Opinion: Sirtaki

POSTED: 06/13/11 12:57 PM

Greece is the country of olive trees, bouzoukis, the sirtaki, Nikos Kazantkzakis, Zorba the Greek, the Junta and a national debt large enough to drive the whole country into an asylum.

The financial constraint St. Maarten is experiencing is small fry compared to the major headaches the Greeks have. Yet there are similarities, not maybe in numbers, but certainly in mentality.

The Greeks – with the Cretans as their ultimate exponent – are a people as proud as our local St. Maarteners – with Leopold James as their ultimate exponent.

Not only are the Greeks proud – especially of their history – they are also notorious big spenders. That’s why the whole of the European Union now has a major headache. The union does not want to let Greece return to the chaos of the Junta in the seventies, yet the member states are weary of pumping billions into their sinking ship of state.

One similarity between Greece and St. Maarten is to be found on the level of tax compliance. Here, it stands at least somewhere around 30 to 35 percent (meaning that 65 to 70 percent of citizens and companies do not pay taxes), but in Greece tax compliance is non-existent.

The rich Greeks are extremely rich, and not because they give the tax man his due. They may pay him a bribe or two to look the other way, but that’s about it. Life is good in Greece, even today, except when you are the country’s finance minister and have to sit in meetings where you get your ears washed about decades of irresponsible overspending and under-collecting.

It’s good to have Greece as an example. It just shows how bad things will get without financial budgetary and fiscal discipline. We’re a long way from sinking as deep as the Greeks, proud as they may be of ancestors like Socrates and Aristotle, but we ought to remain alert and not let our finances spin completely out of control.

lo�1 ga�؟�ith manpower agencies. Employees could be like forever employed by a manpower agency, be put to work at the same employer, and yet never qualify for a permanent contract. Worse: even long time manpower agency-employees could be out of a job from one day to the next


By using manpower staff to fill positions, employers have an eminent opportunity to dodge labor contract legislation. We have been made to understand that this construction is popular in some sectors of the hospitality industry.

While it is certain that this is the number one sector that has to deal with seasonal fluctuations, we do not think that keeping even core staff via manpower constructions on a short leash is an example of being a good employer.

The relationship between employers and employees is a delicate one, but it comes always down to this: it takes two to tango. Unwilling employers with willing employees and willing employers with unwilling employees are both recipes for disaster.

Regulating the dos and don’ts in legislation may sound like a solution, but if there is one unwilling party in the mix, laws will not solve anything.

We like the opinion of labor legislation specialist van Sambeek who said yesterday in this newspaper that legislation hardly ever solves anything. Solutions have to be market driven to make them effective. This means that employers and employees have to create win-win situations, instead of engaging in rearguard action. That will always end with lose-win, win-lose, or even lose-lose situations.

The best thing to do right now seems to be setting up a thorough survey of the local labor market. Once the raw data of that survey are available, the building blocks are in place for creating an effective and balanced solution.

Right now, our main concern about the draft ordinance short labor contracts is that it is not balanced at all. It seems to contain everything for the employees and nothing for the employers. That will, in our opinion, never work.

At the same time, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we’d like to point out that the initiative law has had already one very positive effect: all interested parties are looking with refreshed energy levels at the labor market and at all the challenges it poses. With suddenly so much brainpower at work, sooner or later something good and useful must result from it.


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