Opinion: Shared responsibility

POSTED: 02/12/14 10:40 AM

In a world where good jobs are hard to come by politics seem an attractive alternative. Think about it: you do not really have to work, your boss comes knocking only ones every four years and your salary is beyond your wildest dreams. Only very strong legs are able to sustain such wealth.

This is the problem in a nutshell of politics in a small community. We hear that candidates are pushing their case – with any party – in the hope to become one of the top five or top seven vote getters that will guarantee a cozy job for the next four years. Money is the prime motivator for most of these wannabe politicians. Who could resist such heavily overpaid jobs?

During the last budget debate we notices again how much being a member of parliament is about making money. With the exception of DP faction leader Roy Marlin, nobody felt the need to support his initiative to accept a salary cut in these trying times.

If money is the problem, we ought to take that incentive away by bringing down the financial compensation for doing close to nothing to levels that are more acceptable.

We are not attacking any Member of Parliament in particular here, but parliament as a whole. What has it achieved in the first four years of its existence? Who is able to show that the people are better off now than they were four years ago?

Grandstanding, whining, mud-slinging – it is all part of the game in the political arena. There are few politicians that actually get things done in a way that benefits the country.

It is time to rethink the system we have, but rethinking the system is not enough. What we need, we said it before, is a change of mindset. We need people in politics who are not in the game for themselves, but who are genuinely interested in making St. Maarten a better place for all.

Our political parties – the existing ones, the new ones, and the initiatives that are bubbling under the surface – are going through interesting times. They will have to decide who will be on their list – a choice that basically comes down to a decision by party leaders.

The past four years have shown that there are no guarantees. Benjamin Franklin once famously said that countries have no friends. They only have interests. The same is true for individual politicians. They will hang on to the coattails of someone that could take them to the promised land, but once they are there, they are suddenly their own man (we have not caught any women in political infidelities yet). And so they change allegiance the way others change their underwear – never for a clear reason, always uttering innuendos to justify their actions, and always to serve personal interests.

Remember the twinning agreement with Newark MP Romain Laville so proudly announced in December? That is just one example of how not to do things. We hear that the plans to establish a liaison office in Newark just happen to focus on a building that is owned by Temp TV – the club that came with its disastrous Tempo Turns 7 event to St. Maarten in November 2012? Attempts to bring Tempo back the next year – and sink more public money into it – thankfully failed, but now it seems that there will be money flowing to this TV station via a back door if St. Maarten indeed rents a floor in its building in Newark.

Remarkable: neither the Council of Ministers, nor the Parliament have anything to say about the spending of these public funds. If we talk about electoral reform today, we may as well talk about political reform. One of the best ideas we recently heard is that the government ought to bring back the system of shared responsibility in the Council of Ministers.

Right now every minister is able to do whatever within her or his budget. Under a system of shared responsibility – as was the case in the Executive Council when St. Maarten still was an island territory – every initiative required a majority vote in the Council of Ministers. That would prevent the foolish waste of public funds on private projects in a place called Newark.

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