Today’s Opinion: Gardening

POSTED: 06/7/11 2:23 PM

Purmerend, a town north of Amsterdam has a plan in the works St. Maarten ought to pay attention to. We’re not saying in would work, we’re just passing on the message. Purmerend wants people on social benefits to work for their money. They’ll have to help maintaining public greens or work as household assistants. If they don’t, the municipality will cut part of their benefits.
Purmerend follows the line established by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Ministry says that the economic crisis and the rising budget deficits force the government to review the social benefits system. Basically, the ministry says, everybody who is able to work, will have to work.
In St. Maarten that would mean an end to liming on the block, or hanging out wherever. Purmerend wants to invest €1.5 million ($2.2 million) in the plan. Ah, how wonderful, first the municipality wants to hire two extra civil servants. Their task will be to track down people who are enjoying social benefits while they’re not entitled to it.
Purmerend has 115 individuals it wants to put to work. These people cost the city every year €1 million (about $1.45 million) in social benefits. The city has 1,100 people on the unemployed list and expects to flush out at least fifty of them who are not entitled to social benefits.
Other cities have come up with different initiatives. In Breda unemployed people over the age of 27 receive a €750 (a bit more than $1,090) bonus if they find a permanent job. That would be near impossible in St. Maarten with all its short term contracts. Amsterdam has put unemployed citizens at work digitalizing the town archive and Rotterdam obliges jobless citizens to perform volunteer work if nothing else comes up.
How would this work in St. Maarten? We have plenty of unemployed youngsters, and there is enough to do. Maybe all unemployed people could become permanent volunteers for the Pride Foundation tasked with picking up roadside trash all day.
All we need now is a politician who comes up with a workable plan and we’re in business. We’re looking forwards to some inspirational ideas.

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