Opinion: Dead horses

POSTED: 03/28/14 10:44 AM

Nothing gets people going like the prospect of elections – local elections of course. Whether St. Maarteners will get as hot for the European elections remains to be seen – they still have until April 10 to register for it.

Is there any way to bring politicians (and their critics) to their senses? Probably not. They say that in war and love everything is permitted. Elections were never part of that equation but that may have been a painful omission.

What we see these days is that anyone who has a beef with anyone on the other side of the political divide will use any occasion to score cheap points.

A case in point is the publication of a picture in local media (not in this newspaper) that shows “angry residents” after a meeting in Belvedere where Vromi-Minister Lake was a no-show because it was his birthday. Turns out that the Belvedere Home Owners and Tenants Association were well-informed about the minister’s absence from this meeting, so why anybody would be angry about a guy celebrating his birthday is beyond us. Besides, the meeting is rescheduled for next Monday, and then the minister will be there.

Before readers start thinking that this newspaper is on the barricades to defend a minister of one particular political color, think again. We do not think that Minister Lake needs any help to defend his position. Politicians have a thick skin (and if they don’t they ought to get one).

We just mention this example because we feel that it is a non-topic. Yes, this is an election year and yes, politicians and their supporters will do their stinking best to get the upper hand. Nothing wrong with that. But let the battle be about issues that are real, about issues that matter, about issues that make a difference.

Let’s bring a couple of those issues forward here. What do people care about and what are their real concerns? That one is easy. People are concerned about their livelihood and about their safety. They want jobs, a decent income, decent work and a cost of living level that does not rob them blind every month of the year. As the Americans like to say, it’s the economy stupid.

So let us not make things more complicated than they already are. Yesterday we made a few remarks on this page about the disproportional amount of money Dutch municipalities spend on promoting employment. This is unreal because, as everyone knows, the government does not create jobs. That happens in the private sector.

What municipalities and governments like the one in St. Maarten ought to do is create a level playing field – one where the economy is able to blossom. Every obstacle bureaucratic rules throw at the private sector is damaging the interests of locals.

Politicians somehow fail to understand this. Look at Curacao where the Parliament approved the so-called 80-20 rule that obliges companies to employ at least 80 percent locals. It looks good on paper and it hits a nerve with the local population, but in fact such a rule is putting more locals out of work than people realize. That’s probably why the government had the good sense not to implement this legislation.

The easier it becomes for companies to hire the people they need, the better it is for the local job market. The idea that imported labor damages opportunities for locals is a misconception. Of course, everybody would love to be a manager or a director with a fat salary and a nice company car – but those jobs are scarce.

When companies flourish, the local job market will flourish with it. Local suppliers will also benefit from such a development.

In this time and age, companies have to be lean and mean – like it or not – and they have to turn a profit. The concerns about job security in the local telecom sector – in the context of the TelEm-UTS merger – are handy as a political ping pong ball, but they blatantly ignore economic reality. A company that is bogged down by a bloated payroll is simply not able to give consumers what they want: excellent service at the best possible price.

So while politicians parade their love for job-protection they ignore the interests of the consumers who pay the price for such fallacies. It makes sense to judge our politicians rather on their plans to truly stimulate the economy – and allow companies to grown and create jobs – than on their willingness to keep dead horses alive.

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