A few days before the so-called Brexit referendum I released a press statement to warn against populism in the world, Europe and my own country, Curaçao. Again I want to send a cautionary advice. I do not want to put a damper on all the jubilance around the world after the Dutch election of this week, but let us please do not confuse the results as a defeat of populism. I too want to believe that the Dutch election is going to send a powerful message to the likes of Ms.Marine Le Pen (France) and Mr. Uwe Junge (Germany), both far right populists who face elections later this year. That is simply not the case. Let us understand that populism in The Netherlands was not defeated. Politicians in The Netherlands chose to adopt the popular nationalistic language and radical anti-Islamic ideas of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party rather than confront these messages.The Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Mark Rutte, chose his words carefully after his victory condemning the ‘wrong populism’. Let us not overlook the fact that he did not condemn populism in general. So I guess that according to Mr. Rutte there is nothing wrong with his brand of populism. Unfortunately Dutch politicians in general, not only Mr. Rutte, chose to adopt the radical ideas of Mr. Wilders, repackage them and somehow made them look less over the top with the Dutch voters. Also, let us not forget that Mr. Rutte had his own ‘mano de Dios’ moment to help him win the election when the Turkish President, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, decided to start a spat with The Hague. I guess Mr. Rutte chose to rather join the populists than doing something about them. Fast-forwarding to France, does this mean that Ms. Le Pen does not have a chance in the French presidential election because of what happened in The Netherlands? I do not think France (and Germany) should read too much into what happened in The Netherlands this week. Finally I want to make this point. Not that I agree with him, but Mr. Wilders has been authentic about his intentions to be the savior of the Western World against Islam which according to him is pure evil. Ms. Le Pen is not that principled. She wants power and will likely run and cruise on the right kind of populism. Just like Mr. Rutte.
Last month, after I had posted a picture of a Chinese pavilion on my Facebook page, an unknown person sent me a message asking me if I was in Taiwan. He recognized the pavilion and knew I took the photo in the Jieshou Park in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. This person turned out to be a Curaçaoan (a Yu di Kòrsou (YDK) as we refer to ourselves in our language Papiamentu) living in Taiwan. He, together with three more YDKs wanted to meet with me to chat about our island. They were very interested in Curaçao politics, and I felt they were eager to talk to me about some good ideas they had for our island. Unfortunately I had already left Taiwan and was in Vietnam for an assigment. Via social media we maintained contact and I asked him how he felt about getting our diaspora organized in order for meaningful contacts among the diaspora and between the diaspora and the mother country. This idea got met with a lot of enthusiasm.
Before getting to that point, the word diaspora comes from the Greek language. ‘Dia’ meaning all over and ‘sporius’ meaning dispersed. In every day language, diaspora means the community of migrants of a particular country living (permanently) in other countries while aware of their identity and maintaining some kind of connection with the country of origin. The idea of diaspora is not new and a handful of countries, some of them for many centuries, have made good use of their people living abroad. There is a growing awareness among countries new to this concept, that the diaspora is a treasured resource. Input from the diaspora means ideas, innovation, investments and global networks not available at home. Fact is that in the case Curaçao our diaspora can be an important bridge to knowledge, expertise, innovation beyond what is available via the Kingdom diplomatic missions which, as I have mentioned many times before are not even focused on our island even when they should be. Diaspora means especially ‘brain regain’ and ‘brain exchange’. Fact is that many of our graduates and brain power live abroad. The message we need to send to our YDKs living abroad and the ones planning to leave the country, is that emigration does not have to be final in the sense of severing ties with Curaçao. We have to realize that many of our emigrants are not coming back because they can’t or simply don’t want to. That is fine with me. In any case we should not try to make them out as some kind of monsters for not returning to our island. Especially our politicians like to play this blaming game. I know, because I witnessed a session in 2007 with students from Curaçao at the Erasmus University where a colleague of mine referred to some students as ‘money mongers” for not wanting to return. We must call on YDKs in the diaspora to help to promote and protect the Brand Curaçao. The very notion of the concept of a nation is being redefined. Because of globalization and interconnectedness today the nation is no longer bounded by our 444 square kilometers of territory. We have according to some sources more than half of our population living outside of Curaçao. We need the input of the Curaçao diaspora in order to realize our potential. In order to achieve this we need a diaspora policy in place. In 2012 I dedicated a chapter of the PAIS (the political party I used to head) program on diaspora. In 2013 I wrote a paper on this matter for a meeting between the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Netherlands, but there was not enough interest to pursue this initiative. Not having had success then, I am trying another approach. We will not wait on policy, but will take it to the social media to get our diaspora organized. A dedicated Facebook page: ‘Curaçao Diaspora’ will be launched. This must be seen as a first step. It is important that we know where we have YDKs, what they do, what their talens are, how they are connected in their places of residence, what their interests are, and how they want to contribute to our development. We could in the future think about having conferences, papers and a list of priorities such as diversity, democracy, human rights, environment, food and water security and of course economics. Hopefully along the way a policy on diaspora will emerge. In no way I want to have any kind of monopoly in this process. Let’s hope it grows. Let’s hope we all feel like the owners of this initiative. Let’s do it for the the Curaçao Brand. I am convinced this could be the start of something wonderful. Thank you YDKs in Taiwan.
You don’t have to be a woman to be for women’s rights. Neither do you have to be a woman to see that there is something intrinsically wrong with the statement that ‘women’s rights have led to moral decay in our homes and country’. If anything this movement is a challenge to the unequal social structure that subjugates and discriminates women. Promoting gender equality, any kind of equality for that matter, can never be morally destructive. Today on International Women’s Day (IWD) it is important to commemorate the enormous gains we have made. These gains are however neither equally distributed globally, nor have they made us come close to ending gender discrimination.
Female genital mutilation, child marriage, honor killings, domestic abuse, lack of equality under the law are all issues that make girls and women all over the world suffer. Women’s rights cannot be only about our own situation back home. Even if these above-mentioned issues may be considered a ‘far-from-my-bed show’, women’s organizations everywhere should make women’s rights a global issue. Without women’s rights around the world, there is no global well-being.
In the workplace women’s rights have played an important role to lessen gender discrimination. I admit however that women more than often work more than men, yet are paid less. Consequently women and girls are more often the face of poverty; they are disproportionately financially dependent on others and are unfortunately more unhealthy than their male counterparts. Fact remains that women’s rights have seen more progress in the workplace. Lacking unfortunately is progress in our homes. Women’s rights and roles at home have not moved in step with changes in the workplace. Too many women and girls are denied social contacts outside of the home, they suffer domestic and sexual abuse and are too often prevented from making personal choices in their private lives. If we want to make changes in the lives of women and girls, we should not stop at labor issues. It should be in the first place at home. And I can honestly say that we have steered away from this issue for too long. No wonder there are so many people who are blaming women’s progress at work for all kinds of societal problems and using this as a poor excuse to deny women and girls the same betterment at home as has been the case in the workplace. This is unacceptable. It should become clear that the women’s movement is not about women who want to be like men. It’s about equal opportunity so that all genders have more options in life and that they can freely make their own choices in order to live full and productive lives. Regarding women’s rights, the battle on the workforce is progressing. In our homes, it’s another ballgame.
Every Friday you’d find me there. At the happy hour hosted by the U.S. Embassy in N’Djaména, the capital of Chad. I attended not only to watch the Seinfeld t.v. series (the one and only Chadian channel did not carry any American entertainment during its trice-a-week programming), eat some good ol’ American junk food and have a couple of ice cold Galas. Mostly I went to chitchat with my colleague diplomats, members of foreign missions, Peace Corp volunteers and a handful of Chadians who took part in the weekly bash. It’s not a secret that managing meaningful face-to-face social connections with counterparts can work wonders and have a remarkable use for the field of ‘official’ diplomacy. At that time I worked for the United Nations (UN) and relevant information in that soon to be an oil producing war-thorn Chad was a must for the UN Mission in N’Djaména. It’s not my intention to divulge any sensitive information, so what is my point you ask? What I’m getting at is that diplomacy is often done quietly. Not by sharing policy insights with billions of people via Twitter. Nor is it a good idea to utter tongue-in-cheek comments in the media at the expense of other nations with which you maintain a close relationship even if you are struggling to muster enthusiasm as election day looms. Diplomacy takes time and is built on long-term relationships and trust. Diplomacy is almost boring and most of the time it is invisible.
Yet some politicians in Curaçao are somehow convinced that if we are not ‘at war’ with The Hague, something must be altogether amiss with our politicians. During 2012-2016 the relationship within the Kingdom of The Netherlands compared with the disastrous two years after our constitutional change on 10-10-10, was warming up at both sides of the ocean. According to these warmongers good relations with The Hague means being weak and submissive. I guess in their line of thinking statements of the recent past such as ‘sending the Dutch back to Europe in body bags’ must be the vocabulary of choice of Willemstad, instead of the quiet diplomacy which took place during 2012-2016. But before saying more on that subject, let me make clear that some politicians in The Hague are also famous for their stupid and incendiary remarks by referring to Curaçao as a roque state, a tax haven and whatnot resulting in costly troubles for the Kingdom relations. Three years ago, in The Hague, I asked a far right member of parliament (MP) why he used offensive and provocative language taking away from what in some cases were valid statements when referring to our island and Kingdom relations. His answer was that according to him he had to provoke, rock the boat in order to get attention. Obviously this MP did not go to the same diplomatic school I attended. And yes, everyone in Curaçao always concentrates on his provocative language and not the content of his statements.
We must realize that ‘war language’ aggravates and escalates hostilities and further strengthens the hardliners both here and there. With politicians in Willemstad and The Hague riding a growing wave of populism, I believe the need is more stronger than ever to engage moderates, independents and free thinkers in what I referred to earlier as quiet diplomacy. The Curaçao House has an important role to play in order to pave the way for meaningful contacts with these people I mentioned. Not only the Curaçao House but also the Curaçao Diaspora in The Netherlands and former politicians should give a helping hand. In addition the Dutch Representation in Curaçao should also do the same. Having been to many of its social gatherings, I can honestly say that in one glance you know where each and everyone of the invitees stands on various social and political issues. This could never be the objective of these turnouts, in my opinion at least. Why not engage local artists, free thinkers, school teachers, composers and even ordinary people? In conclusion, I really hope that our politicians do not fall in the trap of viscous back-and-forth bickering with the hard-liners in The Hague. Face-to-face contacts with a wide variety of people should be part of this quiet diplomacy to push ahead for better relations between the Kingdom partners.
Vários hende a kere ku e resien kaida di Gabinete Koeiman despues di solamente 53 dia tabata un rèkòrt den nos historia di demokrasia parlamentario. Esaki sinembargo no ta bèrdat. E rèkòrt apsoluto ta di apenas 37 dia i esaki ta riba nòmber di Gabinete da Costa Gomez (òf Kolegio-da Costa Gomez). Tuma nota ku ami ta tuma e periodo di demokrasia parlamentario den nos pais (1938 – aktual) pa mi hasi e komparashon aki. Promé ku nos atendé ku kaida aparatoso despues di 37 dia di Gabinete da Costa Gomez, ta bon pa pinta e konteksto polítiko di e tempu ei.
Nos a konosé un era nobo den nos demokrasia parlamentario na momento ku e konstitushon nobo a drenta na vigor riba 8 yüni 1948. E konstitushon nobo a hasi posibel pa krea pa promé biaha den nos historia un College van Algemeen Bestuur (CAB). E CAB tabata konsistí di un máksimo di seis (6) miembro ku mester a yuda Gobernadó den su tareanan di maneho di e seis islanan, Curaçao. Na promé bista e CAB awe lo no ta mustra di ta un ‘gran kos’ kisas, pero pa e tempu ei esaki tabata un paso grandi den e proseso di emansipashon polítiko di nos pais. E intenshon tabata for di un komienso pa CAB krese i bira un órgano mas independiente i no simplemente un instansha ku tabata yuda Gobernadó den su tareanan ehekutivo. Despues di un total di kuater (4) CAB nos a konosé Regeringsraad (RR) na 1951 i despues, Raad van Ministers (RvM) na 1954. Tantu CAB, RR i RvM tabata suheto na konfiansa di un mayoria den parlamento (Staten). Manera nos sa, historia parlamentario no a start na 1954, sino na 1938. Nos promé elekshon pa Staten no tabata na 1954, sino desèmber 1937. E promé CAP a sinta riba 21 ougùstùs 1948 i tabatin komo tarea prinsipal pa organisá elekshon di 1949 ku pa di promé biaha a permití tur hende hòmber i hende muhé mayor di edat vota pa tur nan representantenan den Staten. Delaster un miembro di e promé CAP tabata nombrá pa e Gobernadó. Despues di e elekshon di 17 mart 1949 ku a keda ganá aki na Kòrsou pa Partido Nashonal di Pueblo (NVP), dr. Moises Frumensio da Costa Gomez a surgi komo e formadó di lokual mester a bira e di dos College van Algemeen Bestuur (CAB 2). PNP no por a yega na akuerdo ku e otro partidonan di Kòrsou ku a saka asiento pa forma CAB 2. Ta trata aki di Partido Demokrat (DP) i Partido Katóliko di Pueblo (KVK) ku a haña respektivamente 3 i 1 asiento. Promé ku CAB 2 a sinta, esaki a haña masha resistensia den Staten, prinsipalmente pa loke ta trata aprobashon di e ‘geloofsbrieven’ di e integrantenan di CAB 2. Tantu na Aruba komo Kòrsou, AVP i NVP respektivamente, a haña hopi krítika. Riba 10 di mei 1949 porfin CAB 2 ta sinta. Da Costa Gomez por a konta solamente riba sosten di 13 (di 22 miembro) lokual opservadonan for di un prinsipio a konsiderá komo insufisiente. E difikultatnan den Staten pa ku CAB 2 a kontinuá ku tur intensidat. Oposishon tabata hasi bida di CAB 2 práktikamente imposibel. Un miembro di oposishon, Sr. Gerharts, segun nótulonan di reunion di Staten di 9 yüni 1949 a kompará da Costa Gomez ku Adolf Hitler. Segun Gerharts Mein Kamf tabata ekibalente na Nos Lucha; Hitler-jugend tabata ekibalente na Gomez-jeugd i Braune Haus tabata ekibalente na Cas di Pueblo. No tabata un sorpresa ku despues di 37 dia, esta 17 yüni 1949, CAB-2 a kai. En bista di e turbulensia di CAB 2, Gobernadó a disidí pa pidi pa un ‘zakenkabinet’ ku a sinta riba 21 yüli 1949. Esaki bou di presidensia di e polítiko Rubiano Kwartsz ku por sierto a partisipá na elekshonnan di Staten di 17 mart 1949 ku Lijst Kwartsz, pero no a saka asiento.
Fuentenan adishonal: De Staatkundige Ontwikkeling der Nederlandse Antillen, dr. Kasteel; mr. dr. M.F. da Costa Gomez: Voorvechter voor de politieke emancipatie der Nederlandse Antillen, dr. Boeldak; Grondslagen en Scheidingslijnen, dr. da Costa Gomez.
Gobièrnu lihé mester disidí riba e union monetario Kòrsou-Sint Maarten. Echo ta ku e no ta funshoná pasombra no tin, despues di 7 aña, mekanísmo pa atendé ku kordinashon makroekonómiko ka ta nesesario pa un union monetario. Tambe pa kasi dos aña no tabatin kombersashon entre di e ministernan di Finansa di e dos paisnan pa atendé ku e union. Mientras ku mester di kordinashon di maneho, kada pais ta hasi lokual ku e ke i konsekuentemente kada dia ta bira mas difisil pa start ku e kordinashon nesesario. Esaki ta lòs for di e situashon indeseabel entre di gerensia di banko sentral (CBCS) i su hunta di komisario. Tin falta di akuerdo entre di Willemstad i Philipsburg i pa kolmo e minister di Finansa di Kòrsou a bisa aña pasá ku evaluason di e union monetario no ta prioridat.
Kòrsou mester determiná kiko e ke. Nos ke keda den e union? Na vários okashon Sint Maarten a bisa ku e ta sali. Ta dolarisá? Sint Maarten si a bisa esaki. Nos ta warda te ora nan tuma e desishonnan importante pa despues nos drenta akshon? Den mi bista Kòrsou ku ta responsabel pa kasi 75% di e union aki no por sinta pasivamente mira manera e a hasi te awor.
For di 2008, promé ku e union monetario drenta na vigor, mi a oponé kontra di dje. For di e tempu ei tabata klaritu ku e desishon pa un union monetario no tabata basá riba fundamentonan ekonómiko, pero mas bien un obligashon pasombra Den Haag no ta(bata) konfia Sint Maarten ku su propio banko sentral. Den un resien artíkulo (https://alexdavidrosaria.blog/2017/02/09/waning-hope-for-monetary-union-sint-maarten-curacao/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true) mi ta bai den mas detaye i ta demostrá ku no tin ehèmpel di unionnan monetario ku a sobrebibí ora nan keda formá pa paisnan ku anteriormente tabata huntu polítikamente.
Mi ta boga pa kurashi di Willemstad pa tuma desishon. Sea nos ta sali òf, komo opshon dos, ta keda basta tur hende realmente ke esaki, i ta start ku e mekanísmonan di kordinashon nesesario. Status quo no ta opshon.
In 2008 I vehemently objected to the decision to have a monetary union between Sint Maarten and Curaçao in anticipation of the political dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles (consisting of Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) on October 10, 2010. My reasoning for disagreeing was never judged on its merits. Instead, I was criticized because I was part of government and was apparently not allowed to have a dissenting opinion. Some newspapers even speculated that I was sure to be booted from the Cabinet and the political party to which I belonged. None of that happened, but the monetary union did become a reality.
The common definition of a monetary union is two or more countries with a single currency, one central bank, one monetary policy and convergence of macroeconomic policies.
So what were my objections back in the day? First of all, history backed me up. There are dramatic illustrations of how monetary unions collapse after the political breakup of countries. I will not mention those that went belly up before the 20th century, but will instead concentrate on the 20th and 21st century. When the Austral-Hongarian constitutional union was dissolved in 1914, so did its monetary union and the common currency, the crown. The Soviet Union (USSR) broke up in 1991 and the USSR’s state bank was replaced by 15 central banks. Other examples include the breakups of Yugoslavia, and the State Union of Serbia & Montenegro, South Sudan that separated itself from Sudan and Eritrea that gained its independence from Ethiopia. Heck, we don’t even have to look very far. After Aruba broke off from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, it did not form a monetary union with the (remaining islands of the) Netherlands Antilles. Aruba must have read and understood the history books about monetary unions after countries call it quits and abandon their former political unions. There is just one exception history tells us. When the Czechs and the Slovaks abandoned Czechoslovakia, they initially decided to swim against the current and formed a monetary union which lasted a whopping 38 days!
When political unions dissolve in separate countries/entities, this is done so that each party can pursue its own policies. Usually this separation comes after profound differences and policy discords. Parties to a monetary union, as we have seen before, are forced to coordinate and/or harmonize certain macroeconomic policies. So why would they want to do that after just being separated? If that were the case there should not have been any need for a separation in the first place one could easily argue. So why did Sint Maarten and Curaçao form a monetary union? It was politically motivated. The Netherlands simply did not trust Sint Maarten to have it’s own central bank. So no monetary or macroeconomic arguments were used to arrive at this decision. Economists know very well that the theoretical analysis of a monetary union is first and foremost based on the theory of an optimum currency area (OCA) that was first developed by Nobel Prize winner in economic science, Dr. Robert Mundell with its emphasis on among others symmetry of business cycles and mobility of the factors of production i.e. land, labor and capital. None of that happened. The Netherlands forced this down our throats otherwise the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles would not have happened. None of us were prepared for this decision. As a matter of fact, in 2009, one year before the monetary union would come into being, the politically responsible authorities for economic affairs of Curaçao and Sint Maarten were gathered in Curaçao for a public presentation at the University of the Netherlands Antilles. I was then State Secretary of Finance of the Netherlands Antilles and after their presentations on how they saw economic development after the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles, I asked them what they were doing regarding policies that would have to be in place for the then upcoming monetary union. I never knew politicians could stare at each other and the public at such a complete loss for words. More surprising to me however was the fact that a member of management of the Central Bank uttered that the monetary union will work because these two countries used to be together in one union, the Netherlands Antilles. Exactly, used to be together.
And under this misguided premise we started the union thinking it would work without even taking a single measure for convergence of macroeconomic policies. As a matter of fact, I dare anyone to find a passage in the government programs of Curaçao or Sint Maarten that refers to concrete matters on coordination of policies in order to make the union work. According to the Minister of Finance of Curaçao (2012-2016), when I questioned him in Parliament, the monetary union was not a priority. Meanwhile under the watch of governments, the board of supervision of the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten, we continue to think that somehow this monetary union will spontaneously function and be a success by pretending it doesn’t even exist. In fact, the Ministers of Finance of Curaçao and Sint Maarten haven’t even formally spoken to each other about this matter in over two years. To date, the is no mechanism, not even on paper, in place to coordinate policies relevant for the monetary union. It is as if no one wants to end the union, but instead prefers that it withers away, slowly and painfully. The best option is to start taking steps to dissolve the union. However close Sint Maarten and Curaçao might have been before the dissolution in 2010, fact is that we have drifted more apart and have much less in common today. If history is our guide, we should end this and go our separate ways. The second best option is to, for the first time in 7 years, have both parties unequivocally state their political commitment to the monetary union. On numerous occasions Sint Maarten has hinted it wants to opt out of the union. In Curaçao there is also a group that wants to leave this forced monetary marriage. In any case, if we want to move forward with the union – I think it is a little too late for that – there can be no clouds of doubts. And once this issue is resolved we must quickly invest in mechanisms to make it work. Not doing anything, as we have been doing since 2010, will lead to a slow, painful and costly death of this union. Let’s hope the authorities in Curaçao have the guts to make a choice.