photo: Sint Maarten House

THE HAGUE – Will Sint Maarten also approve the Dutch conditions attached to the millions in emergency loans, as Aruba did? The government of Sint Maarten wants to hear the opinion of its own parliament, but warns that not all of the Dutch conditions are feasible.

Tomorrow, Wednesday at 17:00 o’clock (Dutch time) the Dutch deadline for a total sum om 370 million euros will expire. “For every country which has not accepted the proposal on time, the proposal will expire”, writes state secretary Raymond Knops today. Aruba has already agreed to the conditions, but Curaçao and Sint Maarten have not.

The expectation was that the Netherlands and the islands would’ve reached an agreement last Friday. But Curaçao and Sint Maarten said that they were so shocked by the ‘new conditions that the Netherlands had brought to the table in less than 24 hours’, that they would first like to hear the opinions of their respective parliaments.

‘The Netherlands wants you to introduce new legislation in less than six weeks. That can’t happen during this unprecedented crisis’

Less than six weeks
Like the reduced working hours (atv), which allows companies to let their employees work less hours. “Sint Maarten doesn’t have any legislation like that on the books, but the Netherlands wants us to introduce it in less than six weeks. That can’t happen”, says the government representative for Sint Maarten René Violenus in the Hague.

“This is an unprecedented crisis. The point is: there’s not a lot of debate, a lot gets dictated [by the Netherlands ed.]”, according to minister plenipotentiary Violenus. “Yes, mistakes were made in the past, but we are giving it our all to try and reinforce Sint Maarten. What we need is a dialogue and that the partners in the Kingdom listen to each other.”

On Wednesday the Dutch Parliament will also hold a debate on the deadline and financial aid to the islands. “If we don’t get any room to meet the demands, the Netherlands is setting us up for failure. We’re asking ourselves how they want us to succeed? That’s what I want to know and we’re trying to talk about that.”

‘The Netherlands is no longer willing to talk’
Notably the ministers plenipotentiary left the Kingdom Council of Ministers last Friday visibly irritated. The Dutch ministers were no longer open to a dialogue.

The Curaçaoan prime minister Eugene Rhuggenaath had already said that the conditions were ‘unrealistic’ last week. “We share his thoughts on this” says Violenus. “And you can be sure that we made this known. It’s not that we don’t want to, but the conditions are not feasible on the short term. That is something that MP’s should know.”

Conditions 370 million euros for Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten

State secretary Raymond Knops wants to the islands to agree to amongst others, the following:

• A reduction of 12,5 percent on all public servant salaries.
• MP’s and ministers need to earn 25 percent less due to all the employment benefits.
• Chairs of public entities and consultants cannot earn more than 130 percent of the prime minister’s salary, effective immediately.
• Implement reforms: generate more income and reduce government expenditure by reducing the number of public servants for example.

Rebuilding Sint Maarten
Sint Maarten is still being rebuilt after the devastation caused by hurricane Irma in September 2017. Violenus: “Another disaster which shut down our economy. The reaction from the Netherlands was a total shock for Sint Maarten because of this. The current state of affairs will lead to a deterioration of our debt burden and a larger part of our population will end up beneath the poverty line.”

“What we had hoped for, was a dialogue within the Kingdom”, says Violenus. “We are willing, but to be able to comply with the conditions, we need to get enough time and space. Especially during this unprecedented crisis.”

Debate on Sint Maarten
If Phillipsburg will agree with the conditions before the deadline, will depend on the debates held by Parliament on Tuesday. “We want to avoid a situation where Parliament gets saddled up with decisions that can no longer be reversed.”