The Hague – The House of Representatives Committee for Kingdom Relations is currently debating with State Secretary Raymond Knops (BZK) about the offer of the Netherlands to help Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten with new loans of many hundreds of millions through the corona crisis.
All (present) parliamentary spokespersons believe it is justified that the Netherlands imposes strict conditions, including supervision by a reform entity to be formed by the Netherlands that must ensure that Dutch tax money benefits the citizens and does not end up in the wrong pockets. Chris van Dam (CDA), Antje Diertens (D66), Nevin Özütok (GroenLinks) and Attje Kuiken (PvdA) urged Knops to make an effort to reach consensus with the countries.
André Bosman (VVD) and Ronald van Raak (SP) lashed out at the politicians in the Caribbean countries who in their eyes are more concerned with their own interests than that of their people. They pointed, among other things, to the recent decision by Curaçao to increase the ministerial salaries, but also to the ‘selective’ collection of taxes.
Below the contribution of VVD MP André Bosman:
“Chairman, according to some administrators and members of Parliament of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, the institution of the Caribbean reform entity will lead to a loss of autonomy. What is Autonomy? And who then is this autonomy for? Which autonomy? The autonomy of directors to increase their salary while everyone has to surrender? The autonomy of States members to frustrate the appointment of a fellow States member? The autonomy to propose a vote of no confidence to a minister for exposing corruption? The autonomy not to tax? Is it about that autonomy?
Or is it about the autonomy of the inhabitants? Who live in poverty thanks to this administrative autonomy? Not having a job and much worse not having a job prospect. Where hospitals run up against the limits of their finances. The autonomy of entrepreneurs who do not receive support from those autonomous administrators who are especially busy with themselves?
Madam President, just listed a few things in the context of the discussion about autonomy. None of the topics help the residents of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, do not help them out of poverty and do not provide perspective. Of the many emails, texts and messages on Facebook that I receive from the islands, none is concerned about this autonomy. Those people are mainly concerned with survival.
The autonomy discussion is therefore an administrative discussion. A real Antillean driver excuse not having to do anything, to claim that you can arrange it yourself, that autonomy. No prying eyes. Especially leave things to the old! The old Friends and family principle. Directors and States members who are mainly concerned about their job and the jobs of their friends and family.
How is it possible that the ministers of Curaçao give themselves a pay rise? How can you defend that? The country is on the brink of financial and socio-economic collapse and based on a law, you think it would be useful to increase your own salary because it would be in line with the salary scales. This cannot be explained. This is about self-enrichment, about deliberate dereliction of duty towards your residents. And then enter into a discussion with the Dutch government that is willing to pump hundreds of millions into your economy to prevent you from going bankrupt, to ensure that people in Aruba Curaçao and Sint Maarten keep an income, that the economies of those countries can keep running and even innovate.
Mr President, the countries are in trouble. Covid19 has definitely contributed to this. But the underlying problem is something from the last decades. In the agreements of 10-10 2010 (almost 10 years ago) we pumped 1.5 billion euros into the economy of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, while at the same time making firm agreements. At least we thought that those agreements were hard. The money has disappeared, the economy is in ruins and the ambition to innovate was not there, there is not and it will not happen by itself.
A clear example of not tackling the underlying problem is the taxes on the countries. Collection is random. If you belong to the friends and family, you pay little or nothing, if you don’t belong to them, you pay more or double. Companies that support political parties get better tax deals and the tax collector can always arrange something for you if you belong to the friends and family.
Madam President, until the end of March 2020, there was 4.5 billion guilders in the street in uncollected taxes on Curaçao. But actually collectible, it is an amount of just over 1 billion guilders. If Curaçao were to collect its taxes properly, they would not even need the help from the Netherlands. But no, collecting tax is a tedious task in the Caribbean and in addition, shifting tax collection means you can bind people to you politically and financially by giving them an advantage. No, then let the Dutch taxpayer pay for it.
The only option for the VVD to support the countries is that we make agreements with hard conditions. And then also hard. Not meeting the conditions is therefore not money. And it remains a consensus law. The countries do not have to agree to it, but then there will be no money. And if the countries want different conditions, they could. But then I also have two more. Perhaps now is the time to link the passenger traffic act or an amendment to the statute whereby all countries can withdraw from the statute.
The choice is up to the countries. But time is running out I would say. Not for the directors, who will receive their salary including increase anyway, but for those people who have no job, no income and who wonder every day what the next day will bring and whether they can put food on the table. Time is running out for them. But the choice is up to the countries, the autonomous countries of the Kingdom. ”