PHILIPSBURG:--- On Monday, January 25, 2021, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion attended a Central Committee meeting of Parliament where they were able to present the legislative changes to one of the three amending national ordinances for the agreed-upon cost-cutting measures to be enforceable. The ‘Temporary National Ordinance on the standardization of top incomes and adjustment of employment conditions at (semi) public sector entities’ was discussed for implementation per the conditions for receiving the second tranche of liquidity support from the government of the Netherlands. The ministers also fielded questions of the Members of Parliament.
This draft National Ordinance will standardize the incomes of top officials, and reduce the employment benefits by 12.5% per July 1, 2020, within the (semi) public sector including public companies and publicly funded foundations and other institutions that are financed for at least 50% from government’s budget. 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. Minister Irion presented the financial calculations that were used to arrive at the Jacobs’ norm.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs stated, “Contrary to what was stated on the virtual floor of Parliament that the documents sent to Parliament, to be discussed at agenda point 3 (‘Temporary National Ordinance COVID-19 cuts employment conditions for civil servants’) of today’s Central Committee meeting, are not illegal. The cover letter sent via the Cabinet of Governor E.B. Holiday rendering an explanation of the national ordinance accompanying the ordinances sent to Parliament was incorrectly dated August 25th, 2021. However, this technical error was not the case for the other two national ordinances sent to Parliament and as such, does not affect the legality of these draft ordinances nor the underlying documents for agenda point 3 (draft ordinance, Advice from the Council of Advice, nor the ‘Follow-up report’) which remain the same. The date on the cover letter was promptly corrected by the cabinet of the governor and resent to Parliament.”
In addressing the reason, the draft ordinance to be handled at agenda point three had been retracted and resubmitted today, PM Jacobs stated that it provided additional financial information to the elucidation of the draft ordinance as was advised by the Council of Advice. PM Jacobs further clarified that government ensured that the necessary financial aspects which were referred to in the ‘Follow-up Report/Nader Rapport’ were included. The government also ensured that the advice rendered by the Council of Advice was followed related to allowing the Ombudsman to be able to have six weeks to carry out the necessary due diligence regarding the national ordinance as per St. Maarten’s constitution.
During the handling of agenda point 1 regulating the top incomes of (semi) public entities, MPs expressed concern that teachers were highlighted as one of the groups falling under such an entity that would be included to receive these cuts. However, these adjustments are not intended for teachers and school personnel as they fall outside the scope of this law and are regulated under agenda point 3 that is still to be handled. These reductions will only apply to the top income earners (schoolboards/management) of educational institutions as well as other employees of semi (public entities) who do not fall under the civil service regulation. Teachers and administrative staff of public and private schools are teaching personnel as per article 1 sub 3 of the ‘Bezoldigingslandbesluit onderwijs’ ordinance. As such, the ordinance regulating civil servants will also pertain to them and will be presented and debated in the continuation of the ongoing Central Committee meeting under agenda point 3.
The Central Committee meeting will resume tomorrow, Tuesday, January 26, 2021, whereby Government will respond to questions of Members of Parliament posed today, and then proceed with agenda point 2, whereby the ‘Temporary National Ordinance to amend the employment conditions of political authorities’ will be discussed to temporarily reduce the employment conditions of political authorities by 25% per July 1, 2020. Government looks forward to being able to finalize the presentation tomorrow.