Sunday marks 11 years after the former Netherlands Antilles was dismantled, for Curaçao and St. Maarten to become so-called autonomous countries within the Dutch Kingdom, comparable to Aruba’s “separate status” when it left the Antillean constellation per 1986. Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba were integrated into the European Netherlands as special municipalities.
Some might say things have only gotten worse since, but that is a bit too easy. The islands all saw significant development and economic growth, may it not always have been combined with sufficient social progress.
That problem stems from long before 10-10-10, as does the lack of sound financial management. In fact, the latter contributed to St. Maarten not being able to fully benefit from debt relief that accompanied the constitutional changes in the first place.
On average, the Dutch Caribbean islands can still be considered reasonably prosperous, also judging by how many come from especially the region to look for a better existence and lines at money transfer offices to send cash to family back home. Although wages are experienced as relatively low compared to prices including for rent and utilities, opportunities for gainful employment and/or business ventures were created in the past two decades.
Governmental instability has been an issue certainly in St. Maarten with elections about every two instead of four years, while the number of politicians accused of improprieties is a major concern. Nevertheless, local authorities with assistance from The Hague where needed have managed to steer the community through some major crises including the devastating hurricanes of September 2017 and this ongoing unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
It looks like a meaningful recovery from the latter is finally starting in earnest, based on cautiously optimistic forecasts regarding stayover, cruise as well as yachting tourism. This will take some time to translate into widespread enhanced wellbeing, but the prospect is at least there.
No doubt, much room remains for improvement. However, under the – often daunting – circumstances, one may justifiably choose to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Happy Constitution Day.