Van Raak supports call to cut allowances local politicians

THE HAGUE–The high allowances for members of the St. Maarten Government and Parliament has prompted Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) to seek clarity on Thursday.

  Members of the St. Maarten Parliament and Government have the highest salaries within the Kingdom. In St. Maarten Members of Parliament (MPs) earn US $11,539 and Ministers make US $12,090 per month, figures released by the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) earlier this week showed.

  In the two other Dutch Caribbean countries MPs and Ministers earn considerably less. In Curaçao MPs make US $ 7,111 per month and Ministers US $7,839. In Aruba MPs earn US $6,069 and Ministers have a salary of US $8,365. The SHTA has made a call to cut the salaries of the St. Maarten politicians to the level of their colleagues in Curaçao and Aruba.

  Dutch MP Van Raak supports SHTA’s call. He called the high salaries “highly inappropriate,” especially considering the financial predicament that the St. Maarten Government finds itself in after Hurricane Irma and the fact that the majority of people have to make do with a lot less.

  “People are going through a very tough time and it would be a nice symbolic gesture to reduce the salaries of the MPs and Members of Government,” said Van Raak, who has brought up the issue of the high salaries of St. Maarten MPs on several occasions in the past.      

  Van Raak submitted a number of written questions to Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday. “How do you explain that MPs and Ministers in St. Maarten, the smallest country of the Kingdom, earn the highest salaries?”

  The Dutch MP also asked the State Secretary to react to SHTA’s call. “What do you think of the call by the SHTA to reduce the allowances of St. Maarten MPs and Ministers by 30 per cent considering the reconstruction and the country’s bad financial situation?”

  Referring to an explanation of Chairperson of the St. Maarten Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams regarding the redundancy pay for MPs and Ministers, Van Raak wanted to know whether it was correct that MPs and Ministers in St. Maarten receive redundancy of at least one year, regardless of the number of days that they have served.

  Van Raak further asked the State Secretary to indicate how many meetings a St. Maarten MP attended on average per year, and how this compared to their colleagues in the Second Chamber, who earn about 7,000 euros per month.

  Members of the Second Chamber attend a lot of meetings and work every day, representing a country of some 17 million inhabitants, said Van Raak. Personally, he found a 7,000 euro salary still on the high side. “The MPs of the SP work for half that money,” he said, referring to the policy of  the SP that serving politicians hand in a large portion of their salary to the party.

  Van Raak specifically asked the State Secretary to provide answers to his questions before January 30. On that day, the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations will have a meeting with the State Secretary about the Reconstruction of the Windward Islands.

Source: The Daily Herald