Finance Minister Ardwell Irion
~ Irion negotiates ‘alternative’ for MPs’ salary cut ~
PHILIPSBURG–Finance Minister Ardwell Irion played a key role in renegotiating some of the conditions for liquidity support from the Netherlands, which could see St. Maarten receiving NAf. 52 million this year, representing the support the country was about to lose for 2018 and the amount pending for 2019.
Key in the renegotiation is that pension reform is likely to be removed as a condition for liquidity support pending an advice from the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT. Pension reform was one of the conditions agreed to by the former government.
“We were able to convince [the Dutch Government – Ed.], I would say myself in particular, that pension reform being a condition for liquidity support was a very bad idea, and that it should be considered to be removed as a condition,” Irion, just back from the Netherlands, told The Daily Herald last night.
“One of the things that they mentioned was that the former government is who agreed to this and for them ‘afspraak is afspraak’ (an agreement is an agreement). But they do realise that this might have been an inappropriate condition to set and they would like us to go back and have discussions with the CFT and … after our discussions, if CFT’s advice is positive that pension reform as a condition for liquidity support is not practical or feasible, they would actually have it removed.”
Irion plans to meet with the CFT this week and this topic will be number one on his agenda. He is positive that the CFT will see that having pension reform as a condition for liquidity support is not necessary. “I believe that they will support that as a condition it should be removed.”
On the issue of salary cuts for Members of Parliament (MPs), Irion proposed “an alternative,” which was looked at positively.
Irion said he had explained that for him, a salary cut for MPs “is more political than a real solution” as “it does not save us much money compared to other practical solutions that we can implement. And I have found an alternative that we are in control of, which I will be discussing a little bit more this week and they kind of agreed to the alternative, which still included MPs and ministers.”
Irion is positive about the meetings in the Netherlands.
“At the end of the day we went there to get our liquidity support. We were about to lose 2018, which is 20 million guilders, and 2019, which is 22 million. The Netherlands had [originally] decided that we only needed one month of cash reserves. We negotiated that and it was agreed that we needed two months and in total [we will receive] 52 million guilders liquidity support for this year, which means we are getting the amounts for 2018 and 2019, which is very successful in us negotiating.
“Basically, I went to renegotiate the terms that the former government agreed to. I have no idea why they would agree to those terms knowing the practicality of them and knowing that government had to depend on parliament so much for most of those decisions.
“I think the discussions went well. I think that we started off this new government coming in, at least for the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, on a decent and good working relationship with understanding, and now it’s up to us to follow through on our side with what we need to do.”
Jacobs, Irion and a delegation were in the Netherlands last week for a series of meetings. Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus was present in some of the meetings.
Meetings were held on a technical level with technical representatives of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. The St. Maarten delegation also met with Minister of Interior and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok, and with Dutch Caribbean counterparts in that context in preparation for this discussion in the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
Additionally, the St. Maarten delegation paid a courtesy visit to St. Maarten’s representative in the Council of State Maria van der Sluijs-Plantz and her support staff, to Council of State Vice-President Thom de Graaf, Chairman of the Second Chamber Jan Anthonie Bruijn, and Chairman of the Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Jan Paternotte.
The Ministers concluded their trip on Friday evening by meeting with some of St. Maarten’s students and other St. Maarteners at a reception organised by the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague.