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Dutch Parliament objects to retroactive debt relief for St. Maarten

FRIDAY, 08 FEBRUARY 2013

THE HAGUE–The four largest parties in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament are against paying any of St. Maarten’s outstanding debts without proper documentation.

“It is St. Maarten’s choice to go to the Courts, but I find that they had sufficient time and possibilities to get their invoices in order. St. Maarten would do well to evaluate what went wrong, learn from the mistakes and get their household in order,” said liberal democratic party VVD Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman on Thursday.
Bosman was responding to the announcement by St. Maarten’s Finance Minister Roland Tuitt on Wednesday that his government would be taking the Dutch Government to Court in an effort to make use of the Dutch debt relief retroactively.

According to the St. Maarten Government, the island only received NAf. 63 million to pay off its debts to the Antillean General Pension Fund APNA, while it was promised NAf. 183 million in debt relief. The Dutch Government and several Ministers of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations have made clear for more than a year now that the “debt relief window” was closed. Minister Ronald Plasterk confirmed this during his visit to St. Maarten last month.

Socialist Party (SP) MP Ronald van Raak said it was “fine” that St. Maarten would take the matter to Court, but he did not give them much chance. “We agreed to reorganise the debts of the islands in 2010 and not in 2013,” he said.

To even consider paying off St. Maarten’s debt retroactively, The Netherlands would have to know the exact amounts and for that you need invoices and approved accountant declarations, stated Van Raak and Bosman.

The MPs said they understood that these documents were missing in the majority of cases. According to Bosman, financial accounts and loans of the St. Maarten Government have not been sufficiently transparent and the financial administration is incomplete. “Where are the accountant’s declarations, where are the invoices?”

“You can only reorganise debts when you know exactly what they are. It concerns debts of which we don’t know for sure that they even exist. On October 10, 2010, we only paid off the debts of the Netherlands Antilles that were known to us and that were substantiated. St. Maarten had enough chances to produce these documents. They did not. End of story,” said Van Raak.
Labour Party PvdA MP Pierre Heijnen said he would seek clarity from Minister Plasterk during the debate of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Affairs with the Minister on February 12. Heijnen said he wanted details on St. Maarten’s debt relief process and the aftermath.
Heijnen agreed that in principle St. Maarten was free to take this to Court. “Everybody is free to do so.” He made clear that the PvdA did not support restarting debt relief talks. “It’s not for nothing that the Ministers have already stated that this window is closed.”

Bosman also said that for his party the debt relief window was closed, “unless the Judge decides otherwise.”
Party for Freedom PVV MP Sietse Fritsma said his party always had been against The Netherlands paying off the debts of the islands and the same applied for allowing St. Maarten to make use of the debt relief retroactively.
“The islands, including St. Maarten, are in the first place responsible for handling their own affairs and for making sure that their finances are in order. I guess they don’t realise that the Dutch taxpayer is already having a hard time,” said Fritsma, referring to the major cost-cutting measures in The Netherlands.

Heijnen and Van Raak reminded St. Maarten that The Netherlands was always willing to assist the island with manpower and other help to build its tasks as a new country in the Kingdom.

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