Council of Advice criticizes draft 2013 budget

From left to right: President Rodolphe Samuel receiving a copy of the draft 2013 budget from Minister of Finance Roland Tuitt last week Friday.

St. Maarten – The Council of Advice has criticized the draft 2013 budget in a 12-page memorandum that is included in the budget documents the parliament put online this week.

The main complaint concerns all ministries and is about the lack of target dates: “The draft does not report in any way at which moment a performance must be delivered,” the advice states.

The draft budget states that the policy for 2013 is based on plans that have been developed at the level of the ministries. The government recently published its governing program. But this program is “insufficient” for the Council of Advice to check what exactly guilder-amounts in the budget relate to and whether they are realistic.

The council advises to explain for each entry how the budgeted amounts have come about and what they will be used for.

“Not a single ministry has drafted policy of what it plans to do, how much money this will cost and within what time frame it could be executed,” the advice states.

The draft furthermore lacks an elucidation on policy, performance and resources for the seven ministries.

The council is concerned about the fact that all ministries have cut down personnel costs, “Staff could come under more pressure as a result of this and that could lead to additional expenses for temporary staff,” the advice states.

The advice also zooms in on the budgets for High Boards of State and advisory bodies. It is unclear for instance, the advice states, on which basis the parliament has added a post “subscription and membership” for 50,000 guilders while this entry was zero last year. “It is also unclear why the parliament mentions several times the entry “committee compensation” and “several compensations and allowances” with “significant amounts.”

From the documents that have been made public so far, it is not possible to see what these significant amounts are. The budgets for the council of advice and for the General Audit Chamber have been cut, while others have been spared. The council wonders what the policy is for these budget cuts. “Unilaterally cutting the budgets of these institutions affects their independence, because it violates their established policies.”

According to the council, the institutions decide about their own budgets. It notes that nothing is budgeted for the functioning of the Corporate Governance Council, while the expenditures for the Social Economic Council are compensated with austerity measures at the audit chamber. There is however no elucidation about the strong increase in cost for support and registry at the parliament – from 2 million guilders in 2012 to 3.7 million this year.

The advice is also critical about the Finance Ministry’s drive for higher tax compliance: “It is unclear how the ministry could achieve higher compliance with lower personnel costs.”

The council also missed the ministry’s intended policy for realizing additional revenue through the introduction of legislation for taxing tobacco, alcohol and casinos.

The council points out that establishing the necessary legislation to facilitate the implementation of new taxes will take time and that this will also result in lower than budgeted revenue.

One interesting detail is found in the tail of the advice in the chapter entitled general remarks: “The council wonders if the post fixed-assets vehicles is a correct reflection of the real situation. The council is for instance of the opinion that a monthly payment of 17,589.82 guilders for a Hyundai Santa Fe seems to be a bit high.”

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