Opinion: Very good ideas (budget)

POSTED: 02/5/15 5:10 PM

Minister Martin Hassink’s skeleton budget still contains plenty of fat. At least, that is the opinion of rookie MP Leona Marlin-Romeo. And we have to admit: she made a lot of valid points. Are any of the ideas she put forward during yesterday’s first round of the budget debate going to be put in practice? Dream on: not a chance in hell.

At the bottom of her presentation, Marlin-Romeo dropped that little bomb: a salary cut for ministers and Members of Parliament. A cut of 5 percent does not seem like a lot but that does not matter – it is the idea that counts.

Last year fourteen out of fifteen MPs passed on the opportunity to give up a tiny piece of their outrageous remuneration. At that time, former MP Roy Marlin submitted a motion to cut the salaries of MPs by ten percent. Nobody was interested and the motion went down as a limp piece of paper with only Marlin’s signature on it. Before Marlin brought his motion to parliament, the ministers of the third Wescot-Williams cabinet had all accepted a 10 percent salary cut.

The MPs did not go into this issue, other than saying that Marlin was ‘playing politics’ – the standard Pavlov-reaction from politicians who have run out of valid arguments.

This time, the proposal for a salary cut comes from a different corner and it remains to be seen how Marlin-Romeo’s fourteen colleagues are going to react.

Marlin-Romeo also pointed out in her address that not all parliamentarians are working fulltime. She did not say it, but as a matter of fact, all Members of Parliament are receiving a remuneration that covers two fulltime jobs, and then some.

National Alliance MP Christopher Emmanuel wondered last week aloud why the parliament is paying him 19,000 guilders (around $10,600) per month if he has to deal with a budget in a language he is not able to understand. We suggest that Emmanuel take some language lessons – that might help and it will be a lot cheaper than translating every scrap of paper from Dutch into English. Apparently this idea has not crossed his mind yet.

Marlin-Romeo threw out a whole bunch of other ideas for cost-cutting. Travel, energy consumption, study financing, rental buildings and government-issued phones all have her attention – and rightly so. Will it change anything?

Of course we’ll have to wait for the answers the cabinet has in store for her, and we have to see up to which point Marlin-Romeo will force the parliament to a vote on some of these issues. We could therefore be running ahead of ourselves but, knowing more or less how politicians tend to react when someone wants to touch their money and their cozy fringe benefits, we figure that there is not a lot, if any enthusiasm in parliament for these ideas.

However – for the record: these are very good ideas.

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