MP Wescot-Williams: NA/UPP governing coalition in denial of the COHO and country package realities

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“The COHO trajectory will continue to be one of mistrust, finger pointing and attempts to shame, notwithstanding the professed good intentions.”

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Member of Parliament, Sarah Wescot-Williams is convinced that the government itself is in denial of the approaches it agreed to as part of the country package, or it is that they do not (want to) understand that this is a new ball game, of which the government is no longer solely in charge.

MP Wescot: “As I observe government recent actions and take keen note of the plans of approach resulting from the country package, the government seems in total denial.
This makes me conclude that either the government as a whole is not aware of the plans coming out of the Temporary Work Organization (COHO in formation), or they feel it is still business as usual.”

It is now crystal clear why the government and its support in parliament were so adamant about the passing of the 2022 budget. It is also very clear why nothing was said by the Prime Minister regarding the government’s approval of the last hurdle standing in the way of the COHO kingdom law, the financial supervision of the country package execution. The same one they so vehemently objected to in the December 2021 Kingdom Council of Ministers’ meeting.

“This point was the cause of the contention in the meeting of December 17th, 2021, when St. Maarten’s request for a deficit budget was not decided on, because St. Maarten could not agree with the last part of the COHO kingdom law, which was the financial supervision of the country package agreements”, the MP further explained.

While the NA/UPP government touted the approval for the deficit budget which was granted in the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting of February 4th, the most salient detail was left out. This detail was that parties had also agreed to the financial supervision of the country package agreement.

In examining this Note of Amendment to the COHO Kingdom law that regulates the financial supervision, it is clear that any budget or budget amendment, drafts and/or approved by parliament must undergo the scrutiny of the COHO and CFT as it relates to the country package.

This not only means that henceforth the country package dictates the budget, but nothing in the budget should stand in the way or impede the country package measures in any form of fashion.
“It is now evident that the government of St. Maarten, knowing that it had inked the financial supervision amendment, wanted to make haste with the 2022 budget.”

“The government needs to realize however, that any future budget amendment will have to face the same fate”, MP Wescot cautioned.

“To now put the COHO dossier on the table of parliament with the request to support government’s stance and concerns is deceitful to say the least, as the “COHO train” has long left the station.”

Not only that, but the government’s recent adhoc measures are in complete contradiction to the approaches outlined in the country package, such as the country package measures for government land and illegal labor. Say what you may, at least the implementation agenda has the processes to be followed, which the government is ignoring.

Cases in point, the recent policy on long lease land and the recent inspection raids carried out by several ministries. The country package item no E 3 outlines clearly how illegal labor will be tackled and the steps to be taken.

“Are the recent measures taken to combat illegal employment, the “short term measures”, as meant in the country package”?, the MP questions.

“I had cautioned this government from the onset that I will hold their actions against what they agreed to in the country package and point out their inconsistencies. “

It is misleading of the government to now pretend that based on what they have negotiated, that parliamentary control of the country package is secured. The parliament may request members of the COHO to inform it of the COHO’s work and the parliament shall receive the annual reports, but that’s about it.

It is therefore time that the governing coalition accepts this situation for what it is and tries to reap some good from the bungling they did from the onset.
Government should create its own shadow organization of the COHO, staffed over time with local professionals and deliberately turn this organization in the direction of an investment and development bank, that could be modeled after the World Bank/NRBP construct.

The Netherlands must assist the countries with this type of sustainable capacity building! While this is very much acclaimed by the Netherlands, little is visible from the country package to this end. The COHO law, unfortunately reeks of mistrust in the local “body politique”.

“The 4 countries of the Dutch Kingdom need to also use this unique situation, in which the countries are building up huge debts to the Netherlands to examine their partnership and decide on how we want to continue as a Kingdom of the Netherlands.

We (Sint Maarten) have put ourselves in a quagmire where this is concerned and it is our duty to the people to be clear where we stand as a country within the Dutch Kingdom, for the short and long term. If not, the COHO trajectory will continue to be one of mistrust, finger pointing and attempts to shame, notwithstanding the professed good intentions.