The new government of Curaçao has accepted Dutch supervision of economic reforms it is due to carry out as part of a COVID-19 rescue plan.
Parties led by Gilmar Pisas won the election in March by promising to oppose supervision.
The now-prime minister defended his about-face by arguing Curaçao stood with its “back against the wall.”
Which was the same argument his predecessor, Eugene Rhuggenaath, made in the election campaign, when Pisas rejected it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deprived the tourism-dependent economies of the Dutch islands in the Caribbean of income. Pisas told reporters his government runs a monthly fiscal deficit of 50 percent. One in five workers is unemployed. Youth unemployment has reached 42 percent. 15 percent of the population is dependent on Dutch food aid.
The situation on Aruba and Sint Maarten is similar.
Without money from the European Netherlands, Pisas said Curaçao would be forced to cut pandemic support for individuals and businesses, reduce health-care spending and lay off civil servants.
The Dutch aid comes with strings attached. The Netherlands wants the islands to cut red tape, liberalize labor laws and reduce the cost of doing business.
Controversially, the reforms would be overseen by a panel of Dutch administrators.
All three islands initially rejected the panel, arguing it flew in the face of their autonomy.
But the panel has broad support in the Dutch parliament, where parties are frustrated the islands didn’t meet their promises to reform in the past.
Aruba and Sint Maarten have since accepted it.
In a final concession to the islands, the three-person panel would not be empowered to propose reforms but could only monitor those agreed between the island governments and the European Netherlands.
Reforms would still need to be approved by the island legislatures.
Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The smaller islands Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are overseas municipalities of the European Netherlands.