PHILIPSBURG–Members of Parliament (MP) have voted in favour of the National Ordinance to revise the pension regulations for civil servants.
Fourteen MPs voted in favour, with the exception of MP Christophe Emmanuel who voted against the national ordinance during the plenary public session on Wednesday, June 3. The National Ordinance will increase the retirement age for civil servants to 65 years, change the unconditional indexation obligation into a conditional indexation obligation and retract the long-term allowance regulation for pensioners of 1943.
Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Silveria E. Jacobs returned to parliament to answer questions posed by MPs during the first meeting held on January 23.
In her opening remarks Jacobs said, “The history of this legislation is not lost on government or parliament. However, the reality is that as we continue to prepare for the worst post-COVID-19 era we are once again bringing the draft national ordinance pension for public servants amending the national ordinance on the age limit for civil servants and repealing the national pension allowance scheme for pensioners 1943 to the table as required in our agreement for the post-COVID liquidity support.”
After a short second round of questions posed by several MPs, the meeting moved on to the voting on the national ordinance. The voting was conducted via roll call as requested by United Democrats (UD) MP Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Before voting, MPs were given a moment to share the motivation behind their respective votes. Several took the platform to do so.
National Alliance (NA) MP Christopher Emmanuel delivered his motivation before voting. In his remarks he said, “What needs to take place is an asset-liability modelling (ALM) study to ensure that the long-term investments are safe guarded with minimum risk.”
Emmanuel continued by saying that the reform is specifically geared towards safe-guarding the fund, not the pensioners.
“The financial situation the fund [found – Ed.] itself in has not occurred in the past four months due to the pandemic, nor because of Hurricane Irma. This has been due to the bad investment that has led to the annual losses whereby APS [General Pension Fund of St. Maarten] has been unable to attain the required funding ratio stipulated by the Central Bank of St. Maarten and Curaçao nor its own target funding ratio of over 104 per cent,” he added.
He said the amendment is negatively impacting pensioners, as they are paying more while receiving less in the end. “The fund is making bad investments and not making sufficient revenue to make its long-term commitments, and the participants and pensioners have to suffer.”
United People’s (UP) Party MP Rolando Brison in his motivation before voting said, “We’ve heard references made several times about kicking a can down the road. I can’t help for the life of me to understand how someone has in a public session the audacity to talk about kicking a can down the road when they themselves have been so complicit.
“I believe I support a government that is facing on the hard issues that for 10 years have been ignored and those cans kicked down the road.”
Brison said it is MPs’ responsibility to put a halt to such behaviour. “If you see a can being kicked down the road, do something about it, and that is what we have to do. We have methods available to us. I believe the most important one that I state to the Prime Minister is the ability to amend and evaluate this [ordinance],” he added.
“I’m happy today to vote on a law that is going to stop that behaviour once and for all with our pension fund. Manage it properly and get things back on track for St. Maarten and our pensioners,” he said.
Several MPs said in their motivation remarks that even though they might be voting in favour of the current national ordinance, they believe that a re-evaluation of the ordinance in the future is necessary.
In closing the meeting, Chairman of Parliament MP William Marlin said that in accordance with Article 88, sub-section one of the constitution of St. Maarten, parliament will notify the government that parliament has approved the draft law.