Opinion: Tough measures

POSTED: 01/5/14 10:47 PM

The draft budget for 2014 will be handled by the parliament this month and it promises to be an interesting debate. The measures the government proposes are tough and they will affect many people. The opposition will not like it – hell, the government probably does not like it either. Screaming blue murder during the budget debate however, will not do any body any good. If members of parliament want to play their roles properly – and that is what taxpayers are paying them generously for –  they will come up with alternatives that soften the pain and leave the balanced budget in one piece.

We have not seen the budget yet – for now we have to rely on the advice from the financial supervisor Cft.

Several things stand out among the measures the cabinet has in mind. First of all there is the plan to let SZV-insured citizens pay ten percent of their medical costs out of their own pocket. Details are unknown at this point but it stands to reason to assume that this will hit people with a weak health exceptionally hard. They have the biggest need for medical attention, they will run up the highest bills and they will be stuck with ten percent of the total.

It is fair to say that ten percent is not even extreme, because there are plenty of countries where people that fall under a social healthcare insurance have to pay 25 percent. No matter how we look at it, this will be a pretty hot topic.

Related to this is the intention to downsize the package that falls under the SZV-insurance. This means simply that some treatments will not be paid for by the insurance anymore. Details are unknown but we suspect that for instance physiotherapists will be on the receiving end of this idea, together with their patients.

Is there more bad news in the budget? Absolutely. To get a grip on personnel costs, the government will announce drastic measures. Freezing the salaries of civil servants is one of the proposed measures – eliminating periodic salary increases another one. However, the one that will get the unions up in arms is the plan for the complete elimination of payments for cost of living adjustment – popularly known for some reason as cola.

The Cft had some bad news too in its advice about the draft budget. The government will not be allowed to borrow money for entities that fall outside the direct sphere of influence of the government. One of those entities happens to be the St. Maarten Medical Center. UP-leader Theo Heyliger wanted to see 35 million guilders in the budget to finance the expansion of the hospital, but it now seems that the financial supervisor will not allow loans for this purpose.

Since Heyliger has called for a year of action in his New Year’s address, we guess that it is time for a round of creative financing again.

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