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St. Maarten has no excuse for finances, says Dutch minister Plasterk

TUESDAY, 05 FEBRUARY 2013

THE HAGUE–St. Maarten must comply with the Financial Supervision Law and get its budget balanced to avert getting an instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

That is the word from Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk. In his January 30, 2013, letter that was sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, which was released on Monday, he gave an update on his first formal visit to all six Dutch Caribbean islands mid-January.

Plasterk stated that he had had a very serious talk with the Government of St. Maarten about the country’s finances when visiting the island two weeks ago. In his letter to the Second Chamber, he explained that, in his opinion, the Financial Supervision Law serves to ensure a proper functioning of government for the St. Maarten people. “Adhering to the law is not a goal on its own,” he stated.

The Minister pointed out that the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT which supervises the execution of said law had rendered a negative advice on the 2013 draft budget. The St. Maarten Government needs to reduce its expenses by another NAf. 25 million.

“It is now up to St. Maarten to submit a new budget in two weeks,” Plasterk stated. He hoped that St. Maarten would assume this responsibility and by doing so “prevent an instruction from the Kingdom Council of Ministers.”
St. Maarten contended during the meeting with Plasterk that one of the reasons for its financial predicament was the fact that the island hadn’t received the full debt relief as not all claims had been paid out due to lack of proof. According to St. Maarten, it had a “false start” when it attained the status of country within the Dutch Kingdom.

Plasterk said St. Maarten had created the impression that its future depended on restarting talks about debt relief. “I have reconfirmed that the Dutch Government is not planning to reopen that window,” he stated.

The relation between St. Maarten and its sister islands St. Eustatius and Saba, part of The Netherlands since October 10, 2010, was another topic of discussion in the meeting that the Minister had with the St. Maarten Government.
“Several items like the [Windward Island Airways International, ed.] Winair tariffs, double taxation, the sea cable and medical transport via helicopter have not been solved satisfactorily from the perspective of The Netherlands,” stated Plasterk. A letter containing the position of The Netherlands as well as proposed solutions will be sent to Philipsburg shortly, he added.

This time there was positive news about Curaçao. Plasterk welcomed the attitude of the business cabinet of Prime Minister Daniel Hodge which he said was “taking responsibility in the interest of the country and its residents.” “I have faith that the Hodge cabinet will do everything it can in the interest of the people of Curaçao.”
The Hodge cabinet seems to be doing well in tackling the three main issues: integrity of government, restoring the financial situation and strengthening cooperation in the Kingdom. Plasterk noted that members of the cabinet had been screened successfully.

The new government has indicated that it considers the CFT to be a support in the exercise to restore finances. There is still a long way to go, but at least the process of taking the necessary measures has started, noted the Minister, who also mentioned the announced measures in the areas of health care, the pensionable age and the reorganisation of the civil apparatus.

Plasterk also addressed the impasse at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten (CBCS) in his letter. The Kingdom Council of Ministers wants a normalisation of the relations between the governments, the Board of Directors and the Supervisory Board. The Hague believes an audit is necessary.

According to Plasterk, who discussed the issue with Prime Ministers Hodge of Curaçao and Sarah Wescot-Williams of St. Maarten as well as CBCS President Emsley Tromp, both governments are aware of the need to normalise relations and to restore trust in the Bank. “I expect the audit to be carried out shortly,” he stated.

The Minister had much praise for Aruba which, he said, had successfully shown that it is possible to stimulate the economy, employment and sustainable development through “much creativity, passion and input.”
He commended the ambitions of the Eman cabinet to seek closer relations in and outside the Kingdom and to develop a hub function between Europe and Latin America. Furthermore, the Aruba Government has a tourism development strategy: it invests in Oranjestad and sustainable development.

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