Commissioner of Finance Bruce Zagers presented amendments for the 2012 and 2013 budgets, both of which were adopted without any diffi culty during last
week’s Island Council meeting. The 2012 amendments deal with the allocation of the US $1.2 million received as additional free remittance and approved by the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT), three months ago.
The main changes mentioned by the Commissioner were $11,000 budgeted for elections; an additional amount for surveillance cameras at the harbour; $518,000 for roads, including the benching of the harbour hill, while $9,000 was made available for the day care centre, $70,000 for the promotion of
tourism, $10,000 for sports, and $12,000 for cultural activities. Zagers also mentioned the one-time $50,000 for the fi xing of the hyperbaric chamber at the
harbour, $50,000 for additional yacht moorings to encourage tourism, and $90,000 for unforeseen expenditures.
Commissioner Zagers next presented the balanced 2013 budget, approved by CFT as compliant with their guidelines. The total budget is $9,335,000 said Zagers, stressing that, “If we had gone ahead with the meeting which was scheduled a few weeks ago [the Island Council meeting scheduled for October 4, Ed.], Saba would have been the first island to have an approved budget. However, due to circumstances we could not go ahead.” In the meantime, Bonaire passed its budget ahead of Saba.
Zagers next outlined the main differences between the 2012 and 2013 budgets, noting that the multi-annual budgets get better defined, with fewer changes required. He noted the format had been modifi ed in an extensive, detailed report. The budgets for the harbour, airport and agriculture stations had shifted in priorities. Maintenance of public assets has been budgeted to a level that would allow addressing backlogs. The free remittance had been structurally implemented in the multi-year budget. Additional allocations have been made to remove backlogs to allow future fl exibility in the budgets. Price ompensation had been removed and cost-of-living adjustments had been budgeted and will be implemented as of January 1, 2013.
The total free remittance received by Saba from the Dutch government is approximately $8,000,000 or 86 per cent of the total budgeted revenue with the rest being generated locally. Approximately 48 per cent of the budget goes towards personnel cost, 10 per cent towards subsidies, and eight per cent to maintenance. The latter includes $350,000 to address backlogs in maintenance, which includes buildings, vehicles and IT equipment. Seven per cent is budgeted as buffer in individual sections, with the main buffer being $160,000 for the entire budget. The remainder is allocated to operational expenses, including trainings.
Zagers pointed out that the position of a social worker had been removed from the budget, as the government applied for funding through Antillean Co-Financing Agency AMFO, and is still expecting a response. The delay with AMFO had been discussed with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom
Relations during the Commissioners’ recent visit to The Netherlands. The selection process for the position is well underway, with the social worker expected to commence working in December 2012.
Zagers also outlined many ongoing public works construction projects. He talked of the approved allocation of the so-called “Donner monies” and the completed landfill project with the purchase of the Air Burner. In terms of new projects, he mentioned phase-two of the Harbour Project with the Harbour Office and Fishermen’s Sheds to be delivered by the end of November.
A contract for decorative street lights is to start in two weeks. In terms of ongoing projects, he mentioned the Cove Bay building, the Community Centre
in Zion’s Hill, Eugenius Johnson Centre, Child Focus phase II, the Archives building and the Gym in St. John’s. The Culture Building in The Bottom is scheduled to be delivered before Saba Day, December 7.
Zagers also gave updates on garbage truck repairs, and the purchase of a Mitsubishi Canter truck found in Japan, with the search continuing for a second
In closing, Zagers thanked the team that put together the budgetand also mentioned the very good relationship with CFT and Ernst & Young, who expressed
their pleasure with Saba’s current financial situation.
Source: The Daily herald October 30, 2012