Departing politicians become a burden for the treasury

POSTED: 09/13/14 11:54 PM

Political pensions could cost country St. Maarten $4 million

St. Maarten – The change of government could cost the country over the next two years more than $4 million if all departing ministers and not re-elected members of parliament claim the political pension they are entitled to by law. To put this number in perspective: on a national budget of 440 million guilders (about $245 million), it represents 1.6 percent of total expenditures.

Four ministers (Patricia Lourens, Martin Hassink, Dennis and Ted Richardson) are not expected to return in the new cabinet. Seven parliamentarians have not been re-elected: Gracita Arrindell, Leroy de Weever, Patrick Illidge, Romain Laville, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce, Louie Laveist and Roy Marlin. Hyacinth Richardson was not directly re-elected either, but he might still claim a seat if others on the National Alliance list take up posts in the new cabinet.

The pension arrangement for politicians is generous by any standard. Fired politicians – basically those who do not return in their position for whatever reason – are entitled to pension payments for a period equal to the time they were in office with a minimum of one and a maximum of two years. Within these parameters, the four ministers that will most likely not return served 15 months. They will receive 95 percent of their income during the first three months, 85 percent during the next seven months, and 75 percent during the last 5 months.

The members of parliament that were not re-elected were, in a way, fired by the electorate. The ministers that do not return however, are simply leaving office –the way someone leaves a job to continue his life elsewhere.

The income of unemployed ministers will drop from the estimated $11,037 per month (calculated in 2010) to $8,278 during the last five months. During these 15 months, each minister will collect $138,520. The total for the four ministers is $554,000. If the ministers find gainful employment, or if they have other sources of income, this will be deducted from their political pension entitlements.

Members of parliament made in 2010 $126,429 before taxes – roughly $10,536 per month. Under the pension scheme, their income would fall from a bit over $10,000 to $7,375 per month during the last four months of the scheme. The total per MP over the full two years amounts to $525,734 and for seven MPs this would cost the taxpayers $3,680,000. This brings the total for all departing politicians to around $4.2 million.

It is possible for the governor to intervene, based on the ordinance that regulates the pension scheme. Article 2 states that politicians that have been sentenced for a crime “that shows that according to the governor he (or she) has behaved unworthy from a national point of view” are not entitled to the pension.

This rule could apply to National Alliance MP Louie Laveist who was sentenced on October 24, 2012 on bribery charges to a 60-month conditional prison sentence, a 5,000 guilders fine and a three year ban from holding office. Laveist is therefore still on probation until October 24, 2015.

Independent MP Patrick Illidge is a suspect in the Bada Bing bribery case, but that case still has to go to court. As long as there is not an irrevocable sentence – a process that could still take several years, if Illidge takes a possible conviction for review to the Supreme Court – it is unlikely that this will affect his political pension entitlement.

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