Opinion: Lost in a dark forest

POSTED: 07/21/14 1:59 PM

Hurray! There is trouble in the Caribbean and that is always a good reason for Dutch media to write about the islands. This time, however, political editor Remco Meijer severely criticizes the diplomatic acumen of Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk in a comment in the Volkskrant about the dogfight over Aruba’s 2014 budget.

Meijers writes that the dispute is extremely undesirable and that the Netherlands should have operated more diplomatically. He opens his comment with a saying: where two fight, two are guilty.

“First the Netherlands. For months, Minister Plasterk has been talking with Aruba about the sustainability of the 2014 budget. A deficit of 6 percent is unacceptable for European standards. A national debt of 75 percent for an economy with the modest size of the island Aruba is idiotically high. According to the International Monetary Fund, that debt should never be higher than 40 percent.

Even though Plasterk is right, he still got lost in the dark forest of old sentiments. Aruba has already since 1986 a status that is different from Curacao and Sint Maarten. The Netherlands restructured the debts of those two countries in 2010 in exchange for permanent supervision by the board for financial supervision (Cft).”

(We’d like to correct Meijer here: Curacao and St. Maarten have their own status aparte, or autonomy, since 2010 and the supervision by the Cft is – at least in theory – not permanent. It is up for review in 2015).

“Aruba does not fall under this financial supervision and it also did not accept any money from the Netherlands. It was therefore rather clumsy to ask the Cft-secretariat to investigate the finances of Aruba. Other solutions would have been possible.

Then Aruba. The hunger strike by Prime Minister Eman is a disproportionate instrument for practicing politics. (Eman has in the meantime ended his hunger strike – ed.). Without any doubt, his action sits well with his supporters, but a non-eating Prime Minister within the Kingdom makes a weird impression abroad.

Eman points to the good results he has booked since 2009. However, speculating on further economic growth without implementing necessary budget cuts is too risky a scenario.

Without any doubt, Eman is genuinely piqued about what transpired, but his desperate actions raise suspicions that his critics could be right that Aruba’s financial situation is even worse than it appears from the figures. The country even wants to borrow more money.

The relationship between especially Aruba and the Netherlands has always been good. The Netherlands would be wise not to let the situation escalate any further. The proposal by D66 and CDA for mediation by the Council of State therefore deserves to be honored.”



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