The ongoing struggle against the patrimonial bureaucracy of Curacao
While the intellectual elite of Curacao eagerly attend courses in “Good Governance,” politicians continue a long tradition of ‘friends and family‘ that feed the ranks of a predominantly patrimonial bureaucracy.
During the pre-10-10-10 rule of Mrs. Emily de Jong-Elhage, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles, an investigation about hiring practices of civil servants became public. The survey showed that more than 800 ‘friends and family’ were hired outside the normal procedures, during her four-year term. Gerrit Schotte, her successor and the first Prime Minister of Curacao, also favored loyalty of ‘friends and family’ over competence, and Curacao’s independent institutions were quickly transformed into, what appeared as, family-owned companies.
The present Prime Minister, Ivar Asjes, apparently continues the hiring tradition and supposedly, also he fills the ranks with ‘friends and family.’ The plenipotentiary minister of Curacao to the Netherlands, Mrs. MarvelyneWiels, the sister of an assassinated prominent politician who was also hired for loyalty rather than competence, became the classical exemplar of patronage when she tried to replace most of her The Hague-office staff with ‘friends and family.’
The signal sent to the world of foreign investors is loud and clear, Curacao does not have a modern, but rather a patrimonial bureaucracy of ‘friends and family.’ Thus, the island’s institutions depend on patronage. Equality and equal opportunity, level playing field, and transparency are not part of the Curacao administrative equation.
Lack of economic-growth, and investment have long loomed over the island. It is very obvious that foreign investors got the signals of politicians, loud and clear. Instead of fixing the problem and establishing accountability and transparency, PM Schotte introduced clientelism, just one more step beyond patronage. Dubious investors shortly courted the island’s opportunities, larded with custom-made bait.
Protesting officials, local and international, pleaded, over and over, for transparency and democracy of government, but to no avail. The newly formed parliament, supposed to be a body of accountability, is itself mostly filled with patronage dependencies.
Once, Curacao enjoyed the oversight of The Kingdom of The Netherlands based in The Hague, no matter how feeble. Since the autonomy of 10-10-10 that no longer is an option. The institutions of the island are supposed to be sovereign, have self-rule and be self-cleansing.
As long as institutions are not independent and solidly in place, the island’s economy will continue to ail, and eager intellectual elite will inevitably seek rents for their skills elsewhere.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker, opinion columnist for Curaça0 Chronicle.