs Egbert Doran and Christophe Emmanuel (NA), sent to Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams requesting the postponement of the plenary session until early July. Their request was based on the need for more time to look at the adjustments to the budget as submitted by government.
The MPs want the meeting to be held after the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation at the end of June. Their proposal has MPs working in their customary “summer recess”.
The request was denied by Wescot-Williams also via a letter citing that the legislative process should not be interrupted any longer and that MPs had had time to look over the draft budget. As for the adjustments made to the budget to fit with recommendations of the ommittee for Financial Supervision CFT, she said those were clearly marked in government’s document. She also pointed out that the proposal puts the handling in the summer recess.
She, however, did indicate to the MPs that they could put a proposal of order to Parliament on the same topic when the plenary session resumed in Parliament House. This was what targeted the vote that saw the coalition short-handed.
Even if all MPs were present for Friday’s continuation sitting, the coalition would have been short-handed with MP Chanel Brownbill (United Democrats) not present for the session. Had he been present and voted against the postponement proposal, the coalition would have had seven votes in its column, still one short with Mercelina voting along with the opposition.
The draft budget was tabled for approval in Parliament by Finance Minister Perry Geerlings on May 14 along with a request to hold off on the further handing until changes were approved by CFT.
The changes result from an instruction from the Dutch government related to the Ministry of Justice and a cost reduction in the salaries for Members of Parliament. These changes were tied to liquidity support desperately needed by the local government for 2019 to fill the gap of a some NAf 70 million deficit. If the changes were not made, the liquidity support would disappear leaving the country to fail further.
The changes made and approved by the Council of Minister on May 7 puts budget investments much lower now because of the delay of the large projects related to the tax organization and financial management of government. This results from the rearranging of the financing proposal for these projects by the Dutch government.
Due to that dependency on the liquidity support needed to keep government going, Geerlings said in May it seems logical that the Kingdom Council of Ministers “keeps an eye on our budgets and spending. Each million that we must be lending, makes our national debt higher.”
He added that “what government does not understand is the political pressure from the Netherlands to make changes in our budget as an autonomous country within the Kingdom, just because they believe we should adhere to their way of thinking. This political pressure is beyond reasonability.”
Geerlings said on May 14 the country is “still in a state of crisis after the hurricanes hit us so hard in September 2017 … our society is still struggling with unemployment, loss of income, roofs to be repaired and all kinds of other social effects that influence the lives of our people.”