Today’s Opinion: Value for money

POSTED: 03/17/11 2:20 PM

We have fifteen parliamentarians who, as we all know, take home $125,000 before taxes every year plus generous benefits worth approximately $20,000. They sit in a building that is costing the tax payer $96,000 every month, so the price tag for this honorable community is around $280,000 every month. The young and autonomous Country St. Maarten is currently in the sixth month of its existence. We are therefore already almost 2.3 million tax dollars poorer. What did we get in return?
A budget for the current year with a 45 million guilders deficit, a timeshare resort that almost closed its doors indefinitely, pending gun legislation that will put more firearms in the hands of ordinary citizens, a prison filled to capacity with no solution in sight, a heavily understaffed police force, parliamentarians so scared of their own shadows that they hang on for dear life to an ordinance that protects them against criminal prosecution, and at least one parliamentarian who maintains a full-time job as the managing director of the timeshare resort we mentioned earlier next to his presumably full-time job in parliament.
How many initiatives has this parliament taken in the past six months? How many ideas have our politicians put forth to improve the life of our citizens? At 105 guilders an hour, even the lousiest consultant would manage to come up with at least some ideas.
But our parliament has remained silent for the better part of its first half year in office. That makes us think that our honorable MPs are slightly overpaid. Where else is it possible to collect a fat salary without ever doing anything for it?
Let’s not forget that our MPs have extreme job security as well. In the highly unlikely case that they get kicked out of the parliament (by their party or due to an equally highly unlikely criminal conviction) they will be able to enjoy our beaches, our bars and our restaurants, not to mention establishments of a shadier nature, at the tax payers’ expense for another two years, due to the generous pension plan they have set up for themselves.
It is not surprising that social activist Eldridge van Putten wants to send this parliament home. A better plan would probably be to introduce a performance-based remuneration plan for politicians, because sending the current bunch home will not solve anything. They would at best be replaced by fifteen others who will do exactly the same thing: nothing – and this for an extended period of time.
The parliament is supposed to set up a gazette, a paper that contains official publications. Half a year into its term, nothing has been heard about this, though Parliament President Gracita Arrindell made clear at the beginning of her term that this was one of the priorities.
Oh, we remember one achievement: in one of its first sessions the parliament discussed the membership of the Parlatino parliament. Extremely important! At least, that’s the impression we got when this issue was put on the agenda. Traveling to some do in Panama City, and, if we remember correctly, to some event involving the former President of the United States George W. Bush and his wife Barbara, was also found worthy of discussion.
The meaningful issues that reached the parliament – the gun licenses, the ordinance on the prosecution of politicians – resulted in political debate of a dreary level.
That’s what our tax payers got for the first six months our honorable parliament has been in charge of our affairs. Maybe some parliamentarians will argue that it is up to the government to run the country; but the parliament does not only have a controlling function – the government is not able to do stuff the parliament does not approve off – it also has the right of initiative.
So far, none of the fifteen members of parliament has found a reason to exercise that right. That’s remarkable, given the many situations that need the attention of our decision makers, and given the speed (or rather the lack of it) at which these needs are attended to.
Theoretically, our parliamentarians have nothing else to do than look after the interest of “the people.” The question that keeps many voters busy these days is: why don’t they?

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Comments (1)


  1. Andy Croxall says:

    Very well said and totally on point. The voters of St.Maarten are getting Kia performance from their Government at a Mercedes-Benz price tag. Just think of the costs involved with all their travel as being a really expensive and unnecessary extended warranty.

    To all who sold their vote for $300.00 keep enjoying your 21.5 cents per diem for the next three and a half years. You got the Government you’ve been paid for, while they’re laughing all the way to the bank.