THE HAGUE - It seems out of the question that an agreement will be reached in the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) on Friday about new corona loans to Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten. In a debate with the Second Chamber Committee on Kingdom Relations today, Undersecretary Knops stated that "he hoped" that agreement will be reached within a few weeks, but he said he could not provide any certainty about this.
Time is running out: Aruba and Curaçao may no longer be able to meet their payment obligations such as paying civil servants' salaries by the end of this month. Knops made no mistake about the fact that the countries are only eligible for new loans after there is consensus on the conditions. He can count on Parliament-wide support in this regard.
The talks that have been held with Curaçao and Aruba since mid-July have led to nothing more than minor adjustments, not enough for the governments to say "yes" now. Because Sint Maarten has still not met the conditions attached to the second tranche, no substantive consultations are currently being held with that country about a new loan.
The Undersecretary emphasized once again that the Netherlands has no other intention than to help the countries. The conditions do not affect autonomy - according to him there is no question of autonomy given the situation in which the countries find themselves - but are actually intended to give the countries back their autonomy. This requires reforms and these can only be realized with many hundreds of millions to perhaps more than a billion in aid from the Netherlands. According to Knops, this support consists not only of loans at 0 percent interest, but also of tens of millions in investments.
The Undersecretary denied that the parliaments of the countries are being sidelined. The consensus kingdom law under development will follow the usual procedure. After agreement on the content has been reached in the RMR, the bill is submitted to the Council of State for advice. The advice is then discussed in the RMR, based on which a decision can be made if necessary. The final version, together with the advice of the Council of State, is sent to all four parliaments for consideration.
Knops promised to continue to fund humanitarian aid unconditionally "for as long as necessary". For the period up to 31 December, the Netherlands has donated 40 million euros in humanitarian aid - in addition to the medical facilities - which, under the direction of the Red Cross, is spent by local NGOs on food packages. At the moment, 70,000 residents of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten make use of this. This number is expected to increase even further in the near future.