We need real relief

I started writing this article on Thursday March 27 but did not send it for publication because I was waiting on the response from the Dutch government on St. Maarten’s request for legal aid. Article 36 of the Charter. I want to again congratulate our government and all relevant stakeholders, especially those on the front line such as our healthcare workers, law enforcement, firefighters, civil servants, garbage collectors, the cleaning companies and everyone who is making a combined and concerted effort to combat this dangerous outbreak that has already taken the lives of many and unfortunately is on track to take more lives. How can I forget the security guards, cashiers at Supermarkets and countless other persons who we don’t know, we cannot thank them enough for the courage being displayed at this difficult time. Why did I entitle this article we need real relief? I read where Central Bank of Curacao and St Maarten said and I quote; “Curacao and St. Maarten do not have the tools and resources to mitigate such a crisis”. It continues to say “It is precisely in times like these that the Dutch Government should be pointed to” end of quote. The real relief for St. Maarten in my opinion should entail the cancellation of all debt guaranteed by or owed to the Netherlands. I am pleased that the CFT agreed with my article entitled “This is no time for balanced Budgets. But I guess their decision had to do with the European commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s announcement and I quote; “national governments can spend their way out of the economic fallout from the coronavirus without fear of reproach” end of quote. And not forgetting the criticism by the Prime Minister of Portugal of Minister of finance of the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra who called for an investigation into Spain’s request for assistance to deal with the covid19 outbreak. I have a serious issue with the Committee for Financial Supervision’s advice to provide liquidity support in the form of loans and coming to an early agreement for repaying these loans. Again it should be grants and not loans. Imagine my surprise when yesterday I heard that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte prefers a gift to Spain and Italy in attempt to restore diplomatic ties with these countries, but he sees it fit to extend loans to Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, with conditions, which according to Minister Knops means increasing taxes to get revenues and having a lean government which for sure will include salary reductions and laying off of civil servants. This is no time for them to issue us any loans. No one will dispute the fact that they are also facing covid19 challenges but they are in a more advantageous position than we are. According to the IMF and World Bank the Netherlands is the 17th largest economy in the world. They are the 6th richest in Europe. Our grand and great grandchildren are already saddled with an accumulation of debt. I am asking a Kingdom partner out of necessity not desire and based on the charter in which the preamble speaks about support to think about the people first and not their political agenda. Can they afford to cancel our debts and issue grants? The GDP of the Netherlands in 2019 stood at $907.583 billion. It’s GD per capita was estimated at some $48,860 in fiscal year 2017/2018 which makes it the highest earning nation in the world. Does St. Maarten owe the Netherlands $1 billion? I would think not. And even if we include Aruba and Curacao in the equation, the finances of the Netherlands can carry it. It is about the political will. I am cautiously optimistic about the discussions but actions speak louder than words. Let me quote Minister Rutte who said in his speech to the EU members “Listen you guys have been hit hard but together with some wealthier countries we are prepared to bare the direct costs of the coronavirus crises” end of quote. Those words speak volumes. We are still to receive the agreed Naf. 50 million liquidity funds support for 2018 and 2019. Are they still asking for austerity measures to be taken in this time of crisis? And while they are contemplating such, I suggest they cancel the 2015 instruction. Conclusion, writing off St. Maarten’s debt will be just a drop in the bucket for them and will give the people of St. Maarten some real relief.