Wescot-Williams wants discussion on future of Central Bank partnership

POSTED: 06/3/11 7:13 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams says the three letters Finance Minister Hiro Shigemoto sent to President of the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten are aimed at ensuring that the country is optimally prepared for “any eventuality.”
Shigemoto’s letters include instructions not to encumber St. Maarten’s share of the bank’s assets in investments that are not approved by the finance minister and that Tromp should ensure that the branch in Philipsburg is fully functional by January 1, 2012. That latter request is part of the bank’s charter and is part of the agreement between Curacao and St. Maarten for the establishment of a joint Central Bank.
“I reiterate these points as communicated to the President of the Central Bank because it is the decision and the desire of the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten that while we hope for a speedy resolution of the situation surrounding the Central Bank, we also believe that it behooves St. Maarten to be prepared for any eventuality in the area of Central Bank and the joint monetary system between Curacao and St. Maarten,” the prime minister said.
Having a fully functioning Central Bank here will allow St. Maarten to do more than the “very little being done now” and will give content to the plan that was crafted for a fully functioning and independent Central Bank operation here in St. Maarten. The upgrades will include adding personnel with particular expertise in the supervisory task of a Central Bank on a country’s financial sector.
Though the finance minister has requested that Tromp not make any investments using the country’s share of the Central Bank’s assets without his permission, the prime minister has revealed there is not mechanism for the government to stop him from doing so.
“No, there is no mechanism as such. The whole operation of the Central Bank is turning around the appointment of the Supervisory Board of Directors. Not much can happen. The Central Bank director, outside of what has transpired, has already been saying that without the Supervisory Board of Directors, there’s not much that he can do for the bank, but we also know that what might be considered daily operation of the bank could affect St. Maarten and if the president of the Central Bank gets such a letter on behalf of the Government of St. Maarten and does not respect it, then the problem that we have is even greater than we think we have,” Wescot-Williams said.
Shigemoto has also sent a letter requesting that the Government of Curacao name its candidate for Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors. St. Maarten has put forward the name of Martin Hassink and Curacao needs to put forward a candidate so the ministers of finance can craft a joint proposal. The six Board members – three from St. Maarten and three from Curacao – have been approved and will take the oath before both Governor Eugene Holiday of St. Maarten and Governor Frits Goedgedrag of Curacao soon.

Controversy
The prime minister also confirmed on Wednesday that her government continues to monitor discussions about the ongoing row between the Government of Curacao and Tromp. Tromp has filed an official compliant of corruption against three members of the Schotte cabinet and they have filed a complaint of blackmail. The row began when news broke that Tromp had been granted an unsecured loan of 4 million guilders that was used by his girlfriend to set up two stores in the Renaissance Mall in Willemstad. Some 400, 000 dollars from that amount was transferred into the account of the ET Pension Fund Foundation.
The entire affair was discussed in the Kingdom Council of Ministers on Wednesday and Wescot-Williams expected to get a briefing on the formal outcomes from St. Maarten’s Minister Plenipotentiary in the Hague Mathias Voges.
“What has transpired, and seemingly it’s not over yet, is quite worrisome for St. Maarten for especially an institution that is the joint Central Bank,” the prime minister said.

Future of partnership
The prime minister also stressed on Wednesday that the Governments of St. Maarten and Curacao must meet soon to discuss the future of the Central Bank and the monetary system, based on comments made by several members of government in Curacao. She said this after noting comments made by Curacao’s Finance Minister Geoge “Jorge” Jamaloodin. Those comments include that Curacao was forced into an agreement on St. Maarten because the former government was trying to secure funds from the Dutch government and that within two weeks he’ll be requesting a delay in the implementation of the Dutch Caribbean guilder.
“St. Maarten will eventually have to deal with these as well, once communicated by the Government of Curacao. In this context it is the Government of Curacao that is the speaking partner for St. Maarten,” the prime minister said.
She added, “Finally when we are at the point of having the supervisory board appointed, other matters have surfaced now that again we are putting the operation of the Central Bank in jeopardy. So the basis of the agreement is definitely not a situation of the Netherlands Antilles, however it is that we are in this together and I look forward to a serious discussion with the government of Curacao with regards to its intentions, its plans, its ideas and St. Maarten will put the same on the table. Maybe we should consider what has happened in the last couple of days and even months with regards to the Central Bank a lesson in terms of how we go forward, because we definitely can’t continue this type of operation of the Central Bank going into the future, because it’s not good for any of the countries.”
The discussion is the key for the prime minister, because should the partnership no longer be desirable the two governments will have to decide how to move forward. Wescot-Williams expects some clarity already from the discussion that was held in the Kingdom Council of Ministers on Wednesday and the response to the letters that were sent to the Central Bank director.
“I think if both countries come to that conclusion (ending the partnership), then we should immediately take up a discussion in order to get new arrangements going. Because then we’d have to come back on agreements already made and revisit all of that, but I think if this is the strong feeling of at least one partner…then regardless to who that partnership would emanate from, then let’s talk about it and cut it as quickly as we can and go on and go on because of the agreements that are in place. Then let us decide to agree to disagree on the matter of the Central Bank for Curacao and St. Maarten,” Wescot-Williams said.
With regards to the agreement concerning the Central Bank the prime minister explained that while the agreement for the Central Bank between Curacao and St. Maarten was signed by all parties at the November 2, 2006 conference and other meetings, the working out of the details and implementation of that agreement was left to the two governments. The prime minister also explained that Curacao cannot unilaterally decide to delay the implementation of the new currency.

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