Opinion: Dream on

POSTED: 01/25/13 12:38 PM

We thought we did not hear well when National Alliance MP George Pantophlet made a remark in Wednesday’s Central Committee meeting about the hunt for 40 million guilders in never collected debt relief.

Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk was crystal clear when he answered a question from this newspaper about debt relief. The question was, basically, whether there is any perspective that St. Maarten will even see some of the money if so far failed to collect from the debt relief program.

Plasterk’s predecessors – with Liesbeth Spies as the last in line – indicated in the past that the chapter debt relief is closed and that it will not be reopened. Plasterk confirmed this on Monday: it does not seem sensible to me to open closed doors, the minister answered.

Apart from many noncommittal answers Plasterk gave, this one was as clear as it gets.

And yet, Pantophlet managed to say in Wednesday’s central committee meeting that the thought he had read something about this issue in the papers, and he thought that Plasterk had said that the door on debt relief is closed.

“I don’t this any door is closed on anything,” Pantophlet offered, adding: “What I heard in the corridors about certain discussions taking place – I think it is still possible.”
What do you say to that? Dream on?

The words coming from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, re-confirm what Plasterk’s predecessors had already decided: no more debt relief. Instead of looking at why St. Maarten missed out on million in debt relief, MP Pantophlet seems to hang on to his own fairytale and to suggest – without being specific, of course – that there are “certain discussions” going on and that not all is lost yet.

In the meantime, we have learned from the Cft that the real problem – the quality of the country’s financial management, has practically come to a standstill. But nobody is asking questions about that issue. It is politically more attractive to whine about the debt relief the Netherlands has withheld and that the country is entitled to.

The truth is of course that the country was entitled to those funds – but not anymore. All it had to do was prove, or make plausible, that certain debts existed. The rules for this game were established in November 2006, when St. Maarten signed the final declaration for the constitutional reform process. But year after year, St. Maarten did absolutely nothing to meet the requirements. And when the very last deadline expired, the millions St. Maarten could have had, flowed back into the general account of the Dutch treasury – gone forever.

And yes, it is attractive to point now to the billions the Netherlands is forking over to the bankrupt Greeks, or to the hefty loan that is going to Egypt. If those countries are getting help, why is St. Maarten left to its own devices?

We all know the answer, but nobody wants to hear it: we have to clean up our act and get a grip on our financial management. As long as that is in a shambles – and from the latest Cft-advice we strongly get the impression that this is indeed still the case – politicians should not be surprised that they are getting no outside help whatsoever.

That begs the question: if even the Greeks manage to clean up their act to the point that the European Union is ready to dump billion of euros into its treasury, why is St. Maarten not capable of doing the same? We are sorely tempted to think that all this is a matter of sheer unwillingness. And if that turns out to be true, the mess will only become bigger in the years ahead of us.

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