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CFT sets deadline to settle SZV, APS debts

THE HAGUE/WILLEMSTAD--The Government of St. Maarten has until the end of May 2015 to settle its arrears with the St. Maarten General Pension Fund APS and the Social and Health Insurance SZV.

Only when that deadline has been met, will the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT advise the Kingdom Council of Ministers in The Hague to defer this year's target to compensate for deficits of previous years until 2018.

CFT Chairman Age Bakker stated this in a letter dated March 16, published on the committee's website this week. The CFT will again scrutinise St. Maarten's 2015 budget, which has already been ratified by the St. Maarten Parliament, at the end of May.

The CFT demands that the St. Maarten Government reach a final agreement before May 31 on the monies that are owed to SZV and APS. Government owes SZV NAf. 87 million and the APS NAf. 70 million, while there is also a dispute between government and the two aforementioned entities of about NAf. 75 million.

Bakker showed comprehension for government's argument that much depended on the cooperation of the SZV and APS, but he added that government was ultimately responsible for these two organisations.

During consultations in February this year, government promised the CFT that it would find a speedy solution for the payment arrears. Bakker stated that this commitment creates "sufficient confidence" to wait until the end of May before it advised the Kingdom Council of Ministers to "take further measures."

The CFT also wanted further substantiation by March 23, 2015, of the additional NAf. 15 million that government planned to collect in 2015 in order to realise NAf. 445 million on the budget's revenue side.

The NAf. 15 million should come from, among other posts, dividend payments of the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (NAf. 2 million), the telephone company TelEm (NAf. 1.9 million), a concession fee of the St. Maarten Airport (NAf. 1.5 million), from the water company (NAf. 3 million) and the Bureau Telecommunications and Post (NAf. 2.1 million). A reorganisation at the Tax Department was expected to yield NAf. 3.7 million.

These two requirements, a speedy settlement of the payment arrears and a substantiation of anticipated additional revenues, must be met in order for the CFT to positively advise the Kingdom Government to allow a prolongation until 2018 of the compensation term for deficits of previous years.

St. Maarten has to compensate NAf. 52 million in deficits that have accumulated since it attained Country status on October 10, 2010. Initially, the Kingdom Council of Ministers had ordered St. Maarten to compensate these shortages in 2015. St. Maarten has asked to spread this exercise over several years until 2018 since its compensation in one year, in 2015, would have "far-reaching consequences and be unrealistic."

Approval of the Kingdom Council of Ministers was necessary to deviate from the agreement to compensate in 2015, stated Bakker. The CFT saw the "rationale" of advising a prolongation of the term, but only when it has sufficient confidence in the measures to realise a budget with a NAf. 445 million revenue side and in St. Maarten's efforts to solve the payment arrears.

According to the CFT, the substantiation of the anticipated additional revenues and a concrete solution for the payment arrears were needed to determine the realistic level of the 2015 budget.

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