2008 St.Maarten budget amendments may be ready in two weeks

PHILIPSBURG--Finance Commissioner Roy Marlin expects the necessary amendments to the 2008 budget will be ready within the next two weeks. Government has been faced with shortfalls from measures not implemented and windfalls from extra tax income.

National Alliance political leader and Island Councilman William Marlin pointed out during the debates on the draft Consensus Kingdom Resolution on the financial supervision on Monday that government had to see to it that the budgets were balanced.

This is one of the requirements at which the Financial Supervisory Committee will be looking, Marlin said. He believes that while government presented a balanced budget on paper at the beginning of the year, in reality the budget could not be balanced. He based his conclusion on several measures calculated in the budget that were never executed.

These measures were the introduction of a condominium fee, the one per cent concession fee and the extra one per cent in Turnover Tax (TOT) that should have come in its entirety to St. Maarten. Finance Commissioner Roy Marlin acknowledged that the projected shortfall for 2008 had been calculated at NAf. 37 million due to the announced measures that had not been implemented.

However, there will also be a projected windfall from tax income of NAf. 23 million to balance out matters, making the projected shortfall NAf. 14 million for 2008. In this respect the Commissioner said the Finance Department had been instructed to put several projected new policies for 2008 on hold. Regarding the final draft, Marlin denied the NA accusation that a Democratic Party Island Council member had seen to it that a proposal was hidden away in the drawer.

He said the proposed condominium fee had been reviewed and a new draft was ready to be discussed by the Executive Council before being forwarded to the Island Council for approval. However, Marlin believed it would not be realistic to expect the condominium fee to be implemented this year. Not implementing this fee will cost government NAf. 6 million, he said.

The TOT increase has also been taken off the table, based on the recent developments in the world oil and food markets, the Commissioner said. The TOT increase was to have gone into effect by the end of the fi rst quarter of this year. However, while drafting the Central Government decree containing general measures to increase the TOT, it became clear that Saba and St. Eustatius also had to agree to the increase.

The two islands still have not stated their positions on the proposed increase and therefore the Central Government could not agree to the decree. Meanwhile, according to Marlin, Finance Minister Ersilia de Lannooy has drafted amendments to the ordinance to change the area where the TOT is being levied from the Windward Islands to three separate areas: St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba.

This process also will not be completed this year anymore, Marlin believes, meaning another projected NAf. 30 million will not make its way to the Island Government

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