THE HAGUE–The coronavirus pandemic reconfirms what was already clear: Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are unable to carry their own autonomy as countries within the Kingdom.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated his painful conclusion in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday, one day before the plenary debate about the supplementary budget in connection with the liquidity support that the Dutch government is providing to Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.
“The autonomous countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are trying to mitigate the consequences of the corona crisis. At the same time, this crisis shows more than ever how vulnerable the countries are. Once again, we now see what was already visible for a longer period of time, namely that the countries cannot carry their own autonomy,” Knops stated.
According to the State Secretary, understandably the countries are appealing to the solidarity within the Kingdom. “From this solidarity we have assisted the countries from the Netherlands as partner within the Kingdom as much as possible in these times.”
At the same time, noted Knops, it is important to keep in mind for whom the solidarity is meant. “In the countries the gap is big between rich and poor, between he who bathes in luxury and he who can barely keep his head above water. And, that gap is increasing because of this crisis.”
That is why the Dutch assistance needs to reach the people and companies that now need it most. That is why the focus of the provided assistance has been on medical and humanitarian aid. By providing intensive care units, medication, medical supplies and personnel, and by allocating 16 million euros for food parcels for the neediest persons in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.
“The solidarity within the Kingdom is a given for me. But solidarity should work both ways. It also requires the Dutch Caribbean countries to quickly implement the necessary reforms to strengthen the resilience. Measures to strengthen the social-economic structure so Dutch taxpayers’ money will lead to concrete, measurable improvements,” Knops stated.
Without measures that increase the resilience of the countries, including drastic cost-cutting measures within government, reduction of salaries in the (semi) public sector and raising the pensionable age, it makes little sense to make large financial amounts available.
Therefore, further allocation of liquidity support will be tied to the willingness of the countries to implement the reforms that have been proposed by the Netherlands. The strict conditions for further financial support were part of a proposal that was discussed in a Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting last Friday.
The decision-taking on the individual proposals for the three countries was deferred because the Ministers Plenipotentiary indicated that they needed more time to confer with their government back home.
Knops stated in his letter on Tuesday that the countries were given until Wednesday 5:00pm Dutch time to accept the proposal on the table in writing. “The proposal will expire for each country that does not accept the proposal in time,” he warned.
The Aruba government conceded to the Dutch conditions within 24 hours after Friday’s Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting. This means that Aruba will be issued an interest-free loan for a total amount of 113.3 million Aruban florins (58.3 million euro).
Afl. 63.9 million will become available immediately for budgetary support, while the remaining amount, Afl. 49.4 million will be transferred once Aruba has given “adequate content” to the earlier request of the Kingdom government to come up with a proposal for an own contribution of 20 per cent of employees that make use of the wage subsidy arrangement.
The conditions for the (semi) public sector of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten remain. “The cost of personnel of the public and the semi-public sector in Aruba are, just as in Curaçao and St. Maarten, very high and are a heavy burden on the budget. A reduction of these costs has become more urgent, now that cost-cutting measures are very much needed, also to show solidarity with the employees outside the (semi) public sector,” Knops stated.
The financial support for Aruba will enable the local government to function until the end of June. “The same goes for Curaçao and St. Maarten if they agree with the proposal on the table in a timely manner,” he stated. Whether or not the countries have complied with the conditions will be assessed at a next Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting early July.
Knops again mentioned, as he did last week, the intention to have liquidity support issued via “a still to be established entity” from July on. Additional loans will not be issued directly to the governments of the country but to a special entity which will enable the Netherland to have some form of control.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/countries-unable-to-carry-autonomy-says-knops