Published On: Tue, Apr 7th, 2020

Madness without borders

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

“Unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards;” That’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines solidarity.

Ah, I did not need the dictionary to understand what this term means: in times of crisis you help each other to the best of your abilities and as far as resources available to you will allow.

So if you have, say 100 and someone in distress has 1 and you need 50 to survive, you are able to give away 49 or 50 without losing any sleep over it. The point is: this way you both have a shot at survival.

Our minister of finance proudly announced that there is an agreement with ministers and members of parliament to take a 10 percent salary cut.

Independent researchers have established that a household in St. Maarten needs 4,000 guilders a month to stay out of poverty. According to the Anti Poverty Platform 94 percent of all households live below the poverty line. While that number is obviously debatable it is certain that a least quite some people on our island are seriously short of a decent income.

That cannot be said of the esteemed members of our parliament. They see around 20,000 guilders (more than $11,000) arrive in their bank accounts every month – whether they do anything or not – and they have a truckload of fringe benefits normal people have to pay a small fortune for (for example: health insurance, phone, car, 6 percent representation costs plus a vacation allowance that is calculated over their income plus their representation costs). It does not get much better than that, at least not in St. Maarten.

The level of solidarity politicians are prepared to show represents 10 percent of their basic salary; that’s roughly 2,000 guilders (around $1.100) and thus they will have to live off just 18,000 guilders (around $10,000) a month – 4.5 times the minimum citizens need to stay out of poverty. So this decision is basically a slap in the face of all those people who are suffering.

And it gets worse. You’d think that this salary cut would go to something that helps citizens get through these troubled times. Looking at the salary cut for parliamentarians alone, fifteen times 2,000 guilders is not all that much, but 30,000 guilders could buy really poor people still a lot of toilet paper.

But no, what do they do? They put that salary cut into their own pension fund. I have no words for the callousness of these people because I want to keep profanity out of my writings.

We have seen all over the world how people that are well-off come to the rescue of their fellow citizens. Players of the Spanish soccer club Barcelona have given up 70 percent of their salaries; Italian soccer players give up 33 percent. Politicians in St. Maarten transfer a lousy 10 percent of their monthly paycheck to their own pension fund.

If this does not make you mad, I don’t know what does get you into that emotional state of mind. What’s the point of closing the borders if those who are supposed to lead us out of this crisis only take care of themselves and let others starve to death?

To use a Rumag gimmick: That. Is. Madness. Without. Borders.


Related article:
A People In Solidarity – Part 1
A People In Solidarity – Part 2
Ministers and MPs agree to salary reduction