Opinion: Speaking time

POSTED: 10/9/15 2:28 PM

In meetings of our Central Committee of Parliament MPs usually get 20 minutes in the first round and 10 minutes in the second round. It happens that MPs find this time to short and then they pump it up to, say, 30 minutes in the first round and 20 in the second round.

The parliament debate has different numbers: 90 minutes (that’s one and a half hour) in the first round and 45 minutes in the second round.

We do not have a system whereby parties have a spokesman (or woman) per subject: everybody gets his 90-minutes of fame in such a debate. More often than not these lengthy monologues bore people to death also because the esteemed speakers jump from one subject to the next. Seldom do they talk about the matter at hand – the budget.

Yesterday we followed the debate in the Second Chamber about the budget for Kingdom Relations. It revealed one similarity with budget debates in St. Maarten: it was never about the budget, because that’s more or less taken for granted.

What caught our attention is the speakers list. That was already set at least on the day before the debate took place. There were eight speakers on the list, which is something to be grateful for. Imagine that 150 parliamentarians want to have their say about that budget.

The most interesting point though was the speaking time, parliamentarians had allotted to themselves. The champion: Roelof Bisschop. The 58-year-old SGP-MP needed just five minutes, followed by Madeleine van Toorenburg (CDA) with 6 minutes. St. Maarten basher Ronald van Raak was a respectable third with 7 minutes, with Gert Jan Segers (Christian Union) close on his heels with 8 minutes. André Bosman (VVD), Wassili Hachchi (D66), Roelof van Laar (PvdA) and Sietse Fritsma (PVV) all needed ten minutes.

And you know what? All these parliamentarians had plenty of time to get their messages across.

In our local budget meetings, we are stuck with fifteen times one and a half hour in the first round – that’s almost three full 8-hour working days – followed by another 11-odd hours in the second round. Add to that clarifications, points of order, interruptions and what have you, and you understand why we need a lot of time to get to the end of our budget meetings.

We do not want St. Maarten to become all that Dutch – we love our island for its unique character – but we still think that our parliamentarians could shape up just a little bit to make their debates more palatable for those who bother tune in and, on another level, more to the point.

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