Published On: Sun, Oct 27th, 2019

Occam’s razor

Opinion - St Maarten NewsBy Hilbert Haar

On August 29, 2017, I wrote an opinion about Parlatino for the Today newspaper that contains the following paragraphs.

The ties between the island – via the former Netherlands Antilles – and Parlatino are old: they go back to 1964, so feel free to do the math.

And what has Parlatino ever brought to St. Maarten?

Good question and we feel that it is time for our elected representatives to take a serious look at this matter and ask themselves whether a continued membership of Parlatino serves any purpose.

We have never come across a report from a parliamentarian about his or her visit to a Parlatino meeting. They just go there, come back and continue doing whatever they are doing. But they never report to the people who put them in office: look, I went to Parlatino, and this is what I brought back home for you.

We are sorely tempted to suspect the reason for this: there is nothing to bring home.

So far, nothing has changed. Members of Parliament keep traveling to Parlatino meetings in exotic places and they never bring home anything meaningful. To say that St. Maarten’s membership of Parlatino and its associated travel is a waste of time and money is the understatement of the century.

Don’t our politicians have better things to do? Sure they do. Take for instance the funding that is available from the European Development Fund (EDF). To get that money, St. Maarten has to do two things: it has to write a project proposal for something that qualifies for funding and it has to contribute to its financing.

Under the 10th EDF, St. Maarten was eligible for European money to pay for what has come to be called the Dutch Quarter sewage project. St. Maarten had to contribute something like 4 million guilders (around $2.23 million) to get €5 million ($5.55 million) in EDF-funding, but, as the ministry of finance pointed out in 2017 in its execution report over the first half of that year: the money was not available in the capital budget. The funding from the 10th EDF expired on December 5, 2017.

Hurricane Irma hit on September 6, 2017, and that disaster probably saved the funding for the Dutch Quarter project. On February 21, 2018, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin traveled to Brussels to sign the €4.7 million ($5.1 million) works contract for the 10th EDF funding.

The Dutch Quarter project became a political football in, if I remember correctly, 2012 with a celebratory presentation. In the following years, there was mostly silence.

And this begs the question: why does St. Maarten make such a weak impression when it comes to secure millions of dollars in funding for projects that benefit the people on our island? Is it because politicians prefer to make comfortable and paid meaningless trips to Parlatino meetings where they don’t understand half of what is being discussed because of the use of the Spanish language? Is it because they simply don’t care?

Or is there another explanation, one that has to do with politics; an explanation that allows politicians to blame others – always others – for not doing their jobs. I cannot be sure of course but I like the idea of the Occam’s razor-principle: “The simplest explanation is usually the right one.”

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Opinion by Hilbert Haar: “Parlatino