Dissertation – Deep-Seated Corruption in the Caribbean Kingdom

Table of Contents

In recent years, the Caribbean territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have frequently made headlines for issues of public fraud and corruption. The ongoing energy crisis at GEBE (Gemeenschappelijk Elektriciteitsbedrijf Bovenwindse Eilanden) in Sint Maarten is just the latest manifestation of these deep-seated problems. To understand the roots of these issues, we turn to the comprehensive research conducted by Nelly Schotborgh-van de Ven in her dissertation, “The Roots of Public Fraud and Corruption in the Caribbean Part of the Kingdom.”

Schotborgh-van de Ven’s work meticulously examines 46 cases of alleged public fraud and corruption from 2000 to 2015, providing a detailed analysis of the factors at play on individual, organizational, and societal levels. Her findings reveal that the problems are not only contemporary, but have historical roots stretching back to the colonial era. This research offers crucial insights into the persistent nature of corruption and underscores the urgent need for systemic reforms in governance, integrity measures, and public accountability in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom.

In this blog post, we will explore the key findings of this groundbreaking dissertation and discuss how these insights can be applied to address current issues like the GEBE energy crisis.

Introduction:

The Caribbean territories of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, particularly Sint Maarten, have long grappled with issues of public fraud and corruption. The ongoing energy crisis at GEBE (Gemeenschappelijk Elektriciteitsbedrijf Bovenwindse Eilanden) in Sint Maarten serves as a stark reminder of these deep-rooted challenges. To understand the complexities and implications of these issues, we delve into the comprehensive research conducted by Nelly Schotborgh-van de Ven in her dissertation, “The Roots of Public Fraud and Corruption in the Caribbean Part of the Kingdom.”

Schotborgh-van de Ven’s dissertation meticulously examines 46 cases of alleged public fraud and corruption from 2000 to 2015, providing a detailed analysis of the factors at play on individual, organizational, and societal levels. Her findings reveal that the problems are not only contemporary but have historical roots stretching back to the colonial era. This research offers crucial insights into the persistent nature of corruption and underscores the urgent need for systemic reforms in governance, integrity measures, and public accountability in Sint Maarten.

Historical Context of Corruption in Sint Maarten:

Since gaining autonomous status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010, Sint Maarten has faced numerous challenges in establishing robust governance structures. The dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles required Sint Maarten to build its own administrative and governmental institutions, a process fraught with difficulties and setbacks.

The historical political scandals in Sint Maarten, such as the 1992 bribery case involving Minister Gumbs and the construction scandals linked to Princess Juliana Airport, highlight a pattern of corrupt practices that have persisted over decades. These scandals, involving high-ranking officials and political figures, set a precedent for the type of governance challenges that continue to plague the island.

Governance and Integrity Issues:

Schotborgh-van de Ven’s research points out significant gaps in the governance and integrity frameworks within Sint Maarten. Reports from the General Audit Chamber in 2014 highlighted numerous integrity issues within ministries and government bodies, including the lack of an official code of conduct for civil servants, inadequate regulations for receiving gifts, and gaps in public procurement laws. These deficiencies create an environment where corrupt practices can thrive, as officials are often unaware of or choose to ignore existing codes of conduct.

Socio-Economic Conditions:

Sint Maarten’s socio-economic landscape further complicates governance. Despite having one of the higher GDPs in the Caribbean, a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line. The income inequality is stark, with a small wealthy elite and a large underprivileged population. This disparity, exacerbated by political appointments, fraud, and corruption, has a direct impact on the quality of public services and infrastructure, including energy provision.

The Current Energy Crisis at GEBE:

The energy crisis at GEBE is a manifestation of the governance issues outlined in Schotborgh-van de Ven’s research. GEBE, as a government-owned NV, is not immune to the problems of political interference and lack of oversight that affect other public institutions in Sint Maarten. The crisis has brought to light several critical issues:

  1. Political Appointments and Inefficiency:
  • The document highlights how political appointments can lead to inefficient management and decision-making in government-owned NVs. At GEBE, political interference may have compromised the effectiveness of its governance, leading to operational inefficiencies and inadequate crisis management.
  1. Integrity and Corruption:
  • Instances of corruption within GEBE, such as illegal electricity tapping by employees, reflect broader integrity issues. Implementing and strictly enforcing comprehensive integrity policies and oversight mechanisms is essential to prevent corruption and ensure transparent operations.
  1. Impact on the Population:
  • The energy crisis exacerbates the socio-economic conditions in Sint Maarten. Ensuring affordable and reliable energy access for all citizens, especially the underprivileged, is crucial. Subsidies or financial assistance programs might be necessary to support low-income households during the crisis.

Lessons from the Dissertation:

The insights from Schotborgh-van de Ven’s dissertation provide valuable lessons for addressing the current crisis at GEBE:

  1. Robust Governance Frameworks:
  • Establishing clear governance frameworks with strict adherence to codes of conduct and integrity measures can help mitigate the impact of political interference and corruption. Regular audits and independent reviews are essential to maintain transparency and accountability.
  1. Economic and Social Reforms:
  • Addressing income inequality and poverty is crucial for improving governance and public service delivery. Economic and social reforms that promote inclusive growth and equitable distribution of resources can help create a more stable and just society.
  1. Community Engagement and Communication:
  • Effective communication with the public is vital. GEBE should regularly update the community on the status of the energy crisis, steps being taken to resolve it, and ways the public can contribute to energy conservation efforts. Engaging with the community to understand their needs and concerns will help build trust and cooperation.

The energy crisis at GEBE is a symptom of deeper governance and integrity issues in Sint Maarten. By applying the insights from Schotborgh-van de Ven’s comprehensive research, stakeholders can better understand the root causes of these problems and work towards sustainable solutions. Ensuring transparent, efficient, and inclusive management practices at GEBE will be key to navigating the crisis and fostering long-term stability and resilience in Sint Maarten’s energy sector.