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Published On: Wed, Apr 29th, 2020

Motion asks for modest paycuts but Parliament approves budget without it

MP Solange Duncan (NA)PHILIPSBURG – Reluctantly, Parliament accepted a motion tabled by National Alliance MP Ludmilla Duncan to cut salaries of parliamentarians and ministers, while it rejected a further-reaching motion with the same objective, tabled by the Party for Progress. However, the parliament approved the 2020 budget without including any paycuts.

Duncan’s motion asks the minister of finance for “a comprehensive approach to cost-cutting measures within fifteen days.” It furthermore asks to reduce the salaries of parliamentarians and ministers by 5 percent for a period of six months and to reduce material costs at the Council of Ministers and the Parliament by 20 percent.

The PFP motion, tabled by party leader MP Melissa Gumbs and MP Raeyhon Peterson asked the government to reduce salaries for parliamentarians and ministers by 15 percent and to confirm this through a national decree, pending the establishment of a national ordinance.

The PFP-motion only got the support from MP Sarah Wescot-Williams (United Democrats), while all members of the factions of the United People’s party, the National Alliance and the United St. Maarten party voted against. Duncan’s motion received support from these factions while the PFP-members and the UD voted against.

Duncan’s proposal would cut the salaries of MPs by a mere 5 percent and only for a period of six months. It is unclear whether the motion asks to apply the cut to the 2019 salary-levels or to the – by now approved – salary levels in the 2020 budget. In the latter case, where salary costs stand at 4,419,124 guilders the salary cut would save 220,956 guilders. Material costs (mainly travel and accommodation, representation and ‘other services and goods’) are 846,000 and a 20 percent cut here would save 42,300 guilders.

It is unclear how Duncan wants to apply these cost cutting measures to the Council of Ministers. Taking 5 percent from the prime ministers salary of 219,962 guilders would save 43,992 guilders, but a 20 percent cut in the material costs of this ministry is unthinkable, because this post includes provisions for disasters to the tune of more than 5.7 million. Material costs for the ministry of general affairs total 5,891,445 and a 20 percent cut would amount to 1,178,289 guilders – most of those savings would have to come from the provisions for disaster management.

PFP Members of Parliament Melissa Gumbs Rayheon PetersonThe PFP-motion seems much more straightforward: a 15 percent salary cut for ministers and parliamentarians. The party aims for structurally lower salaries as the motion does not set a time limit. With a 15 percent cut, salaries from parliamentarians (now around 20,000 guilders a month) would decrease by 3,000 guilders to around 17,000 guilders a month.

But the majority parties in parliament had no taste for this motion and they voted it down.

On Facebook, MP Rolando Brison answered critics of the Duncan-motion. One critic pointed out that “pay cuts for only six months just don’t cut it.”

“You expect MPs to take a 15 percent cut?” Brison wrote. “That is how much we will earn less from the motion by Duncan.”

But MP Sarah Wescot-Williams is not buying it: she referred to Finance Minister Ardwell Irion’s solidarity initiative and “the so-called salary-cut” and noted that this plan aims to establish legislation to regulate the contribution towards the pension of political officeholders. “And pending the formalization of this legislation the minister wants to withhold various allowances. How does this make it a 10 percent salary cut?”

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Videoclip of MP Rayheon Peterson (PFP) motivating his vote on the 15% salary cut for MPs motion:

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