The real problem

Dear Sir,

  For the man in the St. Maarten street who does not particularly care whether St. Maarten has a seat at the United Nations but is more interested in whether the economy will not fall apart and the level of poverty on the island does not increase, it is not easy to grasp the challenge of Dutch aid and efforts at control and implementation of governance reforms.

  It requires a look back at the last 10 years that the Kingdom relationship has existed. The fundamental characteristic is that the Kingdom government, together with island leaders, designed the governance of St. Maarten on the basis of the Dutch national system of governance with all the bells and whistles associated with that. Governance systems vary and each has its strengths and weaknesses and few people have said that the Dutch model is particularly bad.

  There is hard evidence, however, that it is not working optimally in St. Maarten. Whilst the institutions function formally in large measure, the results of their efforts have been consistently underperforming. This relates to the top authority being parliament to the advice institutions and the executive branch.

  Some of this underperformance is clearly a result of it being new and every expectation is that time will lead to some improvement. But much of it is because the St. Maarten population has not embraced the Dutch models in a manner that would allow this optimization. These institutions require to be intensely supported if they are successful. The system is not theirs and the optimization will only occur when the systems are fully embraced. That is a complex, subtle and difficult goal to achieve.

  The apparent goal of the COHO is by having greater control to enhance the effectiveness of critical governance areas to achieve this optimization. The identification of what the critical areas are is not the subject of dispute.

  Our problem is that there is no reason to believe that a more controlling approach to improved governance is going to work. Many of the past collaboration and support efforts have not worked optimally. Why should this more controlling approach be successful? Will it create more resistance or is it the final push that will make things work and get us over the bump?

  The approach seems to lack any strategy other than “push harder” and this may lead to a result of “push back harder”.

Robbie Ferron