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Caribbean countries have more time to meet conditions for financial support
Curaçao and Sint Maarten did not agree on Friday with the conditions imposed by the Netherlands on a third round of loans to help the collapsed economy of the islands. They also have not yet met all the requirements of the previous aid package. They now have until July 15 to do this.
Silveria Jacobs, Prime Minister of Sint Maarten, and Eugene Rhuggenaath, Prime Minister of Curaçao, Friday after the conclusion of the State Council of Ministers in The Hague. Image Freek van den Bergh / de Volkskrant

After a special government ministerial council, in which the three prime ministers of the autonomous Caribbean countries were present in the kingdom, Aruba appeared to occupy a separate position. Aruba has met the condition that the countries cut 25 percent on the salaries of politicians and top executives, and 12.5 percent on civil servant salaries. Curaçao and Sint Maarten need more time for this. The retirement age should also rise. The Netherlands attached these conditions to loans for a total of EUR 350 million.

Prime Ministers Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao and Silveria Jacobs of Sint Maarten said they need more time to agree with the unions. “We are not against reforms, we were already working on that. The problem is the pace that the Netherlands is imposing on us, “said Rhuggenaath. “We must consult with the unions that represent the officials in a local context in which unemployment has risen to 50 percent.” Agreement has been reached in Aruba.

The three countries decided to close their borders after the outbreak of the corona pandemic. As a result, their main source of income, tourism, disappeared. “We lost 80 percent of our economy in a week,” said Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes of Aruba. “For Covid we could borrow money ourselves on the international market. That path has now been closed for us, hence our appeal to the Netherlands. “The Netherlands provided emergency aid and is willing to provide long-term liquidity support with loans, but in return demands reforms of the fragile island economies.

Stumbling block

For all three countries, the stumbling block for the time being is that the Netherlands wants to provide the third tranche of loans through a newly established ‘entity’, which supervises how the money is spent. The countries were given more time from the Netherlands on Friday to conduct internal discussions about this. Aruba expects to complete it soon. The other two countries point out that this requires a new national law, which can only be introduced by consensus. Opposition parties on the islands view such an entity as a neo-colonial supervisor.

The Netherlands has reserved EUR 500 million for the third tranche, for a period of five to seven years. The entity would consist of three directors selected by the Netherlands. “Of course we will appoint people with an affinity for the islands,” said Secretary of State Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations, CDA). “But it is about one hundred percent Dutch tax money, so we would like it to be spent in a good way.”

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