~ A sacrifice was made, but salaries ensured ~
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs together with Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion presented the three publicly debated legislative amendments to the Parliament of Sint Maarten on the cost cutting measures. The first being the Temporary National Ordinance to standardize the top incomes and reduce the employment benefits by 12.5% per July 1, 2020, within the (semi) public sector entities in order to meet the conditions set by the Government of the Netherlands for receiving the second tranche of liquidity support. This measure will also apply to existing employment contracts with a maximum salary to a limit of 130% of the new standardized salary, including an equal maximum of the secondary employment conditions of the Prime Minister of the country and with an equal effect on the rates for consultants. This law was successfully passed in Parliament with 14 votes in favour and one against on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, after much deliberation between the Ministers and the members of Parliament.
During Tuesday’s public meeting, Members of Parliament (MPs) also passed a motion tabled by MP Claudius Buncamper, for the government to evaluate whether the three temporary national ordinances are still needed within no more than six months, and every six months thereafter until further notice. Government continues to state that it is until St. Maarten has improved financially to the point where there is no longer a need for financial assistance for government’s budget.
Today, February 3, 2021, Parliament unanimously passed the Temporary National Ordinance to amend the employment conditions of political authorities. As such, this law will reduce the employment conditions of political authorities by 25% per July 1, 2020. This evening, Parliament also passed the third Temporary National Ordinance to reduce the employment conditions for civil servants by adjusting the terms of employment by 12.5% per July 1, 2020. This will entail the temporary reduction of holiday allowance and the right to holiday hours, the non-granting of increases in the remuneration and the reduction of the remuneration for overtime for government employees until the government finds itself in a position to afford such.
“Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “Moving forward, here we are at a crossroads where the work of recovery and getting St. Maarten back on its feet financially is far from done. There is lots of work to do. None of us are happy to come here with this type of law. No one wants to touch the income of civil servants. We all have to grow and you’re never too old to grow. The words you say, the actions you do and your very thoughts come back three-fold. Even your thoughts, the words you speak in secret and the actions that you do in secret will come back to you. A liar has to remember a lie, and through the consistency of what has been said, sent and repeated over and over and over again, I have shown what are the facts, and so I thank the members of Parliament and the people of St. Maarten who understand the position,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.
The passing of these temporary national ordinances will make the implementation of these cost cutting measures enforceable. All previous governments before, stood on the precipice, but never took any cuts in solidarity with the people of St. Maarten and civil servants. The Government and Parliament of St. Maarten put the country above itself. They took office during one of the most difficult moments in the country’s recent history during this COVID-19 pandemic which struck not only St. Maarten but the entire world. The government will continue to do what is right, ensuring that its vision for the country is realized; building back better, building reserves and strengthening St. Maarten’s economic capacity.
“I challenge you the people of St. Maarten to read; it’s fundamental. My love of reading as a child has served me well today. I do not have a law degree but I can read laws and I can analyze them. In our earlier education days, we were rewarded for remembering and regurgitating. Now, we talk about reading to analyze and apply... this is what I want for our people – to be able to listen, read and draw their own conclusions. In every situation, you do not have to be in four walls to learn and COVID-19 taught us that. We do not need to leave the country to learn either. Everyone needs to be looking online for all the free courses possible. Build yourself up, because when you build yourself up individually as a united front we are stronger,” she continued.
“We do not want to hurt our civil servants. There are civil servants who we need to still assess. There are those we want to get to work. Let’s find ways to get them to work. That is what I say as the head of General Affairs. For those doing their work and the work of others, thank you. Without you, we could not be here today. We are not standing on your backs and your shoulders and taking any kind of credit for it. Every time I stand and I speak, I speak on behalf of you. You are government. I look forward in a positive manner towards better days,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs