Opinion: Let’s Travel

POSTED: 01/14/14 12:30 PM

Travel expenses were again a topic of discussion in the central committee yesterday and for good reasons. Traveling is expensive and it seems, in the age of video conferencing, ludicrous to travel here there and everywhere without any significant benefit for the country.

It is easy for these expenses to get out of control. Jan Timmer, who was at the helm of electronics giant Philips from 1990 until 1996 was very aware of this. One of the first things he did after he got the job was go to the Philips travel agency at Schiphol airport on a Monday morning. There he encountered truckloads of his employees who were on their way to somewhere else in the world – or so they thought. Timmer grilled every one of them about their trip and their reason for traveling – not to mention about why family members were traveling with them at the company’s expense. Many got an unpleasant surprise: the head honcho considered their trip expensive and useless and sent them back to their desk somewhere in the Philips organization in the Netherlands.

In St. Maarten, DP-faction leader Roy Marlin seems to be about the only one who realizes that trips to the Parlatino meetings in the region are as futile as they come. Marlin has brought up the issue before and he did it again yesterday. We agree with Marlin: cut down the travel expenses for Parlatino and do something useful with that money. Will the parliament fall for it? We know that UP-MP Johan Leonard loves his travels to Parlatino and he has vehemently opposed Marlin’s suggestion in the part. But then Leonard was in the opposition. This time he is in the same team as Marlin. You never know what that could do to someone’s decision making process.

Finance Minister Martin Hassink presented the Central Committee yesterday with a breakdown of the travel expenses in 2013. All in all, ministries, parliamentarians and high councils of state spent 3.3 million guilders on travel and accommodation. Of this total, 880,000 guilders (26.7 percent) is for the account of the parliament and the high councils of state.

The Ministry of Justice spent the most money on travel: 968,000 guilders, followed by General Affairs (383,000 guilders), Vromi (293,000), Education (261,000) Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor (244,000), Economic Affairs (193,000), and Finance (190,000).

Minister Hassink had a small remark about the travel expenses at his own ministry. “Most of it was spent in the first half of the year,” he noted. “I just traveled a couple of times to Curacao.” This means that the bulk of these expenses were made by Hassink’s predecessor Roland Tuitt.


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