Today’s Opinion: Proportionate pay

POSTED: 03/2/11 1:50 PM

Never in a million years did we think it possible that a Freedom Party member would come up with an idea that is nothing short of brilliant. And yet, here it is. Laurance Stassen, a member of the European parliament who leads the Freedom Party list for today’s regional elections in Limburg, says that politicians with a double-function have to give part of their income to charity. Are you reading this, Jules James?
Stassen will become a member of the regional parliament in Limburg after the elections. All the money she gets for this job – €1,000, or around $1,350 per month – she will give to two charities. “I hate profiteers in politics,” Stassen says. “Everybody has to decide what he wants to do with his money. But I hope that my colleagues will pick up on this.”
Well, Mrs. Stassen, here in St. Maarten we are paying attention to initiatives that deserve the label honorable. Unfortunately, in our young country the idea that this label belongs to initiatives and that it should not be used as an arrogant addition to a public function, has not caught on yet. But hey, our government has only been in office for 142 days, not counting today, and our politicians are still with their mind in the Netherlands Antilles where everything that was not explicitly forbidden was allowed.
Not all Freedom Party-politicians think alike. Richard de Mos, who is a parliamentarian and a member of the municipal council in The Hague, told the Volkskrant that he wants to keep the money he makes, adding that he is working hard for it.
Now there is a condition that makes sense.
Let’s have a look at the situation in the southern province of Limburg. It has a population of approximately 1,125,000. If we put St. Maarten’s population at 50,000, we see that Limburg has 22.5 times as many inhabitants.
So to a St. Maartener, Limburg is a big place, comparatively. Laurance Stassen earns $1,350 a month for sitting in the regional parliament; that’s $16,200 per year.
Parliamentarians in St. Maarten make $125,000 a year before taxes, plus most generous benefits. Let’s focus on the gross income and compare it with Stassen’s remuneration. While Stassen and her colleagues have 22.5 times as many constituents to look after, Jules James and his colleagues in the Friendly Country are making almost eight times more money.
And that’s not all folks: James, and who knows how many other parliamentarians, have side-jobs. They get paid for that, too.
So who said life is fair? Ah, no, the devil always does his thing on the same pile.
Parliamentarian Patrick Illidge pledged during the election campaign that he would donate 1,000 guilders of his salary every month to a charitable cause. That’s a beginning, a ray of light so to speak, though we have not heard anything specific after the elections about the good causes that Illidge has been supporting.
Taking the Dutch figures into consideration in combination with the behavior of politicians like Jules James who seem to think that it is perfectly alright to stay in what must be a stressful side-job next to his full time job as a parliamentarian, the conclusion that our parliamentarians are heavily overpaid – or that they are heavily overpaying themselves – does not seem to be too far-fetched.
The question is: what to do about this? Since the decision about the income of our politicians is taken by those same politicians, there is little perspective that one day all parties will come together and agree upon a salary proportionate to what Laurance Stassen is making in the regional parliament in Limburg.
Let’s see …., if serving 1,125,000 constituents pays $16,200 a year we’re talking about $0.0144 per constituent. In a way, the good people in Limburg get their politicians at rock bottom prices.
Our politicians currently cost an astonishing $2.50 per constituent – that’s almost 175 times (173.6, to be exact) more expensive.
If we decided to pay our politicians based on what Laurance Stassen gets, their inflated salaries would shrink to just $720 a year.
On the fifteen members of parliament the savings would amount to roughly $1,865,000 – not bad in a time when the finance minister has constant headaches about balancing the budget.
True, that $720 is a pittance. But we trust that our politicians know their way about when it comes to earning healthy salaries from their side jobs.

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Comments (1)


  1. Andy Croxall says:

    This has to be one of the most intelligent articles I’ve ever read in a St.Maarten paper. Excellent breakdown and cost comparison. I’d love to see what kind of number a company that advises corporations as to executive compensation would come up with for doing this part time job. The rationale for the raise in pay was so they could attract professional caliber people. I see pretty much the same people running things as when SXM was island territory.

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