Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mike Eman - Are Aruba Sustainability Goals for 2020 still on course?

Mike Eman is the president of Aruba, an island in the Caribbean with a population of 105,000. In March he gave a presentation in-front of several Dutch government officials explaining the country's plans to be energy neutral by 2020. That's before the Dutch government refused to approve this year's national budget. So what will happen now? And is he still on hunger strike?

Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman on hunger strike

10478678_699136326806851_2607054306539990205_nORANJESTAD – Aruba Prime Minister Mike Eman on Friday entered an immediate hunger strike following a decision of the Kingdom Council of Ministers to have the Governor of Aruba carry out an independent investigation of the 2014 budget and the tenability of Aruba’s government finances.
“Aruba is kidnapped, raped and humiliated by the Netherlands which is now only showing its merchant’s face and not the face of a pastor. We cannot build a Kingdom together with a merchant because all is about money. Aruba wants cooperation, not money. We have nothing to sell and we are not for sale,” Eman said in an emotional statement to the people and the media.
Eman said the Netherlands didn’t respect Aruba’s autonomous position in the Kingdom. He warned that he will only end his hunger strike when Aruba Governor Fredis Refunjol has signed Aruba’s 2014 budget. He said his father, grandfather and others had died for the people and that he was willing to do the same if necessary.
“Aruba has handled diplomatically for months, but the limit has now been reached,” said Eman, who has moved to Fort Zoutman, a military fortification in Oranjestad which was built in 1798 by the Dutch army, and the oldest structure on the island. Fort Zoutman is located across the Cabinet of the Governor and currently houses the Historical Museum.
Several hundred persons, including members of Eman’s cabinet and Members of Parliament, joined Eman in a protest walk to Fort Zoutman on Friday. Eman plans to stay at Fort Zoutman, without taking any food, until the Governor signs. “I will never tolerate that our autonomy is taken away from us,” he said.
According to Eman, the decision of the Kingdom Government is illegal and has no legal power because it violates the Charter of the Kingdom, the Regulation of the Governor and Aruba’s Constitution. In his opinion, the Kingdom Government should first have consulted the Council of State. He said the decision also violates the budget right of the Aruba Parliament. “No organ of the Country Aruba will be able to cooperate in the execution of decisions that explicitly violate the Charter,” the Government of Aruba stated in a press release.
Aruba’s financial situation has been a constant source of concern for the Kingdom Government. Aruba’s national debt has doubled over the past four years. The national debt stands at 3.2 billion Aruban florins, close to 80 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and the 2014 budget deficit was more than the three per cent that had previously been agreed upon.
Based on a proposal of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, the Kingdom Government decided on Friday that the Governor would be asked to withhold the approval of the 2014 budget while an independent investigation is carried out. The investigation will focus on the budget, its substantiation and tenability, as well as the effects for the coming years.
“The situation of Aruba’s government finances is permanently alarming. The investigation which now has been decided upon should make clear whether the trajectory advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to achieve tenable government finances has started,” it was stated in a release of the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
The decision is based on articles 15 and 21 of the Governor of Aruba and will be secured in a Royal Decree. A spokesperson of minister Plasterk responded that the Kingdom Council of Ministers was within its full rights.
Friday’s decision replaces the agreement that the Governments of Aruba and the Netherlands made last week Thursday to carry out a joint “independent and voluntary” investigation because the two countries were unable to reach an agreement on the execution of this accord.
“It appeared that the Prime Minister of Aruba Mike Eman had a different vision on the matter than we had agreed upon earlier. So the Kingdom Government decided to put the Governor in charge of the investigation. We were left no other choice because the financial situation is alarming,” Plasterk told reporters as he emerged from Friday’s meeting. “I cannot let this happen under my watch,” said Plasterk. (See related article)
The word “instruction” has not been used for the decision to have Governor Refunjol carry out an investigation, but in essence it does come down to that. Minister Plasterk, who avoided using the term “instruction,” said after Friday’s meeting that the decision of Kingdom Government should be seen as a way to support the Governor in executing his tasks.
The decision of the Kingdom Government had been looming. The agreement reached last week Thursday averted a painful decision last Friday. Initially, it was decided that the investigation would be carried out by an independent committee with members of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, which also supervises the finances of the countries CuraƧao and St. Maarten.
The investigation would focus on the “possible risks in the calculations of the 2014 budget and the multi-annual development of the government finances in light of international criteria for sound government finances and repayment capacity.”
Thursday’s agreement stipulated that committee would issue a preliminary report within two weeks and a final report within two months. The reports were to be submitted to the Governor of Aruba, the Dutch Government through Minister Plasterk and the Government of Aruba through the Finance Minister.
It was agreed that the Government of Aruba would take over the possible recommendations of the committee and send this to the Parliament of Aruba for approval. Aruba’s Parliament approved the initial 2014 budget several weeks ago. But the budget couldn’t be ratified because Governor Refunjol didn’t sign the law proposal.
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