Opinion: Begging for money

POSTED: 11/21/13 1:28 PM

Of course Members of Parliament have the right to file motions. They did it in spades in April during the belated debate about the ill-fated 2013 budget. Now parliamentarians are complaining that the government is not executing the motions it approved. Especially independent MP Frans Richardson has been quite vocal about this.

Sadly, MPs still do not seem to understand how this system is supposed to work. It is easy to file a motion during a budget debate demanding money for this, that or the other. But one ought to keep in mind that such proposals have to be budget-neutral. In other words: if one faction or the other wants to set aside a million guilders for project X it should indicate where it finds that money in the budget. The system works like communicating vessels: if costs go up on one side they should go down somewhere else.

In fact, one could argue that the cabinet is entitled to ignore any motions that do not come with a solid financial paragraph. It is not up to the cabinet to change its budget, it is the task of the parliament to offer the alternatives. If parliament wants a million guilders for a drag racing strip – that’s fine – but then another part of the budget will have to do with one million guilders less. It’s as simple as that.

Another thing is this: we figure that motions should deal with general issues, not with what Facebookers call friend requests. We cannot get away from the impression that a motion filed by independent parliamentarian Patrick Illidge.

As we report today, Illidge filed a motion asking the government to set aside 50,000 guilders, or close to $28,000, from the crime fund for the Second Chance Foundation. The board members are closely aligned with the National Alliance. That is not a crime, for sure, but such connections lead to second thoughts.

Why did this foundation not follow the normal procedures to apply for regular subsidy? The shortcut via a motion in parliament seems almost indecent, especially since the foundation – as far as we have been able to establish – has not undertaken any activities since its incorporation in January 2009.

If all members of parliament started to file motions that are basically begging for money for their favorite foundations the parliament would become a true circus. We figure that this is somehow beyond the concept of a constitutional democracy.

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