Published On: Tue, Jul 4th, 2017

Cooperation programs largely deemed successful

ronald-plasterkTHE HAGUE - The cooperation programs for the Dutch Caribbean financed by the Dutch Government have largely yielded desirable results. However, the integral approach to increase the security on the islands has barely materialized, while the ambitions of some projects were set too high.

That was concluded in the policy audit of the budget of Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Government which was recently published and sent to the Dutch Parliament. The audit covered the period from the new constitutional relations in October 2010 up to the end of 2015.

In his accompanying letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated that the audit report gave an accurate view in which it was determined that in many areas, such as education, quality of governance, law enforcement and sustainable economic development, progress was realized. However, there is still room for improvement.

In Curaçao and St. Maarten the management of the Courts and the ICT in the justice sector was improved and the immigration process better equipped. In Aruba, the projects to train and educate personnel in the justice sector were successful.

However, the integral approach to improve the security situation on all three islands failed. For example, the prisons did not become sufficiently safe for personnel and detainees. Police management was improved in St. Maarten, but in Curaçao there was insufficient progress.

The termination of the cooperation programs by the Dutch Government in this period means that the countries now depend on their own possibilities. “A great challenge remains for the countries to free up space within the financial scopes for improvements that as yet have to materialize and to maintain the facilities which have been realized as part of the programs, which were largely funded by the Netherlands,” stated Plasterk.

In St. Maarten, the average annual amount of the programs of the Antillean Development Fund SONA amounted to NAf. 24 million in the period 2004 to 2014. In Curaçao this amount was NAf. 61 million. The Antillean Co-financing Fund AMFO spent on average NAf. 3.4 million per year on projects for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in St. Maarten and NAf. 8.4 million in Curaçao.

Contrary to Aruba, the Governments of Curaçao and St. Maarten did not contribute financially to these programs, with the exception of a few law enforcement projects. Curaçao and St. Maarten are now responsible to incorporate the financing of these programs in their own budgets. “The positive effects of the cooperation programs will largely evaporate if the preserving of these projects fails,” it was stated in the report.

In the report it was stated that it was difficult to give a general qualification about the effectiveness of the cooperation programs since these barely contained a quantified aimed social effects. Also baseline assessments lacked and feasibility studies were not done. The programs in Curaçao and St. Maarten were generally executed in a pragmatic manner, while the projects were carefully described and properly accounted for.

The programs proved beneficial to set up and strengthen the Ministries of the new countries Curaçao and St. Maarten, as well as the High Councils of State. Especially the Ministries of Finance and the Tax Offices were strengthened, but the financial management of other Ministries still need improvement. The levying and collection of taxes is insufficient in St. Maarten.

Through the cooperation programs the conditions were improved in education in Curaçao and St. Maarten, including curriculum development, improved housing, the care structure, digital student follow systems, the purchase of teaching material and the skills of teachers and school management. The return of the sub-programs lagged behind the high ambitions.

Networks to assist troubled families, especially teenage mothers, were improved in the two countries. “Successful projects were executed for the youth, the elderly, chronically ill and impaired persons in the area of upbringing, poverty eradication and self-help.”

In St. Maarten, the traffic situation and water drainage were improved. “The projects created the conditions for the diversification of economic activities, but haven’t had a measurable effect on economic development.”

The durable improvement of the economic structure, the decrease of social deprivation and a better local labor market didn’t materialize in Curaçao. “The executed projects were insufficiently able to achieve these ambitious goals.”

Without the cooperation programs, the islands would have been worse off in areas such as social-economic development, education, law enforcement and quality of government, it was concluded. However, concerns remain about the current state and the sustainability of the achieved results, especially in the areas of legal security, education, social-economic development and eradication of poverty.

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