WILLEMSTAD - On Friday, the Kingdom Council of Ministers will talk about corona support for Curaçao. The Netherlands is willing to help, but only under strict conditions. Not the right way, says Curaçao's Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath.
EARLY RETIREMENT SCHEME
At least what has been achieved is that the civil service has not grown, Rhuggenaath says with pride. The prime minister has legislation in place for early voluntary retirement of officials who normally retire at age 60. This concerns a relatively large group of civil servants who are partly not replaced.
“Covid has taught us - with everyone at home - that things can be done differently. Because all government services continued. That is why we have decided that three ministries must now work together for a structural operational cost reduction of 10 percent. But let us also learn from the past. In the 1990s, cuts were made earlier, in the middle of a recession, and this led to a flight of people to the Netherlands. We do not want that, then you shift the problem from one country to another. We really have to tailor everything here.”
Otherwise, tensions can run high, he says. In Willemstad, an angry mob stormed the government building Fort Amsterdam and the cabinet had to be brought to safety. Political opponents then sent Facebook messages to the world that Prime Minister Rhuggenaath had fled to Bonaire. Fake news. I was just on the island. I had my priorities in the right place.”
Worse than vandalism and looting is perhaps the damage to the reputation of the islands caused by the riots, Rhuggenaath fears. Just as the all-important tourist industry is getting ready to reopen after months of covid restrictions, the island is not waiting for images burning cars and buildings in the city.
Curaçao still has a problem with the negative image which is sometimes strengthened by Dutch Members of Parliament and from its own community; namely that all politicians are corrupt. Rhuggenaath says he wants to correct that image. “Where corruption surfaced, I combated it. I personally reported corruption to the refinery, which led to convictions. People have also been convicted at the Central Bank. My predecessor (Gerrit Schotte) has been convicted and is still in prison. So who are we talking about.”