This is a column that appeared in Kadushi, in,

This is a column that appeared in Kadushi, in, it was titled Rose-Colored Glasses, meaning the ones worn by Dutch State Secretary Van Huffelen.

It implied that she is naively covering up for the islands’ unwillingness, ignorance, inability and powerlessness to affect change and improve the dysfunction of their tax authorities, rigid labor markets, failing education systems, inefficient and therefore too expensive healthcare and lack of transparency of public administration.

Is she naively covering up, or she indeed doesn’t understand they are dragging their heels, intentionally.

This is what the column said, on November 11th

State Secretary Van Huffelen’s sunny view of the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom leaves no room for even the smallest cloud. This became clear again this week when she informed the House of Representatives about the “progress” of the so-called National Packages. In it, the governments of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten have committed to major reforms that should make their countries more resilient than they appeared to be at the outbreak of the corona crisis. The progress reports – especially those from Curaçao – are teeming with red and yellow flags that indicate a standstill or worrying delay.

Nevertheless, the State Secretary views the battlefield through bright pink glasses. The lack of progress, resulting in the red and yellow flags, was, she wrote, “necessary for a careful, participatory and sustainable process, tailored to the capacity and context of the countries”. So, despite the help of an army of Dutch civil servants and hired experts, half of the time allocated for the National Packages has already gone up in smoke – with nothing to show.

Especially, because the reforms contained in the National Packages, did not come out of the blue. Successive governments have often – long before corona – solemnly promised to tackle the dysfunction of their tax authorities, rigid labor markets, failing education systems, inefficient and therefore too expensive healthcare and lack of transparency of public administration.

The countries have deliberately postponed, and dragged their heels.

But now that “the foundation has largely (not yet completely?) been laid,” Madam Secretary of State says she “looks forward with confidence to the phase in which the reforms will actually be implemented.” Yet she does not seem completely sure of her case: “This will not always be easy. I therefore maintain close contact about the progress, effectiveness and challenges of the reforms with the Prime Ministers of the Countries.”

Anyone who looks beyond his/her/them nose is not surprised by the lackluster state of affairs. A striking example of the island’s administrative culture — a sum of, in no particular order, unwillingness, ignorance, inability and powerlessness. This was brought to light this week by the Court of Audit of Curaçao. It examined the ‘Public Camera Surveillance Project’, a 2015 initiative by then Minister of Justice Nelson Navarro.

The noble goal was to make society safer. Not an unnecessary luxury, because the number of violent robberies (including of tourists and interns) and drug-related affairs threatened to reach Jamaican proportions. 21.6 million were spent on the camera project, but now they are 1.8 million overbudget, and the implementation has remained stuck in early phases.

Of the 580 cameras ordered, only 212 have been installed. The rest is in storage somewhere, but due to poor supervision this is not entirely certain. Of the 187 that have actually been put into use, it is not certain that they are still working. In any case, all 16 cameras installed in police cars are out of service because the cars are defective (6) or totaled (5) or for malfunctioning for other vague reasons.

Due to a shortage of staff, 24/7 live monitoring of the images has not been achieved. Moreover, the legislation has not been amended, which means that no fine can be imposed for registered traffic violations. With a Guinness Book of Records-worthy sense of euphemism, the Court of Auditors concludes that the objectives have been achieved, “not optimally”.

Yet camera surveillance, no matter how shaky, has proven its worth. Several dozen crimes have been solved thanks to camera footage, including a murder committed at the Carnival in 2016. The Court of Audit therefore does not believe that the government should discard the project, and it makes a large number of recommendations for its continuation. However, it should be noted that the current stock of cameras is technically outdated. And made in China, so that Beijing can watch.

The investigators make no political judgment about the fiasco. There is every reason to do so, because the project could very well have been undermined “from within”. After all, criminals have a long arm that reaches deep into public administration. The creator of the camera project Navarro has literally experienced this firsthand.

After two Venezuelan assassins on their way to kill the minister had already been intercepted, the crimefighter survived an almost successful attack at the end of 2015. After drinking a cup of coffee served to him in the Administrative Office, he became unwell. Police investigation revealed that rat poison had been put in his coffee. A short time later, Navarro turned his back on politics.

Eradicating abuses in the Caribbean is not without danger. Perhaps that explains why local administrators are not eager to implement necessary reforms. Some society sections do not benefit from this.

Kadushi is the outsider of A prickly section that can sometimes go ‘ouch’.




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November 15, 2023
Rona Coster