Published On: Tue, Jun 26th, 2018

Unpaid Advice to Incoming Government

Hilbert Haar - foto Milton PietersBy Hilbert Haar

The new government seems to be almost there. Is that number seven or number eight since 10-10-10? I’ve lost count and I suspect that many of my readers have no idea. Seven (or eight) governments in not even eight years is not only a lot – it is bloody unhealthy.

It is easy to point out that all these governments have failed us, so I won’t even bother. We all have the results – or the lack of them – right in front of our noses. More interesting would be the answer to this question: how do we improve the performance of our government from hereon forward?

There is a formula anybody can use as a litmus test. It is not the first time that I write about it, but I’ll do it again here because it is so simple and also so fool proof.

Indeed: I + A = R.

Intention plus action is result.

Politicians are good at expressing intentions. They want to solve the issue with the dump. They want to fight poverty. They want to play by the rules and maintain high levels of integrity. All this is obviously easier said than done.

If you say that you want to solve the “issue” with the dump, you have to take action. If you don’t take action you will never get a result.

The critical element in this formula is that results never lie. By putting intention next to result, you will be able to define the action or, most likely, the lack of action.

I think that integrity is one of the most critical issues of our time. It is something that you cannot regulate in a piece of legislation. Integrity is doing the right thing when nobody is watching.

The integrity discussions that have taken place over the past several years contained some misleading elements. For instance: we don’t need an Integrity Chamber because all the checks and balances are already in place.

In the real world, those checks and balances are toothless paper tigers. Over the past decade – and probably longer – members of the former island council and members of parliament have fallen foul of the law. We all know who they are – Louie Laveist, Maria Buncamper-Molanus, Patrick Illidge, Chanel Brownbill, Frans Richardson – and they all have one thing in common.

When allegations of their wrongdoings come to light they all maintain their innocence and they stick to the chair that pays them $125,000-plus per year. Nobody is doing “the right thing.”

That’s where integrity goes right out of the window.

Another example: the LMA – the rule book for civil servants – says that a civil servant can be fired when she or he becomes the subject of a criminal investigation. The most important word in this rule is can: the LMA does not say that such a civil servant will be fired. Her or his future depends on actions from higher up in the hierarchy.

As we all know, the head of infrastructure management, Claudius Buncamper, was not only the subject of a criminal investigation, he was also sentenced for tax fraud. Firing Buncamper never became an issue, not even with the opposition in parliament.

And here we come to what is probably the most important flaw in our democratic system: the political will to do the right thing – no matter who is involved.

In the inimitable unpaid advisor Gerard Bijnsdorp St. Maarten had for a long time someone who used humor to reveal the shortcomings of our leadership. Bijnsdorp has gone into retirement and – for once – I will take on his advisory role for the incoming government.

In Gerard’s style, that advise would read like a love poem addressed to the incoming Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin (because Gracita Arrindell is no longer in the political arena).

Dear Leona

I admire your commitment to integrity
And the way you get down to the nitty-gritty

But saying things is easy
So please do not be queasy

Give our beautiful country a sense of bliss
And put your money where your mouth is