21 December 2010

Netherlands MPs Want More Control over Dutch 'Autonomous' Countries in the Caribbean

Dutch MPs want stricter control of new countries

by The Daily Herald

THE HAGUE - Members of the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber have presented several motions seeking to force the Dutch government to keep a close watch on countries Curaçao and St. Maarten. The motions were submitted during the handling of the 2011 draft budget for Kingdom Relations last week Thursday.

One motion of the Party for Freedom (PVV), Christian Democratic Party (CDA) and the Liberal Democratic (VVD) party calls for the Dutch cabinet to do everything in its power to guarantee that the Committee for Financial Supervision (CFT) can properly execute its task to monitor the finances of countries Curaçao and St. Maarten. Monitoring should prevent the Netherlands from ever having to pay the debts of the islands again.

Together, PVV, CDA and VVD have a majority in the Dutch Parliament. CDA and VVD together form the cabinet, which is supported by PVV. Several opposition parties may very well support the motion when it comes to voting tomorrow, Tuesday, along with 10 others. Parties have expressed concerns about the financial management of Curaçao and St. Maarten.

Member of Parliament (MP) Hero Brinkman (PVV) stated last week that he was worried about actions by the new countries to "undermine" the financial supervision legislation that was approved in the Second and First Chambers earlier this year.

"This motion explicitly states that this cabinet has to make sure that CFT can do its work in such a way that we never again have to pick up the tab. I want to be informed every six months if debts are created. If a situation looms whereby the islands can't afford the interest on those debts, I want to be informed and I want action taken under the guarantee function," said Brinkman, explaining the reasons for his motion during the budget debate, late Thursday night.

MP Martijn van Dam of the Labour Party PvdA submitted a motion calling for the Dutch cabinet to report on the political and governmental developments in Curaçao and St. Maarten since acquiring country status on October 10 this year. Van Dam wants this report around January 10, 2011.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner said he was willing to comply with Van Dam's motion if the date of reporting was delayed by two weeks. Donner explained that he would be visiting the islands from January 10 to 15.

Van Dam's motion speaks of a "worrisome" situation in Curaçao and St. Maarten, where principles of good governance were probably being violated. The motion states that the new countries have indicated that they want to get out of the agreements that were made with the Netherlands and that the islands have tried to circumvent the Kingdom Consensus Laws and financial supervision.

MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) submitted a motion requesting government to draft a position paper on the guarantee function of the Kingdom government as stated in Article 43 of the (Kingdom) Charter. Several other parties, including CDA, VVD and PVV, want this included in a broader position paper on the Kingdom that government will be presented with early next year.

MP Ineke van Gent of the green left party GroenLinks, along with Van Dam, Van Raak and Wassila Hachchi of Democrats D66, submitted a motion to make the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations the contact person for the Dutch special municipalities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Van Gent, Hachchi, Van Dam and Cynthia Ortega-Martijn of the Christian Union (CU) submitted a motion requesting government to draft a plan of approach aimed at developing future perspectives for pregnant, teenage girls and young, single mothers in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Parliament doesn't want pregnant, teenage girls to be dismissed from school on the islands.

Ortega-Martijn, Hachchi, Van Dam, Van Gent, Van Raak and Van Bochove presented a motion calling on government to establish a temporary facility to make it possible to exchange the Antillean guilder in the European part of the Netherlands. Exchange offices and commercial banks in the Netherlands no longer accept the Antillean guilder. Parliament considers it incorrect that citizens weren't informed of this in a timely manner.

China Leases Petroleum Storage Facility in St. Eustatius

China's refinery deal helps Cuba's oil exploration


It was announced this week that China's National Petroleum Corporation had signed a US$6 billion agreement for an oil refinery important to Cuba's drilling explorations.

The refinery, located in Cienfuegos province, is jointly owned by Cuba and Venezuela. Caribbean analysts see the latest Chinese investment in Cuba as another example of the increasing role China has been playing of late in the search for oil in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the past two years, Chinese investments have also financed energy projects and formed joint ventures in Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador.

In addition, China has leased a petroleum storage facility on St Eustatius in the Netherland Antilles,  * the Dutch-speaking Caribbean islands.

There have also been reports in the Caribbean and US press that China's national oil corporation has been having talks with the Texas-based refining giant, Valero, about purchasing its refinery on Aruba, another Dutch island. But these China initiatives are only a few of the many being undertaken in the Caribbean and Latin America by international oil giants and rising oil companies.

In the Dutch Antilles, the US-based Hess Oil Corporation and Venezuela's national oil company Petroven jointly run a major oil facility in Curacao, the main island in the Dutch chain.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, oil-rich Trinidad & Tobago continues to extend and expand its exploration and extraction activities as researchers start to warn that reserves could start dwindling.

Guyana, in South America, has had many exploratory initiatives over the past two decades, including one by Chevron-Texaco, none yielding positive results.

But earlier this month English-speaking Guyana and neighboring Dutch-speaking Suriname – South American mainland-based Caribbean Community (Caricom) member-states that have had battles over rights to oil in waters shared by them – both announced new developments in their respective petroleum sectors.

Guyana announced that a Canadian company, CGX, had teamed up with Spanish oil giant Repsol, to form a consortium to begin exploring for oil this month in the Guyana-Surinam basin.CGX had launched a similar exploration exercise back in 2000, but was chased by sea pirates and bandits.

Surinam announced last week that it will soon start receiving oil from Venezuela as part of its PetroCaribe initiative, through which the oil-rich, Spanish-speaking South American and Caribbean state already delivers petroleum to most Caricom states with preferential prices and treatment.

Meanwhile, with world petroleum prices rising constantly and reserves dwindling in traditional source countries, Latin American and Caribbean nations have been increasing their searches for new sources of oil.

But they are also investing more time, energy and resources in similar searches for alternative sources of energy. In many cases, investment have been made in Caribbean territories in harnessing solar and wind energy, as well as hydroelectricity.

China recently signed a multi-billion-dollar deal to finance a major hydroelectricity project in Guyana.
In St. Lucia, a small US-based company, Qualibou, says it has found more potential power than it earlier thought at the island's active volcanic west coast Sulphur Springs and is now seeking capital to fund exploration. St. Lucia also earlier this year signed an agreement with a small Canada-based entity, Elementa Group and Island Green Energy of Sault Ste. Marie, to generate power from municipal waste.

* Editors Note: The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist on 10th October 2010 and St. Eustatius has become a partially-integrated 'public entity' of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.