Cooperation programmes largely deemed successful

THE HAGUE–The cooperation programmes for the Dutch Caribbean financed by the Dutch Government have largely yielded desirable results. However, the integral approach to increase the security on the islands has barely materialised, while the ambitions of some projects were set too high.

That was concluded in the policy audit of the budget of Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Government which was recently published and sent to the Dutch Parliament. The audit covered the period from the new constitutional relations in October 2010 up to the end of 2015.

In his accompanying letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated that the audit report gave an accurate view in which it was determined that in many areas, such as education, quality of governance, law enforcement and sustainable economic development, progress was realised. However, there is still room for improvement.

In Curaçao and St. Maarten the management of the Courts and the ICT in the justice sector was improved and the immigration process better equipped. In Aruba, the projects to train and educate personnel in the justice sector were successful.

However, the integral approach to improve the security situation on all three islands failed. For example, the prisons did not become sufficiently safe for personnel and detainees. Police management was improved in St. Maarten, but in Curaçao there was insufficient progress.

The termination of the cooperation programmes by the Dutch Government in this period means that the countries now depend on their own possibilities. “A great challenge remains for the countries to free up space within the financial scopes for improvements that as yet have to materialise and to maintain the facilities which have been realised as part of the programmes, which were largely funded by the Netherlands,” stated Plasterk.

In St. Maarten, the average annual amount of the programmes of the Antillean Development Fund SONA amounted to NAf. 24 million in the period 2004 to 2014. In Curaçao this amount was NAf. 61 million. The Antillean Co-financing Fund AMFO spent on average NAf. 3.4 million per year on projects for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in St. Maarten and NAf. 8.4 million in Curaçao.

Contrary to Aruba, the Governments of Curaçao and St. Maarten did not contribute financially to these programmes, with the exception of a few law enforcement projects. Curaçao and St. Maarten are now responsible to incorporate the financing of these programmes in their own budgets. “The positive effects of the cooperation programmes will largely evaporate if the preserving of these projects fails,” it was stated in the report.

In the report it was stated that it was difficult to give a general qualification about the effectiveness of the cooperation programmes since these barely contained a quantified aimed social effects. Also baseline assessments lacked and feasibility studies were not done. The programmes in Curaçao and St. Maarten were generally executed in a pragmatic manner, while the projects were carefully described and properly accounted for.

The programmes proved beneficial to set up and strengthen the Ministries of the new countries Curaçao and St. Maarten, as well as the High Councils of State. Especially the Ministries of Finance and the Tax Offices were strengthened, but the financial management of other Ministries still need improvement. The levying and collection of taxes is insufficient in St. Maarten.

Through the cooperation programmes the conditions were improved in education in Curaçao and St. Maarten, including curriculum development, improved housing, the care structure, digital student follow systems, the purchase of teaching material and the skills of teachers and school management. The return of the sub-programmes lagged behind the high ambitions.

Networks to assist troubled families, especially teenage mothers, were improved in the two countries. “Successful projects were executed for the youth, the elderly, chronically ill and impaired persons in the area of upbringing, poverty eradication and self-help.”

In St. Maarten, the traffic situation and water drainage were improved. “The projects created the conditions for the diversification of economic activities, but haven’t had a measurable effect on economic development.”

The durable improvement of the economic structure, the decrease of social deprivation and a better local labour market didn’t materialise in Curaçao. “The executed projects were insufficiently able to achieve these ambitious goals.”

Without the cooperation programmes, the islands would have been worse off in areas such as social-economic development, education, law enforcement and quality of government, it was concluded. However, concerns remain about the current state and the sustainability of the achieved results, especially in the areas of legal security, education, social-economic development and eradication of poverty.

Source: The Daily Herald