~ Says Irion trying to play word games ~
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Civil servants possibly having to sustain more cuts to their salaries and benefits was one of the main areas of concern highlighted by Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel during the Central Committee meeting discussion on the country reform package on Monday. In total the MP Emmanuel asked 73 questions about various aspects in the country reform package
The MP also took issue with the Minister of Finance for trying to use “word games” to deviate and mis-lead about hiring more people just a few weeks after cutting benefits and being instructed by the CFT to remove the budget 2021 post seeking to fill 155 vacancies. He also queried how internal shifting of civil servants will work with an increased workload as the CFT suggested.
MP Emmanuel pointed out that the country package specifically states: “Based on research on secondary and tertiary employment benefits, proposals for possible cuts will be developed and implemented.
“Considering that some of the aspects in this country package still have to be implemented, the question is will civil servants have to endure more cuts. Clarification is needed as people will already be going through a rough time with cuts to their income,” MP Emmanuel said.
He re-iterated that the government’s statement that basis salaries are not being cut cleverly leaves out the fact that once secondary and tertiary benefits are cut, persons will have to turn to an already stressed basis salary to make up for loss income.
“Government must be clear to the public about what to expect especially with talk of new taxes in the very same country package. Government has yet to say definitively that there will be no new taxes. In fact, everything that we have heard so far, amongst all of the dodging to address anything directly, is that the possibility of new taxes are very real,” the MP said.
“During the public meeting for the handling of the law regulating the 12.5% cut in personnel benefits for civil servants, the Prime Minister stated that she was embarrassed by the salary scales that are in use by the Government and that she had requested this be reviewed by the policy section of the Personnel Department. The Minister went on to draw a link to the country package,” the MP said, and then asked: “Can the minister explain which measure in the country package provides a possibility for the increase in the salary scales in government? As from what I have read, the country package is actually speaking of further reducing benefits.”
Regarding the recent statement by the Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion that he (Emmanuel) was misleading the public by asking about 155 vacancies posted in the 2021 budget, Emmanuel said “the Minister responded as if those were my words. The Chairperson of the CFT sent the budget back for many reasons, including the mention of 155 vacancies to fill, which means you want to hire people.”
The MP explained that the Minister of Finance during mentioned press briefing referred to a letter from the CFT. In the Daily Herald of February 15th reference was made to this letter from the CFT. The article stated the following: According to CFT Chairman Gradus, personnel cost accounts for NAf. 179 million of the draft 2021 budget. This represents a 16 per cent increase compared to what was accrued in 2019, and is derived from government seeking to fill some 155 full-time vacancies. “As a result, the savings resulting from pension reform and the 12.5 per cent curtailment of the employment conditions for civil servants are largely unrealized. The CFT advised you, pending the audit that has been agreed to with the Netherlands, to fill the proposed increases by internal shifts,” said Gradus.
Emmanuel said the Minister has to confirm if this is factual information, not play games during a Council of Ministers Press Briefing. He said by stating that the savings coming from the 12.5% curtailment of employment conditions of civil servants would be unrealized, Gradus was under the same impression as everyone else: How are you going to hire after just cutting civil servants?
“The CFT Chairman then recommends internal shifts. The Minister of Finance and Minister of Personnel Affairs (PM) will have to explain what this will look like for an already over-stretched civil core. The Minister of Finance should focus on the truth and finalizing the 2021 budget, not trying to play cute for the cameras,” MP Emmanuel said.