“What are we willing to pay?

It has been announced that elections for the new Island Council, consisting of 15 members, will be held two months from now, on September 17 2010. 

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This new Island Council is expected to be the first Parliament of Country Sint Maarten on October 10 2010.

Country Sint Maarten will have a Council of seven Ministers that will be responsible for the daily running of the people’s business.

Up to this moment, we have not heard any suggestions or confirmations regarding the salaries of the members of this new Parliament and the Council of Ministers of Country Sint Maarten. I think the decision makers (the politicians) needs the guidance of this society on this issue.

Perhaps more important than the question of who is going to be our first Prime Minister, is the question of: What are we, as a society, willing to pay our members of Parliament and the Ministers of Country Sint Maarten? Think about it for a moment.

In order to be elected as a Member of Parliament, you must postulate yourself on the slate of a political party contesting the upcoming election. To be appointed as Minister in the Council of Ministers, you do not necessarily have to postulate yourself on a slate.

On becoming a country, a society should aim to have the best and brightest from within their own community, private and public sector, seated at the highest elected and appointed positions of that country.

Procedures must be put in place to ensure that those that are elected and/or appointed are held to be as transparent and accountable as possible in the execution of their tasks.

In most countries, there is always a discrepancy with regards to remuneration between the public and private sector. More often than not, this means that in the private sector, the best and the brightest are paid at a higher rate than those in the public sector. This is why Governments throughout the Caribbean have been increasing salaries of top civil servants to better retain them to the line of work they basically volunteered for.

Are we willing to encourage the best and the brightest, from private and public sector to postulate themselves on a slate and/or be a candidate to be nominated in an appointed position and from now decide that they will be compensated properly?

If we offer peanuts as salaries, who and what do we expect to get to run the affairs of Country Sint Maarten?

The media, talk shows and community groups are hereby encouraged to talk about it and pose the question: WHAT ARE WE WILLING TO PAY OUR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND MINISTERS IN COUNTRY SINT MAARTEN?

Naturally, this debate/discussion must be held without emotions playing a part, and it must serve as guidance for the present Island Council to take a decision on the matter. It would be politically unethical for the decision on the remuneration of Members of Parliament and Ministers to be left for the incoming Parliament.

It is time for the people to truly let their voices be heard. Remember, it is not about who carries the torch through the gates as Prime Minister, but rather, who keeps it burning steadily so that the new country can see the way through.

Time is running out on this one and trust me the politicians from both side of the aisle can use some guidance from the community on this issue.



Marcel F.A. Gumbs

Presently Citizen

Former Observer of Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles

Former Member of Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles

Former Member of the Island Council of Sint Maarten

Former State Secretary of Justice, General Affairs and Home Affairs of the Netherlands Antilles