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Hiro: 2011 budget is balanced, details to be announced today

PHILIPSBURG--The draft 2011 budget is balanced, has been approved by the Council of Ministers, and now has to be reviewed by the Advisory Council, Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto told The Daily Herald on Thursday.
Government was facing a deficit of NAf. 95-100 million. This deficit has been erased by a number of cost-cutting and revenue-generating measures, not limited to some tax increases, as the minister had announced last month during his trip to the Netherlands.
Shigemoto did not give any more information about what was included in the "entire package" of measures government had decided to take to balance the budget. He plans to announce these today, Thursday, in a press conference he will host jointly with Deputy Prime Minister Theo Heyliger.
"We want to tell the people directly about the measures we plan to take and not give information in bits and pieces. We think that is the responsible thing to do," Shigemoto said.
He added that the budget was ready for the Advisory Council to review. The council, headed by Governor Eugene Holiday, will meet next week for the first time. The council is new to St. Maarten's budget process, as this level of scrutiny didn't exist when St. Maarten was an island territory.
The draft budget also has to be reviewed by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT and should be submitted by December 15. The committee will check to see if the deficit indeed has been erased and whether the measures government intends to take will yield the results the government expects.
Commenting on the budget on Wednesday, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said St. Maarten had chosen to be a country and with this decision came "certain responsibilities" that government and the island had to bear and deal with.
Government will continue to make its case to the Dutch government regarding its finances by pointing out that some financial projections for tasks and services date back to 2000, the Prime Minister said.
There are matters that no one could have foreseen that now have financial consequences for government, Wescot-Williams said, using the takeover of the Post Office operations as an example. The takeover should have been simple and without financial consequences, but this is now proving to be otherwise.
She said St. Maarten was "stuck with the laws that govern the whole financial operations," but government was "not letting up" in constantly pointing out the unforeseen issues and cost now surfacing.
St. Maarten is not allowed to have a budget deficit, based on the financial-management and constitutional-change agreements made with the Netherlands as a precursor to the attainment of country status. She said that when those agreements had been made, "no one was aware" of the issues that are now coming up that have financial implications.

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