Dutch State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen addresses the media after Friday’s Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting. At right, St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus. (Otti Thomas photo)
THE HAGUE--The Kingdom Council of Ministers on Friday, February 25, approved the eighth tranche of liquidity support for the first quarter of 2022 for Aruba for an amount of 12 million Aruban florins.
Only Aruba had requested liquidity support; Curaçao and St. Maarten should be able to make it this quarter without financial aid from the Netherlands.
Liquidity support and the associated conditions did not dominate Friday’s Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting. The meeting largely focused on the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
The Ministers Plenipotentiary of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten at the meeting asked Dutch Prime Minister, Chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, to keep the Caribbean part of the Kingdom informed on the developments in Ukraine. The Ministers Plenipotentiary sought specific attention for the consequences of higher fuel and food prices.
The grave concerns about the conflict in Ukraine had a big impact on the atmosphere at the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting. “It was not a pleasant meeting, because we have to deal with a situation that no one had predicted," said Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary Guillfred Besaril.
“We have asked to take the islands into account. With every decision that has to be taken, it is important to realise that this is not a decision for the Netherlands, but one for the entire Kingdom. That was our message today,” said Besaril.
Curaçao Minister Plenipotentiary Carlson Manuel mentioned the concerns about the rising energy prices, but also referred to the Venezuelan support for Russia. Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro recently stated that he stands behind Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Manuel noted that Curaçao and Aruba are located next to Venezuela. “The Dutch government is taking this fact into account. Prime Minister Rutte is still in talks. We will get more information once this is available,” he said.
St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary Rene Violenus expressed support for Aruba’s and Curaçao’s stance. “The Dutch government has to take the developments on the islands into consideration. Just like the other two countries, St. Maarten is dealing with the Dutch condition of benefit cuts, but we might not even be able to afford anything in the near future due to the inflation. We need to keep engaged in talks about this,” Violenus told the media after Friday’s meeting.
Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen who arrived back in the Netherlands on Thursday after a 14-day introductory visit to the islands also addressed the conflict in Ukraine and the possible consequences for the islands.
“The Russian invasion in the first place is terrible for the Ukraine people, but the problem gets closer when it concerns the energy prices. Energy prices are already very high on all islands. But could even rise further. Then there are concerns about the support from Venezuela. These are topics that we need to discuss thoroughly,” said Van Huffelen.
Due to the conflict in Ukraine, the matter of liquidity support for the Dutch Caribbean countries was only briefly discussed at Friday’s meeting. The Aruba government announced shortly afterwards that its request to receive Afl. 12 million in liquidity support for the first quarter of 2022 had been approved.
Aruba has met all conditions and is very grateful for the liquidity support which will help to pay the bills, stated Aruba Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes. She clarified that initially, Aruba had requested a higher amount.
However, at the start of this year, Aruba still had some money in the bank, which led the Aruba Committee for Financial Supervision CAFT to conclude that Aruba did not need the full amount. Wever-Croes explained that the funds at the bank were the result of the payment of liquidity support in December last year and were not earmarked for January 2022. “We tried to explain this to the CAFT, but to no avail,” she said.
Minister Plenipotentiary Besaril stated that there was almost an accord on the eighth tranche of liquidity support for Aruba, meant for the second quarter of this year. He said that Aruba and the Netherlands only had to agree on the evaluation of the previous tranche. Aruba does not completely agree with the formulation, but that should not keep the countries from reaching an agreement, said Besaril.
Wever-Croes stated in a press release that the Netherlands would set one or more conditions for the next tranche. She explained that the next liquidity tranche was very important because it is from this zero-per cent loan that Aruba will have to pay half of the vacation allowance for the public sector employees.