Published On: Sun, Feb 13th, 2022

COHO-law sidelines Parliament

By Hilbert Haar

The establishment of the COHO, the Caribbean Organization for Reform and Development, is a done deal, even though the parliaments of the four kingdom countries still have to give their approval. For the Caribbean countries there is no alternative. Of course the parliaments are free to reject the consensus kingdom law but that will have dire financial consequences: no more liquidity support, and no support, financial or otherwise, for sorely needed reforms.

The intentions behind the draft COHO-law are honorable. There is no doubt about that. The draft that was sent to the four parliaments last Friday contains some significant changes and it has the approval of the governments of St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba.

This does not mean that the parliament is not going to make a lot of noise when it is going to debate this piece of crucial legislation. That debate could put the relationship with the Netherlands once more under pressure.

The parliament will be somewhat justified if it were to argue that it feels sidelined. I sympathize with that position.


Well this is how it is going to work. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs has already signed off on the country package, a document that contains a truckload of measures and reforms. The country package is the basis for the next step: the establishment of an execution agenda.

This document will be written by the COHO in consultation with the minister of general affairs. In St. Maarten’s case that is currently Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.

This way, the parliament has been sidelines already twice: first with the establishment of the country package, and afterwards with the creation of the execution agenda.

The next step is writing plans of approach for projects included in the execution agenda. These plans are created by the relevant government entity or government-owned company, but they require approval from the COHO, not from the Parliament. Plans of Approach cannot be at odds with the execution agenda or the overall objectives of the COHO-law.

This agenda is going to be a leading document: it contains objectives and timelines and St. Maarten is expected to play ball based on those perimeters. Once that agenda is there, it rules. Government entities and government-owned companies have to execute measures based on this agenda. Again, the Parliament has nothing to say about this.

For the COHO, and for the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, the execution agenda is a bit like the Holy Grail. Not executing a project, correction not timely executing a project, can result in suspension of financial support.

Agreeing to the establishment of the COHO is already a condition for receiving sorely needed liquidity support. The Advisory Department of the Dutch Council of State considers is “obvious” that the Dutch government has imposed conditions for liquidity support. According to the Council, this follows the international practice from institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

Twice a year the COHO will report to the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations about the progress of the execution agenda. If the Caribbean countries abide by the obligations laid down in the COHO-law, the minister makes funding available periodically – based on the COHO execution report.

There is yet another potential stumbling block. The draft law obliges government entities en government-owned companies to provide information when the COHO asks for it. But what happens if one or more of these entities do not live up to this agreement?

The explanatory notes shed some light on this situation: “Demonstrable negligence from a government entity or a government-owned company can be reason for the COHO to suspend the complete financial support for a country.”

All this shows that the parliament will have plenty to say about the draft COHO-law. Currently it will only be involved in COHO-activities on one level: a (possible) quarterly meeting whereby COHO-representatives will provide information about their activities.

Will that be enough to make parliamentarians enthusiast about a six-year long reform process? That remains to be seen, but I doubt it very much.


Related article:
COHO gets authority to audit government-owned companies