The Netherlands will actively interfere with the government on Bonaire. A specially appointed ‘program manager administrative agreement’ will reorganize the financial management and the official organization. According to State Secretary Raymond Knops of Kingdom Relations, the current capabilities of local government are far below par.
The new administrative agreement covers a period of four years, with an interim evaluation at the end of 2020. According to Knops, the agreement should lead to visible results in the area of traffic and infrastructure, healthy food and the creation of sufficiently affordable social housing on the island.
According to The Hague, sound financial management is necessary to implement the administrative agreement. It was concluded, that, despite the involvement of the Financial Supervision Council, Bonaire had not made sufficient progress. Under the leadership of the new top official, this must be achieved now, so that a take-over from The Hague, like on Statia, will not be necessary. One of the components of the agreement is, that the collection of island taxes will be performed by the Dutch tax authorities, the Belastingdienst Caribisch Nederland.
The staff of the local government on Bonaire is aging and there is insufficient expertise to guarantee the citizens the good service that they may expect. In the administrative agreement, funds are available to hire new people who meet the right job profile. Civil servants will have to return to the school to improve their knowledge and competencies. In the future, persons who hold a political position will be screened for integrity.
Knops is of the opinion that this is not a take-over by The Hague. The Executive Council and the Island Council are in agreement with this agreement and will remain in office. However, according to island council member Clark Abraham, The Hague gets a large influence through this administrative agreement. “We are no longer in control as the program manager is accountable to The Hague, not to the island council.” Abraham finds it incomprehensible that the Netherlands does not wait until the elections in March 2019, when a new executive council takes office and one could negotiate a real multi-year management agreement.
Abraham does agree that something needs to be done on Bonaire. According to him, there is an administrative disorder. “The current Executive Council has already shown that it can not tackle the problems, but opening a tin of Dutch civil servants, consultants and specialists is no guarantee of success, just look at St. Eustatius.”
Tomorrow the minister will announce that next year’s elections will be postponed until further notice. Nevertheless, it is expected that many Bonaireans will be pleased with the course that the Netherlands has now taken, Abraham thinks. “The current Executive Council is a gathering of politically disconnected individuals without any relation to the previous election results: they have not done anything for a year and a half and no longer have any support from the population,” says Abraham.