Saturday , April 1 2023

Opinion from "Today" : Deeper meaning

When push comes to shove the Caribbean part of the Kingdom hardly matters. That becomes clear every year during the opening of the new parliamentary year in The Hague where the Queen reads the Troonrede that is written by the current cabinet. “The Prime Minister listening to his own fairytale,” is how the late comedian Wim Kan once described this event.

That the pickings are meager for the Caribbean Kingdom partners comes not as a surprise. One paragraph was all there was; Bonaire, Statia and Saba are mentioned but not a word about St. Maarten and Curacao.

Unless of course we read between the lines and find a deeper meaning for a sentence like “Transparency and manageable government finances are very important for the population and for the confidence in the government.” Is that a sneer in the direction of Gerrit Schotte and the political disaster in Willemstad? It could be, but it is obviously not up to our queen to spoil the party in The Hague with an in depth report about the real troubles under the Caribbean sun.

The elucidation with the budget for Kingdom relations speaks a clearer language: “The Kingdom consists of the countries The Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten. These countries look independently after their own interests and decide about the matters mentioned in the Kingdom Charter insofar these matters affect all countries in the Kingdom.”

There you have it: we wanted autonomy and now we are on our own. Maybe our ministers spend their weekends staring gloomily across the water towards Saba and Statia – now Dutch public entities – where the Dutch government invests lavishly in hospital care, the quality of school buildings, the quality of teachers and in facilities for the purification of sewage water. What luxury!

And while The Netherlands is slashing its budget to stay within the permitted 3 percent budget deficit the European Union allows, the Cft keeps a watchful eye on Curacao and St. Maarten where the budgets have to be balanced. Not that this happens – at least not in Curacao where the deficits run into the hundreds of millions. Compared to Willemstad, St. Maarten is doing reasonably well so far but it remains to be seen how the economic tough times are going to affect the country’s bottom line.

Whatever the outcome, don’t look at The Hague for solutions or for money. Page 13 of the elucidation with the Kingdom Relations budget says it all. In 2012 there is still €5 million (about $6.5 million or about 11.6 million guilders) under the chapter debt relief. That is already a far cry from the close to 120 million guilders the government in St. Maarten still claims. In a bit more than three months we’ll be in 2013. And for that year, and all the years after that the chapter debt relief ceases to exist: a big fat zero is all that rests.

Source: Today, September 19, 2012

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