Hidden benefit

Curaçao and Aruba reached agreement with the Netherlands on execution agendas for their respective “country packages” of restructuring measures (see related story) as condition for continued liquidity support. Although it concerns improvements in several areas, exactly what this entails is unclear at least without studying the actual content.

Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath spoke of a good balance between reforms and investments, while his Aruban counterpart Evelyn Wever-Croes called it a “dynamic agenda” but warned to be realistic, staying in agreement on the next steps. The implementation schedule was also referred to as a “living document” not set-in-stone that could be adapted along the way.

Some of the plans will be released “after the necessary assessments.” This would seem to indicate adjustments can still be made according to the findings and it is important to have sufficient local input with practical on-the-ground knowledge during that process.

However, the coming period will clearly be no walk in the park. When one mentions, for example, a “robust tax system with a broad basis and fair distribution of income,” that sounds quite far-reaching in a society traditionally characterized by free enterprise rather than government intervention in the market.

Nevertheless, both Dutch Caribbean countries apparently recognize the need for these measures and accompanying financial assistance in the current unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, with their tourism economies not expected to reach prior levels for a while. There was talk of economic resilience, but – again – how it will work remains very much to be seen.

Perhaps St. Maarten lagging a bit behind because it signed up later has a hidden benefit of monitoring how things go on the other two islands first. After all, the proof of the pudding is usually in the eating.

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