MPs urged to earn their salaries by delivering value to their people

By Armand Hessels

On April 29th 2020, in view of the Covid19 spread, the Parliament of Aruba made an important decision, reducing its salaries by 25%. In addition, all regional travel was stopped. That piece of good news is in effect until December 2020. However, for a number of reasons outlined here, the writer of this column believes the reduction should be permanent.

On July 14, 1997, the MPs unanimously passed a law, in a rush, and in secrecy, designed to immensely improve their legal and financial position. Among others, the MPs almost doubled their salaries, and awarded themselves full pension, when reaching fifty, after serving just three, four-year cycles. Full pension after 12 years of work.

This ruling was hidden from the community. And was AGAINST the advice of: Servicio Central di Accountant, Directie Personal y Organisashon, Controlaria General, Conseho di Consulta, Directie Wetgeving and Banco Central.

The MPS ignored all form of protest against expensive travel and endless international meetings they attended. That was back in 2014, when the age of pension was raised to 65. But still MPs became entitled, and assigned themselves many privileges.

Parliamentary practice
Over the next years, the performance of our MPs did not improve, as much as their almost-illegal pay raise. On the contrary, they continued to blindly approve what GOA dictated and justly earned a nickname: Rubber stamp parliament, Stempelparlement.

The MPs totally neglected their checks and balance responsibility and for reasons that were always deemed important, postponed many parliament meetings.

And that is why Aruba is the only country in the kingdom without political party- finance law, ombudsman, consumer protection and environmental law. The MPs did zero work on our constitution, and did not handle any new issues adequately.

AND that is why the MPs are also responsible for the enormous financial disaster of Aruba and that is the reason why Aruba arrived at the Covid19 pandemic as an intensive care patient.

Undoubtedly, the collapse of Aruba’s economy has long term consequences. The large number of unemployed in the US, over 30 million, means that they are in recession that is likely to turn into a depression, considerably affecting OUR level of prosperity.

Under these circumstances,  a fast recovery is improbable.

To survive, Aruba needs a lot of financial help and for a long period of time. But because of the heavy weight of existing debt, loans from international capital markets are unobtainable.

In reality only the Netherlands in prepared to help

A great part of that help is in the form of loans which will further burden Aruba, and the process of paying these loans back with interest will cripple the island into the future, for years to come.

We will have to economize, seriously, and that is why Aruba’s MPs CANNOT regain their full compensation after just a short or even medium term, of 7 to 12 months. The reduction of salary is here to stay.

General advice

For decades, for political partisan reason, GOA’s salary system was negatively affected, not only for politicians but also for other public sector employees. The system abused the concept of allowance, or grants, or subsidies, inflating salaries, rewarding services excessively, in spite of often warning and recommendation. The system never implemented corrections.

The last attempt of Directie Personal y Organisashon at salary reform and revision was in 2006. As became the political custom, the issue was never addressed and it continued to linger.

As we realize now, the current crisis calls for a reform and revision of practically everything, and it is a perfect opportunity for lasting, sustainable change.

We hope the MPs will use the next 18 months of compulsory island-stay to work on an efficient and effective way to recover from all the mistakes made in the last 34 years.

And consequently because of the Corona crisis, for the first time in history, MPs will give the people of Aruba true value in exchange of their salaries, paid for by local sweat and tears.

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May 06, 2020
Rona Coster