Commissioner of Finance, Bruce Zagers, presented the multi-year budget 2015-2018 to the Central Committee on October 1st. The total amount for the draft budget for 2015 is $10,420,850.
Of this amount $939,500 is local revenue and the remainder comes from the vrije uitkering or the free allowance. Local revenue represents only 9% of the total budget. The total amount of the budget which goes towards the paying of salaries is almost 5.9 million dollars or 57%.
In introducing the budget, the commissioner alluded to the experience gained in previous years commenting that, “the amounts in this draft budget come from experiences from the execution of the 2013 budget and the ongoing activities for 2014.”
When drafting this year’s budget the commissioner explained that the figures had to be estimated conservatively. “When compared to the multi-year budget 2014-2017, cuts had to be made in several areas to balance the budget. That is why this can be looked upon as a skeleton budget as it allows for very little or almost no policy or investments which can be financed through the island finances. A study on the free allowance will take place this year and the results will be known early in 2015.”
Due to the uncertainty of the results of the study on the free allowance, there is no clarity about future indexations, which have been therefore excluded from the budget. Balancing this year’s budget proved to be a difficult task because the cost of salaries, services and materials have increased over the last fiscal year, but the indexation of the free allowance (vrije uitkering) only partially took place for 2013. “Basically this means that government expenses are naturally increasing but the amount of revenue has remained constant,” the Commissioner of Finance stated.
A study on the free allowance will take place this year and the results will be known early in 2015. It is anticipated that the outcome of this study will result in an increase. Should the level increase, this should provide some flexibility for the introduction of more policy areas. Any new policy areas would go through the appropriations process with budget amendments during the course of 2015.
“In the coming years the policy focus will be mainly on working together with the Dutch government on the implementation and development of the Multiannual Caribbean Netherland’s program and the integrated development plan which the Executive Council has been working on now for some time,” the commissioner explained, highlighting the intentions of the local government and national government to synchronise their efforts to improve the socio-economic conditions on the island.
A number of these joint projects have already started in 2014, but will be finalized in the period 2015 – 2018. Some of the projects included in the budget are: the renovation of the airport; additional school buildings in St. Johns; the revitalization of Windwardside and improving waste management.
In discussing the liquidity position of the Public Entity the commissioner said that this major risk area had his attention, and measures are being taken to control it. Efforts will have to be made to ensure that future projects and investments remain within the allocated budgets and that the island can continue ending the fiscal years with budgetary surpluses. “These measures should help improve the islands liquidity position but this will take some years before it will no longer be considered a risk.” The commissioner concluded.
The budget was passed by the Island Council on Friday, October 3rd.
Press release GIS Saba , October 5, 2014