Published On: Thu, May 28th, 2020

Just Imagine……

Letter - St Maarten News - People

Recently, businessman and political commentator, Michael J. Ferrier, wrote a letter to the editor asking “We are all in this together, right?” and in his article, he referenced an opinion piece published in the ANTILIAANS DAGBLAD by Aruban columnist Armand Hessels called Opinie Aruba: Stel je eens voor... With his permission, we have been asked to publish an English version of his column on our news site.

Imagine that you have studied hard and as a result enjoy a good salary. With this income, you bought a humble cunucu house and a fuel-efficient car and even have money to spare to do nice things or to save to hold you over when times are tough. And imagine that your younger brother who just turned 18, got a job and with his first pay-check immediately buys a Hummer which uses 100 florin fuel in three days. You don’t think that this is wise, but…. your brother is an ‘adult’ and does not tolerate your meddling in his affairs. A little later he buys a two-story home with a big garden and a pool. He employs a cleaning lady and a gardener. He sends his two kids to the International School. That brings him to the end of his tether financially, a large part of his pay-check is practically completely spent within 5 days covering all these costs. He has just enough left to buy food. Your advice to lower his spending by getting a cheaper car and house, have less staff and a less expensive school is met with outrage: ….. that never!!!!

In the meantime, the Hummer has a serious technical defect and requires a substantial revision. His house requires substantial maintenance, the sewage broke down and his staff wants a raise. Together with the school fees for his kids, this means that he is in financial dire straits. Imagine that your brother in his predicament comes to ask you for help. What do you do? Would you help him with your hard-earned savings because he is your little brother? I don’t think so! Who helps someone financially who maintains a lifestyle which everybody knows cannot be carried? So you refuse to help as long as your brother does not choose a more humble lifestyle.

Your dear brother then goes to the bank and succeeds to get new personal loans. But with the additional interest payments, he sinks deeper in debt. The debt burden eventually becomes so heavy that even more desperate this time he comes to ask your help. You want to, but again under your “old” conditions. And again, he refuses….., as a result of which the situation escalates further.

Until there is a crisis and he loses his job and his income. He cannot pay the interest and repayment of the debt to the banks and is not able to get a new loan. In total desperation, he knocks on your door again for help. What do you do? Of course, you help him as a brother, ….. but you too are affected by the crisis and have to get by with less income. So you help him under but the sole condition, that he finally and immediately executes all the advice that you (?) repeated year after year without delay. And indeed ……. your brother chooses to take it, not leave it.

And imagine now that you are the Netherlands and that your headstrong brother is Aruba. And imagine that you have warned your brother all those years and given advice which also other friends of his have done. For Aruba, these friends were the Council of Advice, the Central Audit Service, the Algemene Rekenkamer, the Central Bank, de Comision Financiero, the National Commission on Public Finance, the International Monetary Fund, etc…. All that good and expensive (!) advice which structurally have been relegated to the trash bin by our successive governments. The result of this is shown amongst others by the totally derailed government finances, failing social services, education, and the fight against crime, infrastructure, and severe damage to the environment.

Then it is not too hard to imagine that just as the little brother has to take big steps to ‘survive’, Aruba also has to take necessary steps and lower its costs drastically if it wants to be considered for financial assistance to survive. It is then inconceivable that groups within the community, however important, can get a rain check for these adjustments. In the end, many in Aruba carry a co-responsibility for the current financial-economic situation, even if this was by opportunistic voting behavior and the chase for preferential treatment. And the complaint of politicians that our ‘autonomy’ is violated by the severe conditions, should not be aimed at the big brother, but to the small ‘adult’ brother who never even wanted to listen to the advice of his best friends.

Armand Hessels is the founder and chairman of the Foundation Good Governance Aruba (Stichting Deugdelijk Bestuur Aruba).

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