St. Maarten opposed to proposed Dutch entity | THE DAILY HERALD

PHILIPSBURG–The Council of Ministers unanimously decided on Tuesday that the entity that the Dutch government proposed as a condition for Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten to receive the third tranche of liquidity support from the Netherlands is “unacceptable as presented.”

The Dutch government decided to issue St. Maarten an interest-free loan of NAf. 53 million in May, of which NAf. 24 million was made immediately available. The remaining NAf. 29 million was to be disbursed in July once St. Maarten agreed to, and fulfilled several conditions, including adjustments to the St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP), an increase to the pensionable age, and salary reductions in the civil service.

A new entity to monitor St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba’s use of [further – Ed.] financial support is one of the other conditions.

Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops was expected to hand over documentation about the entity to the Dutch Caribbean governments on June 29, but this was later pushed back to Monday.

On Monday, the Dutch Caribbean governments received 218 pages of documentation about the entity. This comes only four days before Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten must accept the proposed entity in a Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting slated for Friday, July 10.

Newspaper Antilliaans Dagblad reported on Tuesday that the Dutch government wishes to create the entity via a Consensus Kingdom Law. It would be an independent administrative body and would be responsible for processing all further financial requests from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.

According to the newspaper, the entity would be comprised of three European Dutch experts and would wield far-reaching powers to enforce structural reform. For seven years, the entity would be able to manage the islands’ governmental policies, not only in finance, but also in health, education and infrastructure, among other areas.

The Daily Herald contacted Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs on Tuesday evening to confirm these details about the entity. However, she declined to comment on the issue, saying she first wished to consult Parliament about the specifics. This newspaper understands Parliament is to convene in a public meeting at 2:00pm today, Wednesday, to discuss the entity and other related conditions.

Additionally, Jacobs said the Dutch government shared the documentation with the island governments in a secure manner, aimed at preventing leaks and unauthorised sharing. This layer of confidentiality is also unacceptable to the Council of Ministers as it “circumvents the Parliament and binds the hands of the government from having open and transparent dialogue on this topic.”

Aruba and Curaçao on Tuesday indicated that they would not accept the conditions imposed by the Dutch government to receive liquidity support (see related story).

While the St. Maarten government has not said it will not agree to the conditions, Jacobs was unequivocal in her condemnation of the proposed entity.

“The entity goes against the Constitution [of St. Maarten] and the will of the people to govern their own affairs. The Dutch government, in an indirect way, is pushing a long-standing agenda while St. Maarten is currently under duress. Once again, we see a repeat of 2017, whereby unreasonable conditions are being attached to a much-needed loan as a result of a disaster,” she said.  “The entity proposed by the Dutch [government] – to be established based on a Consensus Kingdom Law – requires all countries in the Dutch Kingdom to agree after much dialogue and coming to agreements together. This has most definitely not occurred during the process of creating this law over the past eight weeks.

“Considering the far-reaching power to be allotted to this entity, such a grave decision needs to be properly weighed and, therefore, the time given to accept this proposal is very unrealistic.

“Consultations must be held with different entities such as Parliament, [the] Council of Advice, the Ombudsman [and] social and economic stakeholders, among others, before a final decision is made,” said the Council of Ministers in a press release on Tuesday.

Government said it will make a request to postpone making a decision on the proposed entity. This is so government can get “proper internal advice and dialogue with key internal stakeholders, as well as seek alternative options.”

“The government of St. Maarten has serious reservations regarding the link of non-financial conditions for COVID-19 liquidity support … The government also largely believes that by including the stipulated conditions, the Netherlands is underhandedly imposing policy and political measures on the government of St. Maarten, outside its powers, at a time when the country and its people are in need due to the economic downturn experienced around the world.

“In addition, attaching such financial support to the approval and recording of laws and regulations, the Parliament of St. Maarten is forced to adopt legislation within a short period of time and prevents the Parliament from exercising its full mandate,” said government.

“St. Maarten remains in constant dialogue with our colleagues in Aruba and Curaçao regarding our response to this oppressive enforcement of a Consensus Kingdom Law by the Dutch without having followed the proper constitutional procedures. This renders the proposal devoid of good governance [and] decency and further violates our democratic and autonomous rights within the kingdom,” said Jacobs.

Source: The Daily Herald