THE HAGUE--The liberal democratic VVD party, the Socialist Party (SP) and the Party for Freedom PVV, together representing a significant part of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, are against the idea that Curaçao and St. Maarten can take capital loans now that their budgets have been approved by the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT.
Members of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD), Ronald van Raak (SP) and Sietse Fritsma (PVV) said during a debate in the Second Chamber with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Thursday that there were still too many "grey areas" to have a complete overview of the government finances of Curaçao and St. Maarten.
According to the Members of Parliament (MPs), there is not sufficient financial information regarding the government-owned companies in Curaçao and St. Maarten for the CFT to take a balanced decision as to whether the two countries should be able to contract capital loans.
Especially the financial situation and reported debts of various Curaçao government- owned companies is a source of concern for the Second Chamber. The true debt of, for example, Aqualectra is "invisible," said Bosman.
Bosman said this lack of information constituted a "risk," because in the end the Netherlands would be duped in case of large debts at the government-owned companies, and countries not being able to repay their debts. "That cannot be true. The fact that government companies persist in withholding information is a sign," he said.
Van Raak questioned St. Maarten government-owned companies' willingness to provide financial information. "Having a complete picture of the government-owned companies is necessary to form an honest opinion on the financial situation of government. As the Second Chamber we have been asking for this information for several years," he said.
"Apparently the CFT can operate in a grey area. This is unclear and undesirable, also because the Netherlands is obliged to subscribe to loans of the countries," said Fritsma of the PVV. He said he had "little confidence" in the islands' solid financial future. He asked explicitly for a plan of approach to improve St. Maarten's liquidity position and suggested increasing the pensionable age on the island.
Ronald van Raak asked specifically whether there was information available on St. Maarten's harbour, a government-owned company with "a lot of money." He also said he was under the impression that these companies played a role in politicians financing.
Minister Plasterk did not go into details on the St. Maarten harbour, but said there was more information available on the government-owned companies than before. "There is progress," he said.
Bosman said he found it unacceptable that Curaçao recently received the go-ahead to issue a loan and that St. Maarten most likely would do the same. In his opinion, Curaçao and St. Maarten should be allowed to take capital loans only when they have complied with all requirements of the Financial Supervision Law and "not solely on the advice of the CFT."
The VVD MP referred to the CFT's most recent semi-annual report in which concerns were expressed about the financial position of Curaçao's government-owned companies and the fact that St. Maarten so far has not executed the announced measures to increase its revenues.
Bosman cited the "worsening of St. Maarten's liquidity position, poor financial management and financially far from being in order." He further mentioned that, according to the CFT, the annual accounts of Curaçao and St. Maarten had not been approved and the legal terms of the entire audit process had not been met. "And in this context we talk about the Netherlands subscribing to loans on the advice of the CFT?"
Bosman and his colleague of the VVD Mark Harbers have submitted written questions to Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem on this matter. The MPs asked the minister whether he had been informed about Curaçao's loan request of NAf. 60 million and the positive advice of the CFT.
Bosman and Harbers also wanted to know whether the minister had double-checked that Curaçao had complied with all requirements of the Financial Supervision Law. They further asked the minister whether he shared the VVD's opinion that a loan for Curaçao was not justified considering the risks involved as a result of "poor financial management."