Dysfunctional union Curaçao & St. Maarten
On 16 February 2018, the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Union (ECCU) convenes for the 90th time. The ECCU was born in 1983 to assist members with their financial and economic development agenda and the good of the people. ECCU members are: St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. While the cemetery is full of defunct monetary unions, the ECCU is only one of a handful of monetary unions that have survived for such a long time. Not by chance, but by choice. And, by painstaking coordination of monetary and macroeconomic policies of 6 different jurisdictions.
The monetary union between Curaçao and St. Maarten (CSMU), formed in 2010 has taken a different path than our Caribbean neighbors. One for the record books. First, the CSMU has since 2010 been using the currency of the dissolved Netherlands Antilles: the Netherlands Antillian Guilder (ANG). What we’ve also done differently than the other existing monetary unions is to not have any mechanism to discuss, let alone coordinate macroeconomic or social policies between the two countries. I questioned the very idea of forming this monetary union a decade ago. This decision was political and it was imposed by the Dutch government so I was outvoted and nearly thrown out of the political party I belonged to for going against the current.
Today St. Maarten and Curaçao, although legally together in this forced marriage, behave like a couple of happy-go-lucky bachelors. Each island has it own economic policy, tax code, budget management, labor policy and so on. As the years pass by, the two countries that used to belong to the Netherlands Antilles drift apart, each choosing its own path which is fine if they were not in a monetary union. No one considers this a priority as the ministers of Finance of these two countries have not convened in many years to talk about the union, let alone the need for coordination. This monetary union, lest there’s miracle, is doomed to vanish into oblivion.
By Alex David Rosaria
Former Member of Parliament