Curaçao and St. Maarten agree on operational audit of Central Bank

WILLEMSTAD - An operational audit will be conducted at the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten to determine where problems exist and how these can be handled.

The governments of Curaçao and St. Maarten decided on the audit in a meeting in Curaçao on Saturday aimed at breaking the impasse about the way forward with the bank.
Headed by caretaker Prime Minister Gerrit Schotte, the Curaçao Government has been arguing for some time for an investigation into the integrity of Bank President Emsley Tromp. As a shareholder, St. Maarten had been requested to agree with the suspension of Tromp for the investigation to start. Government had not been keen on this, with Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams calling the terms of reference for the investigation "very suggestive."
The "breach or break of confidence" between Curaçao and Tromp was discussed at the meeting at which St. Maarten, as a co-shareholder of the bank, explained its concerns about the then-draft terms of reference.
The operational audit will be carried out by "an independent and neutral party," according to Schotte and Wescot-Williams.
St. Maarten also will "make its position clear" on the request that Tromp be suspended, when the two governments meet again on Monday, August 27.
The agreement for an operational audit, a recommendation to the Bank's Supervisory Board of Directors to pass the long-overdue 2012 budget and the need to identify a permanent seventh board member were outlined in an agreement signed by the two prime ministers. This agreement will be shared with the Kingdom Council of Ministers to indicate the countries' willingness to work together and regulate bank matters.
The prime ministers said they could not give details of the meeting of the Supervisory Board that had been held on Friday, but noted that the request to get the budget in place as soon as possible would be conveyed to the board. "I think the budget should be approved," Schotte said.
The Supervisory Board sent two resolutions to the ministers' meeting dealing with personnel matters.
Speaking via a video conference from Curaçao with Schotte and Finance Minister Roland Tuitt, among others, Wescot-Williams described the meeting with the old adage: "All's well that ends well." She said the meeting had helped in determining "a serious and good position about the immediate future" of the Central Bank. She is "quite pleased with this stage."
The governments have "committed themselves" to the Final Agreement of 2006 and the regulations of 2010 that brought the joint bank and monetary union into being. This commitment puts any move to split up the bank somewhat on ice for now.
Saturday's meeting focused on the further cooperation between the two countries "until either country says it does not wish to."
It is "no secret" that the countries have been looking at alternative currencies – whether together or apart will have to be determined possibly in the future, according to Schotte.
Wescot-Williams said the meeting and its outcome served to assure the people and commercial communities of the countries that the governments "will continue to work together ... continue to dialogue."
She added that it took more than one to make a partnership and that willingness to cooperate had been expressed by both sides in the meeting Saturday.
"Any decisions regarding the Central Bank should be made jointly, with the involvement of all parties. We will seek to eliminate the impasse which has been restricting the proper functioning of the Central Bank, and myself and the Government of St. Maarten are committed to see the proper functioning of the Central Bank," she said in a supplemental press statement on Sunday.
Speaking about the audit, she described the Central Bank's operation as "not what it should be. ... [We need to, ed.] do what we can to fix it."
Strong emphasis was placed on the appointment of the seventh member to the board of directors. The current seventh member was appointed by the Joint Court of Justice, because the two countries could not agree on a candidate. That appointment will be further discussed in St. Maarten on Monday, August 27. A candidate will be decided on based on the bank's charter.
"Regarding the appointment of a seventh member to the Advisory Council, we have made it clear that we will follow the law when it comes to the appointment as such," Wescot-Williams said in the follow-up press statement.
"Extremely important" is the build-up of the St. Maarten branch of the Central Bank, which to date continues to be just a shell operation with some three staff members. All bank business is carried out via Curaçao.
Tuitt said he also was happy that the governments had come to an agreement, because any issue enveloping the Central Bank would cast a bad shadow on the countries on the international stage. The operational audit will pinpoint whether there are integrity and other professional issues. From those a specific integrity audit can be carried out and projects can be developed to tackle hurdles.
Dealing with the confusion that surrounds the St. Maarten Government's announcement that it is seeking a multi-million-guilder investment for major projects, Tuitt said this would not be money coming from the Central Bank. Government will be seeking to tap into agreements with The Netherlands that give access to loans with low interest rates between one and three per cent. This would be "a normal operational investment" by the government.


Geen splitsing Centrale Bank Curacao en St. Maarten

WILLEMSTAD - De Centrale Bank van Curaçao en St. Maarten wordt niet gesplitst.
Beide landen zitten na de ontmanteling van de Nederlandse Antillen samen in een monetaire unie, maar het botert al vanaf het begin niet tussen de regeringen van Curaçao en St. Maarten. De premier van St. Maarten vindt het niet verstandig om een splitsing te forceren in deze
roerige tijden en met een demissionair kabinet n Willemstad. “Al is het een gedwongen huwelijk, er moet eerst rust heersen in de tent; het geruzie rond de Centrale Bank schaadt het imago van de bank en van beide landen”, aldus Wescot-Williams.

Sinds 2010, toen de Nederlandse Antillen werden ontmanteld, hebben Curaçao en Sint-Maarten een gezamenlijke monetaire unie. Er is echter voortdurend onenigheid, onder meer tussen bankpresident Tromp en de regering van Curaçao.

Verder is de raad van commissarissen nog steeds niet volledig en is een gemeenschappelijke munt nog ver weg.

Nederland had op een verzoening aangedrongen om het imago van de bank en van beide landen in de financiële wereld niet langer te schaden. Op een persconferentie in Willemstad maakten de premiers Schotte en Wescot-Williams bekend dat de kou uit de lucht is.

Volgens premier Wescot-Williams van Sint-Maarten was een escalatie van de ruzie nodig om de belangen van haar land veilig te stellen. Zo krijgt Sint-Maarten nu conform eerdere afspraken een eigen filiaal van de centrale bank. "Mocht het in de toekomst alsnog tot een splitsing komen, dan kan Sint-Maarten in ieder geval verder met dit filiaal", zei Wescot-Williams.

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