Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath (left), Minister of Public Health Suzy Camelia-Römer and Finance Minister Kenneth Gijsbertha (right) outside the Ministry of General Affairs where the Kingdom Council of Ministers met on Friday.
THE HAGUE--The Curaçao government is off the hook where it concerns an instruction of the Kingdom government, at least for now. The Kingdom Council of Ministers decided on Friday to postpone giving Willemstad an instruction to get its financial household in order and to take drastic austerity measures.
The Kingdom Council of Ministers, which met in the presence of Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath, showed mercy mainly because of the immense impact the crisis in Venezuela has on Curaçao. State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and the Curaçao government were given three weeks to fix things financially and economically.
The Kingdom Council of Ministers will meet again on July 5 to decide on a mutual arrangement which will contain concrete agreements on the necessary structural reforms by Curaçao in areas such as the economy, government finances and the public administration, the Dutch Government Information Service RVD stated in a press release.
The Dutch government will support Willemstad in this complex endeavour. This support will be directly tied to the speed with which the Curaçao government will carry out the necessary reforms. The Committee for Financial Supervision CFT had advised the Kingdom government to issue an instruction.
Rhuggenaath and Knops were content with the result of Friday’s meeting. “The instruction is not entirely off the table, but we appreciate that there is leeway to come to a solid agreement. We will make good use of this leeway,” Rhuggenaath told the awaiting media.
Knops mentioned the situation in Venezuela. “Curaçao is facing great challenges because of Venezuela. The crisis has an immense impact and we are willing to take a serious look at that aspect. That means that today we didn’t take a decision, but that we will continue to talk about a mutual understanding in the coming three weeks,” he said.
Rhuggenaath said about that agreement: “It does not only concern tenable finances, but also other areas. Our economy is about 20 per cent dependent on Venezuela. The crisis in Venezuela makes it necessary to come with a recovery programme that includes a diversification of our economy.”
Five prominent persons of Curaçao descent sent an urgent letter to the Kingdom Council of Ministers on Thursday in an ultimate attempt to convince the Kingdom government to refrain from giving Curaçao an instruction.
The letter was signed by former Acting Secretary of the Curaçao Council of Ministers Eugene Boeldak, psychiatrist and former Chairman of the Ocan Foundation for Dutch Caribbean persons in the Netherlands Glenn Helberg, former Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Cynthia Ortega-Martijn, former Minister Plenipotentiary Roy Pieters and Chairman of the SPLIKA grass roots organisation Ruben Severina.
The five persons asked the Kingdom Council of Ministers to refrain from giving an instruction, but instead to work with the Curaçao government to set a “more realistic” time frame to stimulate the economy and reorganise the government finances.
It was suggested that the Kingdom government could seek the advice of the Council of State, the Dutch General Audit Chamber, the Evaluation committee Kingdom Law Financial Supervision and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It was pointed out in the letter that the contention between State Secretary Knops and Prime Minister Rhuggenaath was not the need to improve the financial management, but the speed with which the austerity measures should be carried out.
The Dutch government wants Curaçao to reduce expenditures by NAf. 122 million in the second half of 2019, and another NAf. 169.5 million in the years 2020 to 2022 to compensate the 2017 and 2018 deficits. Also, all debts to the Curaçao Pension Fund APC and the Social Insurance Bank SVB should be paid by 2022.
Financial experts, including the IMF, agree with the Rhuggenaath government that economic recovery is necessary in order to gain sustainable control over the government finances, and that severe austerity measures will hurt the already frail economy.
According to the five persons who wrote the letter, giving Curaçao an instruction could have many adverse effects: a further economic deterioration due to a lack of trust by foreign and local investors; the migration of many Curaçaoleneans to the Netherlands; fewer financial means for education, health care and the assistance for the growing number of Venezuelan refugees; the pressure on public safety; a further infringement of Curaçao’s autonomy; and an increase in unemployment, poverty and crime.