Despite somewhat bumpy relations with The Hague, today’s virtual Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultations IPKO and the upcoming visit by Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops ought to be viewed as opportunities to improve these. Fact is that the three Dutch Caribbean countries currently cannot do without extra financial assistance from the Netherlands, which has set far-reaching conditions for coronavirus-related soft loans.
The idea is obviously to better balance government cost and income, enhance efficiency and restructure the economy to make it less vulnerable and more resilient to major shocks already experienced like hurricane-hits, pandemics and turmoil including the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US. However, whatever austerity and other measures are taken may not jeopardise a full restoration of the dominant hospitality industries in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.
The latter process has thankfully started fairly promisingly here, judging from the number of planes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) and yachts sailing into Simpson Bay Lagoon. Nevertheless, it will be a while before this positive development translates into enough earnings to become self-sufficient again.
Tourism remains “everybody’s business” and no Caribbean Body for Reform and Development COHO is going to suddenly change that, nor should it want to. Diversification certainly seems desirable, but for now entertaining vacationers is “what the islands do” and must – above all – continue doing well.
However, there are risks, such as Curaçao recently going from travel code yellow to orange in the Netherlands. Even worse, the new highly-contagious variant of COVID-19 discovered in England has made its way to five states in the US, by far the biggest visitor source market of both St. Maarten and Aruba.
So, the recovery is still quite fragile and depends on many factors. Precisely at this time of unprecedented crisis, politicians of the Dutch Kingdom must try to stand together no matter how difficult that might be, in defence of all its citizens.