The bigger picture

The bigger picture

It’s been awfully quiet regarding relations between the Netherlands and St. Maarten these days, no doubt due in part to the summer recess of both Parliaments. There is urgent business to handle, however, particularly with the Kingdom Council of Ministers RMR.
St. Maarten had requested additional COVID-19 crisis liquidity support for the third quarter now halfway gone, backed by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT. However, a desire to start phasing out the related 12.5% (semi-) public sector benefits reduction was tied to loan conditions that could not – yet – be complied with.
The three Dutch Caribbean countries shared that predicament, but each still gave something back to their government personnel over the summer, namely Curaçao with a one-time NAf. 1,750 “compensation” gross, Aruba by restoring 5% of its 12.6% cut and St. Maarten through a 6% vacation allowance payment. They did so, lacking the approval of CFT (CAFT for Aruba) and against the wishes of Kingdom Relations State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen.
This burning issue thus remains squarely on the RMR’s table, at the risk of resulting in an undesirable impasse. Looking at the actual amounts involved and justification for their respective moves by authorities in Willemstad, Oranjestad and Philipsburg alike, both from a budgetary and humane point of view, that should not be allowed to happen.
Raging inflation prompted mostly by the war in Europe was a sufficiently valid argument to begin ending this austerity measure after two whole years, as Van Huffelen herself also acknowledged. These are consequently not things that could have waited any longer for further deliberation but had to be done now to provide some much-needed relief.
Even in the Netherlands a loss of purchase power due to the steep rise in consumer prices there has become a major political “hot potato” and more possible mitigating actions are being discussed. Surely the relatively small financial gesture made on the islands towards public servants can never be enough reason to derail their promising economic recovery, not just from the pandemic but from closure of the oil refineries in Aruba and Curaçao as well as Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten.
Under these circumstances, it is extremely important for all parties concerned to keep a firm eye on the bigger picture.

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