Opinion: Debt relief

POSTED: 02/8/13 1:36 PM

Dear Editor,

I cannot help but feel that the recent decision taken by the Council of Ministers to initiate court proceedings against the Dutch government in order to secure some 120 million guilders in debt relief is putting the cart before the horse. I also think that it exposes a dangerous reliance on outside resources in order to keep our country afloat, while what we truly need is to find and implement (new) strategies that will create employment and that will create revenue for government. Basically, we should be finding a way to take care of ourselves.

I believe the government has several questions to answer. Why did government take the decision before seeking legal advice and determining which court would potentially have jurisdiction? What will happen if government is advised that there is no court with jurisdiction?

Does the government not remember that the Dutch government, more specifically the Kingdom Service Center (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland), sued the government of St. Maarten in the country´s own civil court over the telecommunications cable?

What is the status of discussions to come to a Kingdom Law on how each of the partners will deal with differences of opinion – the so called Arbitration Regulation (Geschillenregeling)? Parties agreed at the first, and to date only, Kingdom conference that they would install a committee to create such a law.

While I understand the desire for the money, I think the government is spending too much time and energy trying to secure resources outside of its direct control. That time and energy could be better spent trying to find solutions at the local level. There is a key historic lesson on the point of how governments acquire and deal with their resources in the United States Supreme Court´s judgement of 1819 in McCullough v. State of Maryland. The principle issue in that case is whether a bank established by the US government should pay taxes to the State(s) in which it is vested.

From there the question arose whether the US government should depend on the states to fund its operations or if it should be able to establish the means to fund itself. In the ruling, delivered by then Chief Justice John Marshall, the US Supreme Court held: “… to impose on it (the government of the United States – ed.) the necessity of resorting to means which it cannot control, which another government may furnish or withhold, would render its course precarious, the result of its measures uncertain, and create a dependence on other governments, which might disappoint its most important designs …”.

It is accepted that in 2007 parties reached an agreement on debt relief. However the government must accept that the party on the other side of the arrangement has decided to strictly enforce the terms of the agreement. That means it should stop depending on those resources it cannot access, i.e. the debt relief money and put its attention on finding out how it can create new revenue streams by, for example, stimulating and diversifying the economy and increasing tax compliance.

Donellis Browne



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