The Kingdom of the Netherlands has a corruption problem. Although the country of Netherlands maintains a squeaky-clean image, ranking eighth in the world on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the Kingdom of the Netherlands is comprised of not only the Netherlands itself, but also three semi-autonomous island countries in the Caribbean. These island countries, along with three territorial islands directly controlled by the Netherlands, collectively form the Dutch Caribbean. And the Dutch Caribbean, unlike the Western European country, has a serious corruption problem, the severity of which is being diluted by the positive perceptions of the Netherlands.
Before addressing corruption in the Dutch Caribbean specifically, it’s worth explaining the Kingdom’s somewhat unusual constituent-country structure. Technically speaking, the Kingdom is composed of four equal autonomous countries: The Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten. The citizens of all four countries are Dutch nationals. Each country has its own constitution and parliament, but the Kingdom is sovereign, retaining responsibility for foreign policy, defense, and other “Kingdom issues,” including oversight of human rights and freedoms within all Kingdom territories. Of the four countries that comprise the Kingdom, the Netherlands is by far the largest, accounting for 98% of both the Kingdom’s land mass and population. And although Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten each have a representative within the Kingdom’s council of ministers, the Netherlands in effect also directly controls the Kingdom, as well as the Caribbean islands of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, which are Dutch territories.
Most international corruption assessments lump the Dutch Caribbean in together with the Netherlands. The CPI, for example, does not include separate evaluations for Aruba, Curacao, or Sint Maarten, nor does the U.S. State Department. The tendency to consider the Dutch Caribbean as part of the Netherlands, and to provide a single report or score for “the Netherlands” as a whole, obscures the fact that the Dutch Caribbean does, in fact, have a very serious corruption problem on each of its constituent islands, as the following brief survey illustrates: