Telegraaf newspaper deals St. Maarten another black eye: “Corruption-island” ducks Coast Guard funding

POSTED: 04/12/13 11:23 AM

St. Maarten – The Telegraaf, the largest daily with a circulation of around 500,000 copies, labeled St. Maarten yesterday as a “corruption-island” in the headline above a story by Bart Olmer and Alex de Vries about the proposed cuts in the Coast Guard budget.

According to the Telegraaf-reporters, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations is outraged because “St. Maarten refuses to pay its share in the costs for the Coast Guard in the Caribbean.”

The story states that Curacao, Aruba, St. Maarten and the Netherlands are together responsible for the funding of the Coast Guard. “St. Maarten has to contribute €1.6 million (around $2 million) but it has cut 1 million ($1.3 million) in the Coast Guard budget for this year.”

The newspaper got its figures slightly mixed up, because the draft 2013 budget shows that in 2012 $2.5 million was allocated to the Coast Guard and that the Justice Ministry proposes to cut it by $900,000 to $1.6 million for this year. The parliament still has to take a decision about this.

“The already modest Coast Guard presence is the only barrier for drugs smuggling via the sea,” Olmer and De Vries observe.

An unidentified spokesman at the Ministry of Home Affairs told the Telegraaf that the draconic budget cut St. Maarten wants are not allowed “because the distribution of the costs is cast in concrete” in agreements made in the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

“It turns out that St. Maarten still has not paid last year’s Coast Guard bill. “The Netherlands now threatens to end up with the increasing multi-million deficits. The Netherlands already pays the majority of the Coast Guard budget which has been established at €41 million ($53.3 million) this year,” the Telegraaf wrote.

Olmer and de Vries added that the American authorities are “not amused” about the planned budget cuts. “Internationally, Sint Maarten is already considered to be the key in the Caribbean to drugs smuggling, arms trade and money laundering constructions. Earlier it became public that the island government – already bogged down by corruption-cases and current investigations into possible bribery-cases – also severely cuts the budgets for the national detective agency, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police force.”

The newspaper quotes “a well-informed observer on the island” who says that the budget cuts at the coast Guard are symptomatic for the relationship with the Netherlands: “For other joint regulations budgetary agreements are not followed either. An example is the costs for the Common Court of Justice. St. Maarten does not pay that bill either.”

The Coast Guard in the Caribbean is directed from Curacao, where the management, staff and the rescue and coordination center are housed. The Coast Guard has support stations in St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao and at Hato airport in Willemstad.

Olmer and De Vries quote an anonymous source: “You cannot just take a million out of that budget. The rock-hard agreements that have been made have not changed and I find it hard to believe that the Coast Guard suddenly became cheaper. This puts a risk on the Dutch budget because the Netherlands will not be able to collect the promised funds from St. Maarten.”

The parliament in Philipsburg begins its discussions about the 2013 budget on Monday.

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  1. says:

    Steven Brown: “I have seen another world. Sometimes I think it was just my imagination.”