St. Maarten Cabinet meets again today on draft budget Education Ministry slashes expenditures by halfPOSTED: 12/2/10 12:44 PM
St. Maarten – Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport Rhoda Arrindell says her and the Acting Secretary General have been able to cut at least 50 percent of the Ministry’s budget. The cutting was done in a “point for point and post for post” evaluation where they reviewed what is critical and what can be delayed. The evaluation was done after they made the choice to lift the hiring freeze at the Ministry.
“We have come to a position that we think everyone will be more or less understanding, maybe not elated, but at the very least satisfied with some of the decisions that we’ve made. We think we’ve been responsible and we think we can make a case for some of the cuts that we’ve made to be able to at least meet the requirements of Cft with regard to reaching the zero deficit or the balancing of the budget,” Arrindell said.
Discussions on the draft budget for 2011 in the Council of Ministers will continue today. The Cabinet went through it Tuesday with advisors from the Finance Department and external accounting firms that are helping the government prepare the document. Discussions focused on the package of measures needed to balance the budget through raising revenue and cutting costs.
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said the government was presented with several and different proposals, which they will look into further when they assemble today. She added the United People’s (UP) Party and the Democratic Party (D.P) leadership will have to discuss the measures in a coalition meeting before they are tabled in Parliament to ensure all understand the need to balance the budget.
The Prime Minister is clear that all will be done to balance the budget, and that government will also ensure that there is enough money to carry the demands of being a country.
“St. Maarten chose to be a country. That brings with it certain responsibilities, many responsibilities. We have been and are still prepared to bear these responsibilities. It also requires new finances to bear with the many issues that we are no in charge of as a country. However I still believe that we need to continue to make our case that with all of the projections that have been made, some of which going back to the year 2000, with respect to financial consequences that no one, including St. Maarten could have forseen and this makes coming to a balanced budget, which by the way was prepared before country St. Maarten and by another administration, by December 15, 2010 for the year 2011 extremely difficult,” Wescot-Williams said.
Among the “surprises” driving up the costs for government are the set up of a company to take over the Post Office. Government must fund the startup costs because the shares were not simply transferred. Matters pertaining to employees are also arising as more and more civil servants turn to government with commitments that were made by the now defunct government of the Netherlands Antilles and have no recourse but to go to the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten.
The Prime Minister believes government would have done better if they had more time to discuss and negotiate alternatives, even if they were unpopular in order to bring down the government’s debt.