Opinion: Cost reduction

POSTED: 11/23/12 12:43 PM

Rather than just looking at increased revenue, which usually means squeezing more money out of already embattled tax payers, MP Roy Marlin made a valid point during yesterday’s Central Committee meeting with Finance Minister Roland Tuitt by calling for cost-reduction programs within the government apparatus.
We all know how this works: if people need paper for a printer at home, they are careful how they use it. But in any government office, there is a seemingly endless supply of paper, so printers are humming and spewing out endless documents, while the civil servants who produce this stuff hardly spend a thought on the cost.
MP Marlin was, as we understood it, looking at the purchase end of this situation. Bringing in paper to feed the government’s printers by the truckload is obviously cheaper than shopping once a week at an office supply store.
But there are also other ways of looking at this: from an awareness point of view. We ought to send Jadira Veen into those government offices to teach civil servants a thing or two about all the trees that go down for the paper office workers use.
Less paper in the office is also better for our natural environment. Of course, no tree was ever felled on St. Maarten for the paper industry, but that is not the point. One has to look at these issues from a wider perspective.
We figure that it is easy for any civil servant to print something at the office for private use. As long as this remains within reasonable proportions that should not be a problem. The question is: how do you control this – if there is any control to begin with.
Printers could be equipped with keys and with codes linked to individual employees to gather data about people’s printer use. This way it is possible to set a limited free quota and to let users pay for what they print in excess. That’s a sure way to bring down the use of paper in the office environment to more acceptable levels. The containers MP Marlin wants to truck in could become smaller and somewhere in the world, the environment would benefit as well.
Marlin also mentioned electricity as a source of wastefulness. Tell us about it: in most government buildings the air conditioning systems are keeping workers at a temperature that would befit a morgue. Installing building management systems that set limits to temperature variance would – while leaving workers some individual freedom- save the government tons of money. But as long as civil servants have the freedom to freeze themselves half to death at the tax payer’s expense, nothing will change.
All in all, we welcome MP Marlin’s initiative and we wish that this will not fall on deaf ears for a change.
On the revenue end, Minister Tuitt came up with the news of a higher turnover tax on alcohol and cigarettes and dividend from government-owned companies.
Especially the higher turnover tax on alcohol and cigarettes is a step in the right direction. Alcohol is way too cheap on the island. For a mere five dollars one is able to drink oneself to oblivion on a cheap bottle of rum. Putting a premium on products that affect public health and, in the case of alcohol, also play a part in criminal behavior, sounds like a just measure.
At the same time, we feel that just upping the price is not enough. The government should also initiate an awareness campaign that goes beyond the smoking kills messages on tobacco products.
Lastly, we noticed that the minister did not address a potential source of income that has been left alone for too long: the casinos. Our gaming houses are paying a fixed fee, while the government has no idea about the turnover these companies make. Apart from that, casinos are also places that attract criminal activities like money laundering. There is more than enough reason to address these issues and to have these companies finally pay their fair share.

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