Dear Residents of St. Eustatius,
As Kingdom Representative for Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius I would like to inform you about recent developments in the relationship between Public Entity St. Eustatius and the Central Government.
Last week during Caribbean Netherlands Week (CN Week) in The Hague the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, spoke with the two commissioners about the administrative situation and the consequences for the financial situation for this island. It was made clear that the present situation is worrisome, which has led to a direct intervention. The Minister of the Home Affairs & Kingdom Relations has placed St. Eustatius under tightened Administrative supervision, and decided that the Public Entity St. Eustatius is not allowed to enter into any new financial commitments.
I am assigned by the Minister to form a Steering Committee to look after the interests of St. Eustatius together with the Executive Council. This is the main purpose of my visit to the island right now.
I want to assure you that it is my intention to work together with the Executive Council to help restore order and stability to the administrative management in the interest of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius.
Following the reports in the media I recognize that some residents of St. Eustatius understand why these measures had to be taken, while others do not comprehend the situation at hand. The fact is, though, that despite repeated requests to tackle things differently and to provide transparency and openness in the affairs, there was no notable improvement. To prevent further decline the Minister decided it was now time to intervene.
During the past years and months several matters have come to light. Things were not going the way they ought to. Decisions were not taken in keeping with administrative procedures of the Public Entity. Unfortunately, the advice and instruction of the Board of Financial Supervision and Kingdom Representative was not always followed up. I am sure you will agree with me that in the governing process it is important that decisions are taken in accordance with established laws and regulations. When this does not happen there are serious consequences for the proper functioning of government. This in turn will also have serious consequences for the community. There is a need for more transparency which I believe will eventually result in better governance.
Because of the limited capacity of the civil service organization of St. Eustatius it is not expected that the island finds all the solutions to the current problems on its own. Neither should it be expected that civil servants from The Hague will come and take over the responsibilities of the island government. That is certainly not the intention. However, I’m willing to provide expertise in order to quickly determine what is needed and where extra support can be given.
The Minister has intervened based on the provisions in the law. However, in order to accomplish this objective within the shortest time possible, it goes without saying, that we must work together. My intention is to support the Executive Council in building its own administrative capacity and to strengthen the civil service organization. This is the best way to achieve improvement.
I understand that the instruction of the Minister has caused mixed feelings. As Kingdom Representative, going forward, I must ensure there are checks and balances and that there is good governance. As mentioned previously an action plan will be drafted. The approach is to prepare and implement this plan in close cooperation with your island representatives. The ambition is to get this done as soon as possible and I stress once more TOGETHER.
Today I met with the members of the Executive Council. They have informed me they will be submitting a written appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations.
In my meeting with the Executive Council I informed them that my objective is to work with them and with you the people. The better the cooperation, the sooner the goals, namely good governance, transparency and financial stability, can be achieved.
Based on the WOLBES the Minister has instructed me to establish a Steering Committee in which at least the Island Governor, the commissioners and the Island Secretary are included. Under the chairmanship of my person this Steering Committee will prepare a plan of action to restore order and control to the administrative problem. I am on the island for the first round of meetings with the Executive Council. This plan of action must be ready by September 1st and must clearly outline how concrete improvement will be realized in the administrative functioning (meaning the day to day management), what costs will be attached, who will contribute to this and the timeframe in which this will be realized.
As chairman of the Steering Committee, during the implementation phase, I am required to submit a monthly progress report to the Minister. Frequent reporting on the progress is beneficial for all involved.
Contrary to certain remarks in the media, the Central Government will continue with the implementation of the child allowance and the minimum wage. No benefits will be withheld from the people of Statia. I emphasized this in my meeting with the Executive Council today. Although the Multi Annual Plan was not signed by St. Eustatius there is still money reserved for projects on the island where residents will directly enjoy the benefits. I will work with the Executive Council to ensure that the projects taken up in this Multi Annual Plan benefit the community. With the approval of the Minister these projects can continue as scheduled. I will do my best.
I believe that ultimately the Central Government and the Public Entity of St. Eustatius should have a common goal and that is good governance, transparency and financial stability. These are necessary for the wellbeing and the development of St. Eustatius. I trust that this will be experienced as a step in the right direction and also as an opportunity to ensure sound financial management and decision making. I look forward to working with everyone (the Executive Council, CFT, Steering Committee, civil servants and residents of St. Eustatius) for the common good.