Published On: Sat, May 30th, 2020

Leerdam: “Kingdom relations under serious pressure”

John Leerdam

PHILIPSBURG – “The humiliation of May 20 puts serious pressure on kingdom-relations. It has only resulted in bitterness.” That is one of the statements former parliamentarian and former chairman of the lobby group for Caribbean Dutch citizens John Leerdam makes in three different columns about the effect of the corona-virus crisis on Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten.

Leerdam paints a bleak picture of the relationship between the Kingdom and its territories in the Caribbean. He notes that a report about poverty on Curacao in the NOS-Journaal on April 20 brings to mind Victor Hugo’s historical novel Les Misérables, published in 1862. He furthermore refers to failed discriminatory attempts by Dutch politicians: André Bosman’s admission regulation and Fritsma and De Graaf’s regulation to send criminal Antilleans back to their country of origin.

“They both conflicted with Article 1 of the Constitution,” Leerdam writes. “I oppose all and any regulation for admission.”

He makes the case for a central reception policy to accommodate Antilleans in case mass-immigration occurs as a result of the corona-virus crisis. “In the seventies, we had such a successful central reception policy for Surinamese Dutch. They were centrally received and then relocated as soon as housing became available.”

The former parliamentarian is also highly critical of the Dutch demand to cut the salaries of civil servants by 12.5 percent. “Apparently they have forgotten what happened back in 1983 when the Lubbers-government proposed a 3.5 percent salary cut for civil servants. Garbage was no longer collected, the mail no longer delivered.”

With a proposed salary cut that is almost three times as high, Leerdam foresees rising tensions on the islands. He also questions the demand to cut top salaries at government-owned companies, as well as tariffs for consultants to a maximum of 130 percent of the salary of the prime minister, especially the demand that this cut will also have to be applied to existing contracts. “That directors of government-owned companies are earning shameless salaries and that something has to be done about that is clear. But in a constitutional state you cannot change existing contracts just like that,” he observes.

Leerdam’s opposition to the salary cuts goes deeper than concerns for individual civil servants who will be affected by it. “The Dutch conditions do not contribute anything to the economy. Cutting the salaries of civil servants makes the economic recession only deeper. Cutting costs during a recession is a no-go according to the economist John Maynard Keynes in his 1936 publication The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.”

Leerdam suggests the establishment of a committee that has to come up with recommendations for the diversification of the economies in Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten. “Employment is the key to fighting poverty.”

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