The latest news coming out of The Hague does not bode well for current political ties within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Caretaker Dutch Undersecretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops has halted any further COVID-19 crisis-related liquidity support to Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. Thankfully the latter two don’t need any for the first quarter of 2022, but they will later in the year to cover their foreseen deficits.
All three had thus – again – asked to be exempted from the balanced budget rule, which the Financial Supervision Act provides for in the event of a calamity such as the pandemic. The Committees for Financial Supervision CFT (Curaçao and St. Maarten) and CAFT (Aruba) had already given their blessings.
However, approval of amendments to the proposed law establishing the Caribbean Entity for Reform and Development COHO that must supervise the execution of restructuring measures in the so-called country packages suddenly became an additional demand and a part was even included in the draft budget deviation decision, while the respective parliaments including that of the Netherlands are still to agree. The Dutch Caribbean countries therefore requested a postponement until the next Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR meeting on January 21.
Conditions for continued soft loans including work on the packages are basically being met. There is also a Temporary Work Organization (TWO) that can be considered a prelude to the COHO, so the necessary preparations were taking place despite delay in establishing the new body.
It will be interesting to see how Dutch delegation members at the upcoming Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation IPKO scheduled for January, before the RMR, react to this latest development. Equally intriguing is who will handle Kingdom Relations in the Rutte IV Cabinet now being formed in The Hague, with the same coalition parties as the outgoing government, but shifts in the balance of power (legislative seats) between them.
For example, there have been reports that the state secretary of Kingdom Relations will no longer be combined with Home Affairs and placed in charge of Digitization too. Time will tell exactly who and what, but by early next year there could be significant – and perhaps welcome – changes in the way matters regarding the islands are handled further.