‘Born again IMF’ers’

Kashaka a bòltu! (the tables have turned, in Papiamento). The same political party that used to be fiercely opposed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) now wants to put aside the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development (Coho), and has firmly embraced the IMF along with its larger coalition partner.

This is the same IMF that was the protagonist in the failed 2000-2001 reform program. At the time, this party was of the opinion that it would be better for the Netherlands Antilles to enter into a direct relationship with the Netherlands instead of the neoliberal club of the IMF, which is known for privatization, less government and more private sector.

Moreover, compared to the Netherlands, the IMF has too little "know-how" about the islands. The president of the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles (BNA) also doubted the correct management of the program by a three-member Netherlands-IMF-Netherlands Antilles- 'body' (The Netherlands Antilles after six years of adjustments efforts with the IMF: A critical evaluation , December 12, 2001). We now suddenly have to deal with a group of "born again IMF’ers who are going to free us from the clutches of The Hague.

Why this drastic change? The IMF has certainly not changed its position. It is still an institute that advises on monetary stability, balance of payments and free markets, i.e. mainly on financial and monetary policy. It is not a development fund, which I believe should be central to our situation. It is striking that precisely those who, during the last campaign, openly argued against neoliberalism and promised the people a social heart, now want to join forces with the neoliberal IMF, which is not a specialist in institutional reform, socio-economic issues, and sustainable development.

It has been proven worldwide that human development and progress is only possible with a solid development agenda. Financial policy is an important condition for economic growth, but it does not automatically lead to development.

My experience with the United Nations has taught me that the most important pillars for human development are: sustainable strengthening of its own institutional capacity, sustainable and solid democratic foundations and the rule of law. In other words, one must always ask oneself the following question: "When the aid organizations are no longer there, can I stand on my own two feet as a country?"

The end game should be sustainability and self-reliance. If not, we will endlessly continue to borrow, cut back and raise taxes to pay off the loans. Unlike countries that used to receive aid and are now self-reliant, we have never really cared about strengthening our implementation and institutional capacity, especially the (semi-) governmental apparatus.

The envisaged trajectory of the new Fòrti (Fort Amsterdam) club will therefore open the doors wide to large numbers of consultants. Regardless of whether The Hague accepts the IMF, I am pessimistic. After all, the COHO is a creation of the Dutch Ministry of the Interior, which has no experience with development aid. Dutch development projects usually come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (BZ).

Why not the participation of BZ if we simply want a development program on both sides of the ocean? To make matters worse, we also want to bring in the IMF, which is not a development agency, and create a "triad of confusion".

Pessimistic after the person who acts as the economic strategist of the new cabinet announces to the people that a brand new, yet secret Plan B is now on the table. What is not a secret is that, according to him, Dutch help (and control) is no longer considered necessary.

The two groups that will soon be moving to Fòrti together have found each other well in their shared "anti-Netherlands dogma" instead of focusing on a sound development program for Curaçao.

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