THE HAGUE – The decision-taking process in granting the first two tranches of liquidity support for Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten which was tied to strict conditions was not optimal and should have included more dialogue.
That was one of the conclusions of the first ever virtual Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom (IPKO) which concluded on Thursday. The liquidity support that the Dutch government has provided during the coronavirus pandemic was one of the three main topics that the Parliamentarians of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands discussed during the two-day consultation.
Four sub-groups, each consisting of a mix of Parliamentarians from the four countries, were established to discuss three themes: the liquidity support in times of COVID-19, the recovery of the economy after the lock-downs and the diversification of the islands’ economies to make them more resilient against external shocks.
During the closing session on Thursday, each rapporteur gave a short summary of the main conclusions in the sub-groups. Endy Croes and Rocco Tjon of Aruba, Paul Rosenmöller of the Netherlands and William Marlin of St. Maarten reported on the liquidity support sub-groups.
Croes noted that the conditions attached to the liquidity support were felt as being too strict and that the role of Committee for Financial Supervision CFT for Curaçao and St. Maarten and the Aruba Committee for Financial Supervision CAFT kept increasing without taking the vision of the Dutch Caribbean countries sufficiently into account.
According to Tjon, all four countries acknowledged that there was nothing wrong with setting conditions to the financial assistance. However, the decision-taking process needs to be inclusive, with the input of the Dutch Caribbean countries.
Rosenmöller said that the Parliamentarians in his sub-group also agreed that conditions were okay, but that the process to arrive at the decision-taking was not optimal and there needed to be more dialogue between the governments and the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
“The decision-taking surrounding the liquidity support was messy. There was insufficient dialogue. We need clear guidelines in the process of requesting and allocating liquidity support. The Dutch Caribbean Parliaments were put aside,” said Marlin. In his sub-group it was also suggested that now was not the time to talk about adapting the Charter, but that it was more important now to support each other and to look at the future together.
A suggestion of Chairperson of the St. Maarten Parliament Rolando Brison to have more frequent consultations in a virtual setting was received very positively. “Talking with each other in this videoconferencing format shows that it helps to share information. Brison’s idea is to have this system function as a platform to exchange information, not only during IPKO, but prior to important debates,” said Senator Rosenmöller.
Reporting on the sub-group recovery of the economy, Giselle McWilliam of Curaçao said that the restart of the economy and opening of the borders, no matter how vital, had to be done in a careful manner, with a solid preparation. “And, it is important everyone keeps to the measures such as social distancing in order to maintain the flatten the curve as much as possible in the Kingdom.”
Member of the Second Chamber Chris van Dam liked that through the virtual gathering, he got to know his overseas colleagues Claudius “Toontje” Buncamper of St. Maarten and Stephen Walroud of Curaçao better.
“We agreed with each other that we should promote that people from the Netherlands go on vacation to Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, instead of to France or Belgium. That way we help each other. It is something tangible, not only on a political level, but for residents,” said Van Dam.
Member of the St. Maarten Parliament Grisha Heyliger-Marten started her feedback with a call of attention for the completion of the decolonising status. “There is a lot of friction in the Kingdom and we need to finalise this process, get in charge of our own affairs, stand on our own two feet.”
Heyliger-Marten stated that in her sub-group, it was mentioned that the relations within the Kingdom should be more respectful, and that the wellbeing of the people was now more important than solving the democratic deficit. “It was said that there was nothing wrong with setting conditions, but it should not be overreaching and with old agendas.”
As for the them economic diversification, Senator Annemarie Jorritsma said that there was a common sense that diversifying the islands’ economies was important with, for example agriculture and green energy, and that this process needed to be started as soon as possible, and should not be forgotten once tourism had started back after the pandemic.
Van Dam said that participants in his sub-group agreed that becoming less dependent on tourism was important, but that this was a complex matter in these crisis time. Investments will be needed. “It was said that you have to break some eggs to make an omelette.”
Marlon Sneek of Aruba spoke of the importance of creating a healthy investment climate. Right now, establishing a company is expensive and too much bureaucracy is involved. Also, the labour market needs to become more flexible, and commercial loans should be offered at a more attractive rate.
“We have bene talking about diversification for a long while. How do we give new élan to this? We agreed that increasing a greater resilience is important,” said Senator Jeroen Recourt. Green energy, the hub-function, agriculture, husbandry and fisheries, digitalization’s were mentioned as possibilities.