Opinion: Ghost politicians

POSTED: 09/26/11 7:15 PM

St. Maarten has Hyacinth Richardson and Louie Laveist, and the Netherlands now has a name for politicians like them who hardly ever show up for public meetings: ghost politicians. The Netherlands has them as well. Home affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner is not pleased with the fact that between 17 and 58 elected members of municipal and provincial councils never show up for work, while they are not shy to cash their remuneration.

The Dutch parliament demands action against these no-show politicians – a sentiment often heard on the streets in St. Maarten as well when the names of Hyacinth Richardson and Louie Laveist pop up. Under Dutch law, ghost politicians risk a 20 salary-cut if they consistently don’t show up. But the Dutch parliament wants to suspend their salaries altogether.

The Clerk Association estimates that between 17 and 58 politicians across the country qualify for the label ghost politician. There are no ghost politicians in the parliament or in the senate.

Minister Donner says that the limited number is irrelevant. Elected representatives of the people who do nothing visible to make an effort for the public task voters expect from them are a real problem, he says. But what to do?

From what we read in Dutch newspapers Donner just wants to acknowledge that the problem exists. He does not want to cut them off from the money they get for being an elected representative.

So what did Donner have to offer? We have to look at how a politician functions, though the question is who has to assess him and what the possible consequences are. Improving the selection of candidates and supervising elected representatives is another option.

Duh.

Voters have their say only once every four years. If they get someone like Laveist for their vote, who hardly bothers to show up in public meetings of the parliament, they have to wait forty-eight long months before they are able to correct their mistake. In the meantime, Laveist has eaten up $500,000 of their tax dollars plus change.

We’d thought that Donner would be able to come up with real actions. Like: no work no pay. Or: miss an X-amount of meetings and you’re out the door. Simple rules that everyone, even a politician, could understand. But no, dog eat dog is not going to happen and arrogance rules.

 

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