UD Leader, MP Wescot-Williams weighs in on the proposed Caribbean Reform Entity, as proposed by the Government of the Netherlands.

“No administrative entity can usurp the political authority vested in the democratically elected representatives of the countries”.

Philipsburg St. Maarten, July 19, 2020 – In reacting to the accounts coming out of the Netherlands after the much anticipated meeting of the Kingdom Council  of Ministers on July 10th, MP Wescot-Williams commented that  “these accounts are differing in terms of  what exactly was decided, if anything,  and especially what can be expected in the coming weeks and  months. On  the one hand, it seemed as if the Caribbean countries are in this together, but then again this seems not to be entirely the case.”

The governments  of St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba have  conveyed their  objections against the hotly debated new entity, officially the Caribbean Reform Entity (CRE). State Secretary Knops has given his spin to the proposed entity and its purported usefulness.

MP Wescot-Williams continued: “I got the  impression  however that the door  has been left somewhat ajar and if that turns out to be the case,  St. Maarten should keep it so.”

“We are right now in a precarious situation and while the government of St. Maarten has been alluding to  possible alternatives to tide us over this critical period , I have yet to see one alternative that could kick in on a short enough term to replace the third tranche of liquidity support,  if the Netherlands’ support was to fall through”, stated UD leader, MP Wescot-Williams.

“From what I conclude  from the available documentation, the involvement of the local government is relegated to not much more than a superficial consultation, as this  proposal  on the table gives far reaching   powers to an administrative entity;  powers and decisions that pertain to the political realm of any country.“

The UD leader continued: “It is clear that with the inclusion of country economic reform plans as part of the overall package, the Netherlands is desirous of pinning down our financial,  economic and social policies for the foreseeable future. The  powers and reach of this proposed entity as they currently stand, together with the reigning CFT law render the political authority of the Caribbean countries meaningless. At the very minimum, if all else fails, the government of St. Maarten must at least negotiate an opt-out (exit) and buy-out (payback) clause in the CRE consensus law.”

“Once decisions are taken via the CRE, the CFT will  ensure that the local authorities remain bound to the CRE kingdom law.  Much like the current consensus kingdom laws, getting out of these agreements is not up to the individual countries, even in case of perceived or real overreach by the  CRE.”

In addition to this, St. Maarten is faced with commensurate challenges, such as the stress of the hurricane season, the immediate concerns  of a large part of the population, such as unemployment, the health of the nation and then we have the compliance issues for the 2nd part of COVID-19 assistance from the Netherlands.

Many laws need to be amended to give legitimacy to what the government is undertaking to be in compliance with the conditions already agreed to with the Netherlands. All of this, expected from a government  apparatus  that is stressed and  stretched thin, due to all that is happening in rapid succession.

There seems  to be however,  some points of agreement  between the 3 countries and the Netherlands, such as:

  • The urgency of  major (economic) reforms for  all the countries
  • The need for short, medium and long term  financial and investment impulses.
  • The immediate needs to survive until these reforms start to take shape.

MP Wescot-Williams: “If the Netherlands is serious about true reform and rebuilding, any entity with a role in this process would be one that simultaneously builds a local cadre of professionals. I see none of that in the proposed tasks of the new entry.”

When I look further at the role and function of the proposed entity, these tasks in my view would fit much better in a national development and or investment bank. Options of collaboration in such a venture would be plentiful, inside and outside of the Kingdom. The “steering” that the Netherlands is seeking, would be commensurate with the capital investment from the Netherlands in such an organization. 

The Dutch FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Company) could serve as a model for such an entity and the envisioned (political) checks and balances would be built in from the start.

“Let’s move the relationship with the Netherlands to a more business-like and mature one, acknowledging that political and cultural differences can’t be wished or forced away. As long as we are in this historical-political relationship, we will have to live with those differences. The coalition government of St. Maarten therefore has to make up its mind, one way or the other”, concluded the UD leader and first Prime Minister of St. Maarten, MP Wescot-Williams.