Opinion: Emilio Wilson Estate

POSTED: 01/9/14 11:14 PM

Yes, there were some doubts lately about the true intentions of then government with regards to the Emilio Wilson Estate. And yes, the purchase price is slightly ridiculous at $17 million. But when it is about commitment, governments of any color have stuck to the estate and to the intention to keep it safe for future generations.

The draft budget cause some confusion though, because the 30.6 million guilders that was earmarked in the doomed 2013 budget to purchase the estate does not appear in the capital account as an investment in 2014. We were tempted to sound the alarm, but instead we waited for a chance meeting with Vromi-Minister Maurice Lake. He assured us yesterday that the purchase was going to happen.

That this did not go through last year was mainly due to the botched 2013 budget. The previous government left behind such a mess, and the current government had to spend so much energy on cleaning it up, that there simply was no way the financial supervisor Cft was going to give the green light for loans to finance capital investments.

Even after the 2013 budget was finally – in September! – pushed through parliament – the Cft thought it prudent not to contract any loans in the year that is now behind us. A wise decision from the accountants’ point of view, but also a reason for environmentalists to get concerned. Would they get screwed after all?

Well, maybe. First the story was that the estate could be purchased as soon as there was a balanced budget, That would open the door to loans, and those loans could be used to purchase the estate.

Now word is that the Vromi-ministry has to look for creative solutions. Bringing the Harbor Group of Companies into the equation suggests that the ministry is thinking – of not negotiating – to bring back the Rainforest Adventure Park into the estate. That idea does not sit well with everyone, though from a practical point of view it is probably true that revenue from Rain Forest could be used to keep the rest of the estate in good shape. Sometimes, you just cannot have it all.

But the press release from the minister also makes clear that, indeed, the investment in the purchase is not budgeted for 2014. The 30.6 million guilders has been changed in a big fat zero.

Will this story end well? We figure that depends on the level of interest the population is going to show in this issue. In 2007, youngsters showed up at an Island Council meeting to voice their opinion in favor of keeping developers out of the estate. The Island Council listened, and it protected the estate.

Now we need new youngsters to step up to the plate and to stick it in the face of our politicians – do not mess with the Emilio Wilson Estate. The price may be steep –in terms of dollars – but the loss of what is the last great natural park on the island is simply pricele

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