Very few people venture outside in The Hague. Under normal circumstances, this large square called “Plein”, located in front of the Second Chamber, is very busy. The buildings of various ministries can be seen in the background. (Suzanne Koelega photo)
THE HAGUE--The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament is seeking clarity from the Dutch government about the Netherlands providing assistance to the Dutch Caribbean during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Committee sent a list of no fewer than 82 questions to Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday, in response to his letter of March 25 in relation to the effects of the COVID-19 virus in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. The Committee compiled the list of questions based on the request of Members of Parliament (MPs) André Bosman of the liberal democrats VVD and Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA.
The Committee members asked about the assistance requests filed by Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. They asked for an overview of the requests and wanted to know to what extent and within what timeframe the Kingdom Council of Ministers would decide on them. The Kingdom Council of Ministers is scheduled to meet today, Friday, but the agenda of this meeting is never revealed.
“In what way can the Netherlands assist Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, based on Article 36 of the Kingdom Charter (mutual support)? How do you perceive the financial requests of the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten based on Article 36? What possibilities do you see to make a gesture to the countries to alleviate the financial/economic situation that has come under pressure because of the COVID-19 crisis?”
The Committee members asked about the autonomous position of the Dutch Caribbean countries. “To what extent is the Charter still applicable in these kinds of situations? Is this the end of the autonomy of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten? To what extent can the countries cope with a crisis like this on their own?”
The possibility for the countries to take loans on their own was asked about. “Are you willing to give a guarantee if the countries want to turn to the capital market to secure their financial position or for the refinancing of debts as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 crisis? Can the countries borrow on their own? How much room do they have?”
Minister Knops was asked whether he was willing to offer support to Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in the area of health care and economic deterioration. “If that is the case, what specific measures are being taken? If not, on which basis do you refuse assistance? Are you willing to provide tailor-made help based on the assistance they require? If so, in what way is the tailor-made assistance scheduled and executed? If not, why not?”
The Committee members wanted to know based on what conditions Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten wanted to receive or borrow money. “Will the financial assistance to the countries be in the form of budget support? If so, under what conditions? Does it concern liquidity support? If so, how much money is involved, and for how long would this support be needed?”
The Committee members wanted to know whether there were possibilities to deploy funding from the St. Maarten Trust Fund meant for the country’s reconstruction after Hurricane Irma, to combat the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Is it possible to use part of the funding from the St. Maarten Trust Fund to make strategic, effective investments to combat the COVID-19 crisis? The St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund, created in April 2018, still has to prepare and execute seven projects related to the island’s reconstruction. In what way can you contribute to a speedy execution of these projects?”
Knops was asked whether he was in touch with his French counterpart about the approach to tackle the crisis in St. Maarten/St. Martin and to see whether there were possibilities for cooperation between the two European countries in the interest of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
The Committee members enquired about the general health-care situation in the Dutch Caribbean. “Is medical care guaranteed for the residents of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom?” The situation at the prison was asked about. “What specific measures have been taken for the detention facilities? Is penitentiary medical care guaranteed in case the COVID-19 virus is found?”
The role of Defence was asked about. “Is Defence in the Caribbean, including the Coast Guard, sufficiently manned and equipped, also in a medical aspect, to provide assistance where needed to civil authorities? Is there a reason under the current circumstances to expand that capacity?”