Opinion: Marching orders

POSTED: 01/27/12 2:41 PM

In June 2010, former Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards addressed the Antillean platform of the association of Dutch municipalities VNG. The subject matter was St. Maarten’s corporate governance code. The former island council approved the code unanimously on July 1, 2009. It put St. Maarten ahead of other Caribbean islands in the Kingdom, Richards mused.
The corporate governance code was supposed to put a stop to nepotism and political favoritism when it comes to appointing managers and supervisors at government-owned companies.
Richards noted that the code has brought a hands-off approach and that it had put greater distance between politicians and government-owned companies.
The former lt. governor pointed out that these companies are very interesting for politicians because of the money that goes around in these entities. At the time, the eight government-owned companies generated about half a billion Antillean guilders (close to $280 million) in turnover, and that they have between them more than 750 million guilders (around $415 million) in loans. By comparison, Richards said, the national budget is just 320 million guilders (close to $180 million).
While the figures have changed, the principle has remained the same. There is a lot of money going around in government-owned companies, and the interest of politicians in these entities is almost unhealthy.
Okay, a long time ago – almost a full term for a politician – but that is no reason to forget that these companies are governed by de corporate governance code. Hands-off approach, remember?
Still, we now hear with some amazement that independent MP Patrick Illidge wants to give the supervisory its marching orders.
That proves the point our former lt. governor was making three years ago: the interest of politicians in these entities is enormous, and we have the corporate governance code to protect them against said politicians.
Does it really work? We know that MP Leroy de Weever would see the corporate governance council go today rather than tomorrow; we know that Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger thinks that this council and other advisory bodies hamper his work. That is of course an opinion politicians are entitled to entertain, but it is a mystery how they are able to combine their point of view with their consent to subject the country to financial supervision. After all, the Board for financial supervision is also charged with keeping an eye on the implementation of good corporate governance practices.
So those marching orders? They’re an interesting sound bite, and they make a nice headline, but they won’t lead to anything. The term hot air comes to mind.

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