July 8, 2021 THE HAGUE - Dutch caretaker Prime Minister (PM) Mark Rutte has no objections to the decision of caretaker Undersecretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops to defer the April 23 resolution of the Kingdom Council of Ministers with regard to the payment of Naf. 38 million of liquidity support to St. Maarten.
The PM stated this in response to written questions from Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Jorien Wuite of the Democratic Party D66, Don Ceder of the ChristianUnion, Laura Bromet of the green left party GroenLinks, Frank Wassenberg of the Party for Animals PvdD and Sylvana Simons of the BIJ1 party.
According to Rutte, the “very worrisome developments with regard to corporate governance” at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) after the April 23 Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting made the undersecretary decide to again present the earlier decision in a changed format to the Kingdom Council of Ministers for new decision-taking.
“The undersecretary carries the ministerial responsibility for Kingdom Relations and he informed me early May of his intention to again present the fifth liquidity support tranche to the Kingdom Council of Ministers,” stated Rutte.
Responding to the questions of the Members of Parliament (MPs) about the Rules of Procedure of the Dutch Council of Ministers being relevant to the Kingdom Council of Ministers, Rutte confirmed that the regulation of the Council of Ministers was indeed applicable to the Kingdom Council of Ministers. He said he saw “no reason to change” the Rules of Procedure of the Council of Ministers.
The PM explained that changed facts and circumstances can be a reason for an earlier decision to be resubmitted in an adapted format to the Kingdom Council of Ministers. He reconfirmed that in the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting of May 28, it was decided to change the earlier decision of April 23, with regard to the fifth liquidity support tranche due to the integrity issues at the airport.
After Undersecretary Knops informed him of his intention to resubmit the liquidity support request to the kingdom government, Rutte also chaired a meeting with the responsible ministers/undersecretary for Kingdom Relations where the matter in question was discussed. As Chairman of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, Rutte, at Knops’ request, placed the subject of the fifth tranche on the agenda of the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
“In case there are new or changed facts or circumstances, this can be a reason to retract a decision that was taken earlier. Such facts and circumstances were applicable in this specific case. Since it concerned a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers, it was up to the Kingdom Council of Ministers to take the changed decision and for this reason, it was again placed on the agenda,” stated Rutte.
In his reply, Rutte provided some background information as to the reasons for withholding the fifth tranche. As part of the country package which St. Maarten co-signed in December 2020, it was agreed, among other things, that St. Maarten would ensure the “continuance of vital processes,” including the airport operations and the implementation of the advice of the Corporate Governance Taskforce to improve corporate governance at government-owned companies.
“As the undersecretary wrote in his letter to the Second Chamber of May 26 and 28, the airport repeatedly violated the scope of good governance. St. Maarten’s prime minister also acknowledged that the hands-off approach by the government as airport shareholder has resulted in severe issues with regard to good governance. Through government’s lack of action, St. Maarten has failed to comply with two agreements from the country package,” stated Rutte.
According to the Dutch PM, this way of handling by the St. Maarten government caused a “substantial risk” for achieving good governance, while at the same time the “execution of the entire airport reconstruction was put in jeopardy and vital processes were put in danger in the long run.”
On June 17, Undersecretary Knops informed the Second Chamber that the payment of the fifth tranche to St. Maarten would take place because the actions that the local government had taken gave him, PM Rutte and Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra “sufficient confidence.”