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Editorial - Missing in action

The Asjes cabinet in Curaçao has decided to stop payment to 16 so-called “ghost civil servants.” Five of them were convicted of crimes and are currently in prison, while the other 11 are at home without a valid reason.

At the moment a total of 81 government employees there don’t show up for work. That also includes 11 suffering from chronic illnesses, three with addiction problems, two with labour conflicts, 33 who have been denied entry pending an investigation, seven subjected to disciplinary measures and five who were suspended.  

Tackling this issue isn’t easy, because there could be many factors involved such as the relationship with superiors, and government must be careful not to violate the rights of its personnel. However, doing nothing obviously won’t solve the problem and one has to start somewhere.

Perhaps it would useful if the Gumbs cabinet took a few pointers from Curaçao’s Minister of Administration, Planning and Service Etienne van der Horst, who worked on the matter for several months. While there still were nine cases of continued absence among officials due to completely unknown circumstances on that island at the end of November, this now has been reduced to just three.

It was stated at the end of January that St. Maarten had 31 civil servants on long-term sick-leave, four of them already two years or more. Various actions to bring down these numbers were announced, via procedures for re-examination by Social and Health Insurance Funds SZV, salary reductions based on the law and medical dismissals.

In addition, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs told Parliament on February 10 that his government was considering amending the current policy and lowering compensation paid to its workers on their sick days. He said at the time that instead of the current system whereby people have to be out two consecutive years before their salary can be reduced by 10 per cent, this could range from 90 per cent as of the second or third day to 70 or 80 per cent for a longer period.

Two months have passed since and it would be nice if the general public could be provided with an update on efforts to deal with civil servants needlessly “missing in action” at the expense of local taxpayers.

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