Published On: Tue, Jun 25th, 2019

An egocentric attitude

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

A salary cut for members of parliament is part of the debate about the draft 2019 budget. It is obviously an inevitable measure though it is more meaningful as a symbolical gesture than it is in terms of cost cutting. A ten percent cut will save the country just 370,000 guilders per year.

Two parliamentarians have so far said something about this issue. MP Luc Mercelina said that he has “no problem contributing” thereby suggesting that he would vote in favor of a salary cut. However, he said almost in the same sentence that he does have a problem with the – perceived – fact that the proposal to cut these salaries comes from State Secretary Raymond Knops and Socialist Party MP Ronald van Raak.

Sure, Knops has made the salary cut a condition to extending liquidity support to St. Maarten. But the initial proposal to cut these salaries comes from within the parliament, from the faction of the St. Maarten Christian Party. Parliament opted during the handling of the 2018 budget to postpone the vote on a motion by the SMCP – and then apparently forgot all about it. So parliament would have been in the good graces of the kingdom if it had acted on the motion to lower the salaries last year.

MP Rolando Brison made an even weirder connection: today it is the salaries of parliamentarians, tomorrow it could be about the salaries of cleaners or policy advisors, he said. The current salary of an MP is linked to the highest pay scale for the civil service. MPs earn 5 percent above that scale, Brison explained. Then he said: do we then adjust all the salary scales?

Nice try, but it does not make any sense. Nobody is talking about adjusting salary scales, though it is probably worthwhile to research who earns what. But it is not the point here.

It is fair to say that Brison is an example of a parliamentarian who puts a lot of effort into his job. But the income linked to that effort is still preposterous. To stay close to home and leave the Netherlands out of it: why on earth would an MP in Philipsburg be entitled to a higher income than an MP in Willemstad?

The request to MPs to take a salary cut is a request for an act of solidarity. They won’t go hungry if they get ten percent less every month but the nonsense-arguments that are now put on the table make clear that there is little appetite for giving up a small part of a royal income.

The electorate will probably not be thrilled when the refusal to take the pay cut results in a refusal by the kingdom to provide liquidity support.

That would create a situation Finance Minister Geerlings said he does not even want to think about.

It is time to let go of this egocentric attitude.


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