photo: The prime ministers of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten/photo by Sharina Henriquez

ORANJESTAD – ORANJESTAD – After a meeting on Aruba, the prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten announced that they will unite to form a stronger bloc against the Netherlands during negotiations. The Curaçaoan prime minister Gilmar Pisas emphasized that ‘they don’t want to create the impression that the three countries will be fighting against the Netherlands’.

The Netherlands is lending the three countries hundreds of millions because the corona crisis was devastating for the islands’ economies. In order to receive these funds Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten have to implement a myriad of changes to tackle issues which have existed on the islands for decades.

Changes which include reducing the size of the government apparatus because it’s too expensive, rolling back the salaries of the top brass at governmental companies (which are disproportionally high) and implementing far reaching measures which will affect the citizens such as a higher retirement age and a personal contribution for health care costs.

Prime minister Silvera Jacobs on the relation with the Netherlands(Dutch spoken)

For the longest period of time the islands negotiated on an individual basis with the Netherlands without informing each other about the negotiations. “It’s been a cat-and-mouse game”, Sint Maarten’s prime minister Silveria Jacobs says. It meant that one time the Netherlands wouldn’t lend to Sint Maarten whilst the other two island did get funds. At the moment it’s Aruba that hasn’t received any funds.

‘It’s been a cat-and-mouse game’ – Sint Maarten’s prime minister on the negotiations with the Netherlands

The countries are banding together to demand more clarity from the Netherlands, especially when the COHO (Caribisch Orgaan voor Hervorming en Ontwikkeling) will start supervising the repayments and how funds will be allocated. They also want certainty about the amount. “The Cft (College financieel toezicht) mentioned an amount of 1.4 million euros, but we don’t know for sure how much money will be made available and how much each country will get”, says Pisas.

And on the different conditions which the Netherlands will require each country to comply with, says Aruban prime minister Evelyn Wever-Croes: “Curaçao and Sint Maarten need to have a balanced budget starting in 2023, while Aruba’s budget has to be balanced in 2022.”

Prime ministers of Aruba and Curaçao on supporting each other during the negotiations (Dutch spoken)

The three countries have agreed to speak to each other virtually on a monthly basis and in person quarterly to improve the lines of communication and the alliance. They want to make clear that this agreement concerns more than just the Netherlands.

They also want to work together when it comes to gaining access to international aid organizations. Additionally they want to partake in joint investments to sure up each other’s economies. The prime ministers promise that more details will be made available as soon as the plans have been worked out.