After a four-month delay and amid scrutiny from the Dutch government, the Sint Maarten governor, Eugene Holiday, swore in a new cabinet on December 19th. The first priority of the newly appointed prime minister, Marcel Gumbs, will be to pass the 2015 budget.
Though six parties contested the election, held on August 29th, no party won an outright majority in the 15-seat Staten (legislature). The United People's party (UP) came closest with seven seats, but would have been shut out of office if the Democratic Party (DP), National Alliance and the United Sint Maarten party had been successful in forming a coalition, as they had intended. Instead, those plans fell apart in September after a former DP legislator defected to the UP. The UP then formed a nine-member majority with the help of two independents. However, at the Dutch government's insistence amid widespread concerns about the integrity of the island's governance structures, cabinet ministers underwent enhanced background screening.
The UP leader, Theo Heyliger, did not seek the prime minister's post, instead making way for Mr Gumbs, a veteran lawmaker. Mr Gumbs will also serve as acting minister of public housing, planning, environment and infrastructure. The other members of the new cabinet are: Dennis Richardson (justice and acting minister of health, social development and labour), Rita Bourne-Gumbs (education, culture, youth and sports), Martin Hassink (finance) and Claret Connor (tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication). Josiane Fleming-Artsen was named minister plenipotentiary.
Owing to the post-election delay, the College Financieel Toezicht (CFT, the independent public-sector financial supervision body) has given the new government until January 31st to approve a draft 2015 budget. The CFT has said that 2014 will probably end with a US$5.6m deficit because of higher personnel costs and a revenue shortfall. In his first few months in office Mr Gumbs will also be tasked with implementing recommendations to correct extensive governance failures in the country's institutions, as recently identified by a UK-based consulting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Impact on the forecast
The appointment of a new government bodes well for political stability, but the fragility of its majority supports our view that political effectiveness will remain limited in the forecast period, amid an obstructionist legislature, as well as continued fiscal constraints and institutional shortcomings.