Opinion: Improvements

POSTED: 02/15/12 1:54 PM

Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Minister Liesbeth Spies was in St. Maarten. The minister praised the government for improvements in the field of finances. What those improvements are, nobody knows – apart from the incrowd and that circle guards these improvements like state secrets.

But who knows, maybe there are improvements. One we could think of is the increased activity at the tax inspectorate. At the same time the country still struggles with its budget in general and with the budget process. Always there are promises that next year things will be better, but when the day comes, there is always another excuse to explain why something did not happen.

We wonder whether Minister Spies has concerns about good governance practices in St. Maarten. After all, it cannot have escaped her attention that the vice prime minister is a declared opponent of the corporate governance council and that he has supporters for this unconstitutional position in the parliament.

But all these concerns were not on the agenda for the minister’s inaugural visit. She’ll be back in March though, so maybe somebody ought to give Her Excellency a few pointers.

She could for instance ask why the 2012 budget does not have a provision for St. Maarten’s member of the Council of State, Dennis Richardson. Is this the reward he gets for all his efforts in the field of constitutional change?

She could also ask why the country has not had a Monument Council for years. That seems a minor point, but it affects potentially big decisions – like the plan for a rainforest adventure park on the Emilio Wilson Estate. Said estate, by the way, has been placed irrevocably on the monument list: an objection against this decision failed just because there was no monument council

She could also ask why there is a windmill in the yard of the vice prime minister and why, at the same time, the utilities company is dragging its feet with initiatives in the field of renewable energy.

But Minister Spies won’t ask all these questions. Good governance is fine, but if St. Maarten does not want to adhere to it, or if it wants to frustrate the process, the Netherlands is not going to send in the marines to straighten a couple of heads out. That is simply not going to happen.

Rather than stirring up a hornet’s nest, the minister focused on those pleasant things that seem to be going in the right direction, even though saying that the country made huge improvements with its finances seems to be a stretch by any standard.

What to expect from the minister? It will not be much different from what the country got from her predecessor Piet Hein Donner. If the government steps out of line, the minister will field questions in the parliament in The Hague (from characters like Ronald van Raak and Eric Lucassen) and if things get really hairy the Kingdom Council of Ministers will start making some noise. The worst thing that could happen is that this esteemed club will give St. Maarten an instruction about whatever it deems not right.

Then, after all the dust has settled, and after St. Maarten has frustrated the effort to make that instruction work, the government in The Hague will change, and a new minister will start all over again. And she or he will say during the inaugural visit to St. Maarten; “Today we did not focus on the past. We talked about the future.”

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