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Published On: Sat, Dec 12th, 2020

Will Parliament play hardball?

By Hilbert Haar

There is no meeting scheduled for Monday, December 14, on the Parliament’s website but that could still happen with a last-minute announcement. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs needs that meeting for a final attempt to get guaranteed political support for an agreement with the kingdom about the conditions for the third tranche of liquidity support. The deadline for such a guarantee expires due to the five-hour time difference with the Netherlands on Tuesday morning shortly before 5 a.m. local St. Maarten time.

Without political support, the Kingdom Council of Ministers will not sign an agreement with St. Maarten next Wednesday. That means that the country will soon go into a technical default, and that it will no longer be able to pay its employees or its creditors. Will Parliament play hardball and let this happen? That is of course the crucial question.

The Dutch offer for liquidity support has always been on a take it or leave it basis. St. Maarten does not have to accept the conditions (like the establishment of the Caribbean Reform Entity) the Kingdom has put on the table but in that case liquidity support will not be forthcoming. It is hard to see how the country can afford this without putting the livelihood of its employees and the well-being of its citizens in jeopardy.

Prime Minister Jacobs finds herself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. She has made clear in the past that she is not willing to sell her country down the river, though she must be well aware of what happened to the political career of her predecessor William Marlin in the wake of Hurricane Irma when he went for a collision course with the Dutch.

Jacobs cannot - and the Kingdom will not - sign an agreement about liquidity support if Parliament does not support such a decision. So what’s most likely to happen?

Jacobs can expect opposition to an agreement with the Kingdom from several corners: Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel, NA-MPs William Marlin and George Pantophlet, United St. Maarten party MPs Claudius Buncamper and Akeem Arrindell and probably the complete faction of the United People’s party (UP). In other words: forget it.

Then what? Jacobs has seemingly one option and that is to resign.

While she does not favor selling out St. Maarten to the Dutch, letting the whole place go bankrupt under her responsibility does not sound like an attractive alternative either.

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