April 18, 2020 THE HAGUE - Solidarity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a lovely principle, but it needs to be mutual and equally invested in by all partners, according to Member of the Second Camber of the Dutch Parliament Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA.
“One of the most beautiful articles in our Charter is article 36 which states that the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten help and support each other. That is the core of the principle of solidarity within the Kingdom. In cases of hardship, you help each other. And that hardship is definitely present,” said Van Dam.
Van Dam noted that based on this solidarity principle, the Netherlands has already taken several measures. “Free of charge,” he said, mentioning 42 Intensive Care units, medical expertise and teams, equipment and supplies, support from Defence with people and means, including the largest ship Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman, extension of the police assistance in St. Maarten.
“And, for the coming six weeks a loan, without conditions, against zero per cent interest, to be repaid in two year, whereby State Secretary Raymond Knops didn’t exclude that he is open to talk about turning this into a grant at the end of the trajectory,” said Van Dam.
The member of Parliament (MP) said that he was all in favour of solidarity. However, that principle needs to be applied by both sides of the ocean. “Whoever thought that true solidarity can only materialise in the form of an unconditional grant from the Netherlands, needs to realise that solidarity is a mutual principle. And they also need to consider that despite multiple warnings, the Caribbean countries did insufficient to improve their financial immune system.”
Van Dam remarked that various entities have repeatedly pointed out the need for reform: the Committees for Financial Supervision, the Dutch government, Dutch MPs, the International Monetary Fund. Trimming down the governmental apparatus, getting the public finances in order, increasing the pensionable age, reducing the salaries of elected officials, tackling corruption, especially in St. Maarten.
While the coronavirus is most certainly the catalyser of the current economic hardship, it is not the only cause, stated Van Dam. “The resilience of the countries needs to be strengthened, and we already know for years what is necessary to achieve that. Nobody should be surprised that with the need for support growing, the Netherlands will want to give content to the mutual aspect of solidarity. This, in aid of the countries, to tackle the true causes.”
Van Dam said he was a real support of financially assisting the Dutch Caribbean countries. “But on a mutual basis. And that mutuality means that the countries really get to work with reform.” He noted that setting conditions was also applied in granting European subsidies: setting conditions for the state of law, financial management and budget regulations. “That is not Dutch stinginess, but a way to help each other.”
The MP reiterated that the coronavirus also hit the Dutch economy very hard and that the number of unemployment allowances has increased by 40 per cent. He said it could not be explained to the Dutch taxpayer that the hardships and reforms of the past years, including an increase of the pensionable age, would not apply to countries that receive financial support. “Even if this is within our own Kingdom.”
Unity is of utmost importance at this moment, both within the Kingdom and within the countries, said Van Dam. “Just as in the Netherlands an opposition minister of the Labour Party has joined the cabinet, I hope that the members of the Committees for Financial Supervision show unity, that the MEP and AVP parties will build Aruba together, that the income freeze will collectively be embraced in Curaçao and that in St. Maarten the general interest will dominate in politics,” he stated.
Van Dam’s final call: “Let’s support each other within the Kingdom as family members, in good and bad times, but to also always tell each other the truth. And let’s not see this beautiful article 36 as a one-way street, but as a mutual principle.”