Open Letter to our new Government and Parliamentarians:

2015 is here! And finally, so is a new Government with as our new Prime Minister the Honorable Mr. Marcel Gumbs. This is a good thing. Mr. Gumbs and I go way back to the early seventies when I learned to fly and he was one of the young local Air Traffic Controllers in the Tower at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Marcel (if I may) was always a man with passion for what he does and about doing things “right” and in accordance with the rules. I have no doubt that he will be a good Prime Minister and wish him wisdom and much success. Of the other 4 Ministers in his not-yet-complete cabinet, I can say that Minister Dennis Richardson and Minister Martin Hassink have earned their stripes as professionals in the past year and a half and so to them I say: Welcome back and good luck. Minister Rita Bourne-Gumbs is without a doubt one of the more pleasant persons I know and professionally she seems competent, with her heart in the right place for the task she has accepted. Our new Minister of TEATT (Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunications), Claret Connor, was in my opinion one of the only beacons of hope on the greedy list and so I am very happy he has accepted to head this extremely crucial Ministry, where understanding what it takes to successfully merge the needs of the Private Sector (driver of the Economy) with those of Government, is so crucial. I am confident that Minister Connor, the son of the late great Clarence Connor, will do the right thing for St. Maarten. I am also pleased to read in the local papers that our new PM has declared that the island’s economy is a priority in 2015 and I look forward to him explaining and mapping out in layman’s terms (for transparency sake) how amongst other things the COUNTERPART Policy (the so-called REASON for former DP Parliamentarian Cornelius de Weever’s TREASON) will be applied so that indeed it will strengthen sustainable economic growth. From a businessman’s point of view, if companies/enterprises will be forced to hire 2 persons to fill 1 position (when no suitable, qualified, motivated local person can be found and an Employment Permit for a foreigner has to be requested), it will stifle economic growth rather than help it. But I stand to be corrected if my understanding of the now infamous COUNTERPART Policy is faulty. Then to our Parliamentarians: I challenge you to make one of your first endeavors to be the changing of the Ordinance regulating benefits for former Ministers and former Parliamentarians (known as “Political Authorities”). AB 2010, GT no. 8 states in article 1d, that DISMISSAL of a Political Authority is: “the formal termination of the appointment as a Political Authority, BY ANY MEANS”. Now I can understand if during any 4 year term, should a Government fall and Ministers abruptly become unemployed, there is a “catch-net” in place to allow them to find new employment. But why should we the tax payers continue paying ex-Ministers and ex-Parliamentarians when their appointment, or the 4 year term to which they were elected ends? That COULD not have been the intention of the authors of the Ordinance, nor SHOULD it be. In the Private sector when someone accepts an employment contract for a specific term, they know that at the end of that term there is no more income. Yet I know of at least 9 former Parliamentarians, whose term ended on October 10, 2014 (something they knew would be the case since at least October 10, 2010), that have formally requested Government to continue their benefits (95% for the first 3 months, 85% for the following 7 months, 75% for the next 10 months and 70% for the remaining 4 months of the up to 24 month catch-net provision). This means that depending how many persons get re-elected or re-appointed, St. Maarten tax payers could be paying up to 30 Parliamentarians and up to 18 or more Ministers (including Ministers and Deputy Ministers Plenipotentiary) at any given time during the first 2 years after Parliamentary elections! With an average salary of “Political Authorities” set at approximately US $12,000 per person per month, this is a WHOLE HEAP of money. Taking a few lines from PM Gumbs’ New Year’s message: ” Good Governance and Integrity are priorities to ensure the needs of the Community are met with the utmost of honesty and fairness; in order for St. Maarten to get where it needs to be, we need everyone to play their part; we will strive to set the ship right so that we can continue moving forward to becoming the great nation we all know St. Maarten can be”. I look forward our new Parliament and the Gumbs Cabinet to “play their part” to right the wrongs on St. Maarten and I look forward to all those “Political Authorities” (I will for now resist the temptation to name them), who so selfishly have availed themselves of the asinine loophole created by the Ordinance Regulating Benefits for those no longer in office, to hurry up and get a real job, so that the Gumbs Government can use the hundreds of thousands of dollars now “owed” to these “honorable” people, to plug other, more urgent financial holes in our 2015 and beyond country budgets.

Michael J. Ferrier Citizen.
St. Maarten, January 4, 2015.