Published On: Fri, Apr 1st, 2022

Guilty by doing nothing

By Hilbert Haar

The parliament is supposed to control the government. Right? Says so in the constitution. But the parliament has no clue about the way the government is spending tax payers money – and apparently it does not give a damn either.

The opinion of the government’s accountant bureau SOAB about the country’s financial statements for the years 2013-2018 leaves no doubt about the mess our national financial household is in. The SOAB gave a negative opinion about all of these financial statements. In other words: these statements are unreliable.

Now the General Audit Chamber had put the 2019 financial statements under the microscope and the outcome of this exercise is the same. These statements do not represent a reliable picture of the country’s true financial position.

Is this bad? You bet. Is anybody going to do something about it? Forget it.


The way St. Maarten, as an autonomous country and before that as an island territory, is handling its financial affairs has been appalling for decades. We read in the 2019 financial statements that the position head of accounting is vacant. Mind you: it was vacant in 2019 and we are now in 2022 and this position, that is vital for  the financial statements, is still vacant.

That’s not an excuse for anything. It feels more like a conscious scheme to keep everybody in the dark about the way the government is taking care of the money its taxpayers are bringing in.

There must be some truth in this old joke: if you did what the government is doing, you would be in prison. You probably also have heard this one before: in St. Maarten it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

One may well wonder: is it really that complicated to keep track of revenue and expenditures? Or maybe, just maybe, is keeping everybody in the dark an art form our politicians have honed to the hilt?

I find it hard to believe that over the past ten years nobody, but nobody, had been able to improve the country’s financial management. Has anybody even tried?

It is more likely that bad financial management is a deliberate choice, made easier by a parliament that will at best raise some eyebrows while reading that it is unclear how its beloved government had spent 56 million guilders. And you wonder why some people have to live in poverty on our island.

When something is not quite right in the corridors of power, the parliament is supposed to hold a minister, or a bunch of ministers, accountable.

Based on the report from the General Audit Chamber, the parliament ought to hold the complete government accountable.

I think that the parliament will do no such thing. And by doing nothing the parliament is just as guilty of bad financial management as the government it is supposed to control.

That’s your democracy at work – but not for you.


Related article: