Weeks of political deadlock on Curaçao have been broken with the swearing-in of Shaheen Elhage as lawmaker. He succeeds William Millerson, who died in June.
Millerson’s death had reduced the government to ten out of 21 seats in the island’s legislature. Opposition parties refused to attend Elhage’s inauguration, denying the ruling parties a quorum. They are unhappy with cuts and reforms the government is enacting to qualify for financial support from the Netherlands.
One opposition lawmaker, Marilyn Moses, did attend parliament on Monday.
The other nine, seven of whom want independence from the Netherlands, still didn’t show.
Curaçao’s tourism-dependent economy has been thrown into a deep recession by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Without a furloughing scheme, subsidized by the Netherlands, unemployment would be in the realm of 60 percent.
The Dutch are also paying for food and health-care aid.
All three autonomous Dutch islands in the Caribbean — Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten — have cut public-sector wages 12.5 percent. The cuts triggered riots on Curaçao, which were egged on by separatists.
To qualify for another round of support, the Dutch are demanding labor and pension reforms overseen by a panel of Dutch administrators. The islands accept the reforms but reject the imposition of a panel that would answer to The Hague instead of their own parliaments.
More business-friendly Aruba, which normally receives more tourists from the United States, has drafted reforms, which call for harmonizing labor regulations between the public and private sectors, simplifying the tax code and shifting to e-government to reduce bureaucracy.
Politicians on Curaçao, which relies more on tourism from the Netherlands, have spent the last month bickering about Millerson’s succession.
None of the three islands has yet accepted the Dutch terms.