Fourth Progress Report 2014 concerning the public entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba in the Dutch Caribbean
Before you is the fourth progress report of the Kingdom Representative for the public entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. This report discusses the developments that took place on the three islands from the Ministries involved in 2014.
The largest part of this report was made by the liaisons involved, the Kingdom Representative’s adviser, other people involved and the new Kingdom Representative who has just taken office (1 September 2014). In this set-up it was decided to use the same format as you have been used to in the past years.
Also the physical distance between The Hague in the European Netherlands and the three islands in the Caribbean has not changed. And fortunately, the same goes for the commitment of the many hard workers at the public entities and the Ministries through whose hard work again steps ahead have been made.
Have we finished yet? Certainly not. That is also clear from the fact that 2014 was the year of changes at the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean and the Office of the Kingdom Representative. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations had already decided earlier to investigate the national government coordination in the Dutch Caribbean and on 21 March 2014 the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations sent the following documents to the House of Representatives:
- Report, by the Supervision Detection Inspectorate of the Ministry of ForeignAffairs;
- Government coordination in the Dutch Caribbean by the Small Evaluation Dutch Caribbean Commission which was ordered to look at “the government coordination in a more political and administrative perspective;
- Cabinet reply to both reports.
These three documents showed that a different interpretation was desired of the job of Kingdom Representative and of the support for it and of the shared service organisation Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean. In summary, the recommendations came down to:
- The Kingdom Representative gets his mandate from the Cabinet on the basis of the long-term policy programme;
- Besides his legal tasks, the Kingdom Representative also has an administrative liaison role between The Hague and the governing councils of the public entities;
- Implementation of the separation between policy and execution;
- Implementation of the long-term programme is up to the overseas departmental implementing bodies. They are the direct responsibility of the minister concerned;
- By analogy to the permanent representatives, the Kingdom Representative promotes the cooperation between the liaisons, keeps an overview, puts department exceeding issues on the agenda and monitors the consistency in the performance of the liaisons;
- The Kingdom Representative will be consulted by the departments prior to the appointments of their liaisons on the islands;
- The Kingdom Representative will be responsible for the Shared Service Center of the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean;
- The support for the Kingdom Representative is given from the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean as well as by the liaisons of the departments. A separate organisation for or office of the Kingdom Representative is no longer necessary;
- Already as part of the agreed responsibilities, the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean will already implement efficiency measures also involving the support of the Kingdom Representative.
The recommendations in both reports have directly contributed to the improvement and optimisation of the execution of the central government responsibilities and are a prelude to the “big evaluation” of the political structure that will take place in 2015. The Cabinet has taken over the recommendations of the Van Gastel/Thunnissen/Johnson Commission.
All in all a large number of changes came into force in the autumn of 2014.
The first months (September to December 2014) were the time for the Kingdom Representative and the Director/Secretary (both came to office on 1 September 2014) of getting introduced. The new Kingdom Representative started interviews with the lieutenant governors, deputies, social organisations, lobbies, stakeholders, press and residents on all three islands as quickly as possible. The new Kingdom Representative was also introduced to the staff of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean working on Saba and Sint Eustatius.
It was a deliberate choice to stay on each island for a week in September in order to get a better idea and understanding of what is going on and of what the residents of the islands find important themselves. There is so much knowledge on the islands that can be tapped into.
The Kingdom Representative further requested to be able to take part in the newly installed Dutch Caribbean Table in The Hague in order to get and give direct input from the island perspective.
Especially the months of October and November 2014 were the time of preparatory talks for the Long-term Programme for the Dutch Caribbean week in 2015 together with the three islands, official consultations, liaising with The Hague, introductory talks with members of the Cabinet and visits to Ministries during the visits to the Netherlands and getting to know Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius. The Kingdom Representative attended the festivities on the three most important holidays of the islands, Dia di Boneiru, Statia Day and Saba Day.
Also in 2014, the three islands regularly received delegations accompanied by the Kingdom Representative and his team.
Chapter 2 Important developments & activities in 2014
This chapter is about the main activities of 2014 and about subjects specifically dealing with the activities of the Kingdom Representative.
The Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean and the Kingdom Representative
With the new Kingdom Representative and the Director/acting Secretary of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean, a new organisation set-up was started on 1 September with the Kingdom Representative being responsible for the entire central government approach in the Dutch Caribbean, including the shared service organisation of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean. By combining the two roles of the Director of the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean and the Secretary Kingdom Representative, the central government organisation gets the form of a standard governance model in the Netherlands, such as a municipal authority and a provincial authority which are led by a governor who is assisted by a municipal secretary or provincial secretary respectively.
Both officials are party to the Dutch Caribbean Table in The Hague so that a better synergy between the departments and the islands may be effected.
The liaisons and heads of units continue to work under the responsibility of their own department, but under the general control of the Kingdom Representative in the Caribbean, who internally specifically shapes his liaising role by that, so that the central government presents itself with one voice and face.
At the same time the announced responsibilities of the Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean have been implemented through efficiency measures also directly involving the support of the Kingdom Representative.
Dutch Caribbean Week
The Dutch Caribbean week took place in The Hague from 16 to 20 June. During this week the representatives of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba had several talks with Minister Plasterk and other government members of representatives of Ministries as well as members of the House of Representatives. The Dutch Caribbean week marked the start of two important processes, i.e. the evaluation of the effect of the new political structure of the Dutch Caribbean and the long-term plans (see further under the heading of the responsible Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.
The Central Government and island governments were unanimous during the Dutch Caribbean Week 2014 in their ambition to come to a first version of a combined policy plan for the Dutch Caribbean for the coming years. The purpose is to come to a transparent and comprehensive policy on the islands on which the departments and island authorities can work together. That way the long-term programme will be the ‘dream for the future’, one of the main recommendations of the Van Gastel Commission already referred to following the investigation of the Central Government Coordination in the Dutch Caribbean.
The long-term programme draft consists of three main pillars: fighting poverty, economic development and children’s rights. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will also work actively on a programme of Improved Island Governance, because it has become clear that the island governments are not adequately equipped to face all opportunities and challenges and because the implementation capacity requires attention. The islands used the time after Dutch Caribbean Week to reply to the first draft version and by making their own Development Plans per island.
The goal is to make final agreements on the long-term plan during Dutch Caribbean Week 2015.
The island council of Sint Eustatius decided to have an advisory referendum on the constitutional status. This referendum, in which the residents were asked to indicate their preference from four options, took place on 17 December:
Option 1: I am in favour of Sint Eustatius to stay a Public Entity
Option 2: I am in favour of Sint Eustatius becoming an Independent Country
Option 3: I am in favour of Sint Eustatius becoming an Autonomous Territory within the Dutch Kingdom
Option 4: I am in favour of Sint Eustatius becoming an Integrated Part of the Netherlands
The voters voted as follows: Option 1: Public Entity 374
Option 2: Independence 5
Option 3: Autonomous Country 747
Option 4: Integration 14
A Referendum Regulation determined that a 60% voter turnout was required to hold a valid referendum. The turnout eventually turned out to have been 45%, which rendered the referendum invalid. It is up to the Island Council to decide on any follow-up steps.
Also Bonaire called for a referendum on the constitutional status of the island. The island council appointed an advisory committee which advised the island council. After a record meeting on 1 October 2014, the current coalition decided to vote against the motion proposing to organise a referendum on the political relations with the Netherlands on 10 December 2014. Demonstrations have been held in front of the administrative office of Bonaire since 10 November by an action group, Nos Kier Boneiru Bek (NKBB). They have indicated they will only leave when a referendum is organised and to keep demonstrating until the March 18, 2015 elections. The atmosphere sometimes became entrenched by considerable political stands (on population, the Dutch and tourists) and by signs with slogans on them which were hung on the fence of the building of the Governing Council and partly on the building of the Island Council.
Also on the basis of the jointly prepared policy rule made earlier, 152 staff decisions were presented to the Kingdom Representative for approval last year.
Experience has shown in the meantime that staff is appointed also based on agreements and project assignments besides the decisions presented to the Kingdom Representative. An important focus point for the evaluation because of a lacking evaluation and the potential financial consequences of this process.
Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean
The Central Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean as a Shared Services Organisation (SSO) had a busy and eventful year in several ways. There was additional deployment in the support of the Dutch Caribbean Police Force and the Health insurance Office in terms of communication and an organisation wide intercultural communication training was conducted successfully for Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean.
In order to meet the increasing requirements and demands of the customers, the IT infrastructure needed a large and complex migration. This migration was conducted without any major problems. The question remains if the current infrastructure is sufficiently robust and offers a sufficiently equipped infrastructure for the coming years.
The renovations on the Bonaire Customs Building and the main Building of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean were started after a long wait.
In cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, the cleaning tender was concluded favourably. The goal of this tender was to enable especially small local cleaning companies to obtain contracts with Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean.
The IT Help desk for Government Officials was started in the Netherlands in June. 4 FTEs provide help desk services to officials in the Netherlands having problems with their IT workplace in the evening. This is in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Foundation for Professional and Commercial Complaints Boards, Young Bonaire, Compulsory Education and the IT Student Service Center.
A lot of attention went to the improvement of managing and standardising processes. Especially in the HR, facility and financial domains. 4 Projects were started to make sure systems make manual work superfluous as much as possible and allow an insight into the relevant management information any given moment.
For the Dutch Caribbean Police Force, the Dutch Caribbean Correctional Institutions and Youth Care & Family Guardians, a new planning schedule system (RostarCas) was completed at the request of the services. This system enables the services to jointly plan scheduled duties.
The staff of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean were again ready to act in the event of calamities and (power) failures last year. All this to make sure everything is solved as quickly as possible for the clients.
Being a part of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, also Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean must meet the requirements of the Building Information Council. The clients approved an extensive package of measures. These have been executed in the information security programme. The planned activities were carried out in 2014. Late 2014, the National Audit Service ADR investigated the state of affairs at the request of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean. The ensuing recommendations will be implemented in 2015 and 2016.
The sector meeting discussed subjects in 2014 such as the primary and fringe benefits, the implementation of employee participation, integrity, scheduled duty and the evaluation of Organisation and Formation Reports. 2014 was mainly the year of Collective Labour Agreement negotiations for 2013/2014 however. An agreement was reached with the unions after long negotiations in August 2014. The implementation of the Collective Labour Agreement was conducted in phases.
Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean worked hard on the implementation of the nationwide integrity policy in the local context of the Dutch Caribbean the past two years. An important part is the code of conduct Good Job! established in December 2014, which includes the expectations in terms of employee and especially manager integrity. Various trainings for employees and managers were held to support that. Starting 1 January 2014, the Regulation on Confidential Advisers on Integrity and on the Complaints Commission on undesirable behaviour of Government officials BES islands became effective. Six confidential advisers were appointed as of 1 January 2014 on the basis of this regulation, a reporting procedure for (suspected) integrity violations was established and an integrity information line was set up. The information line supervises careful handling of potential integrity violations and keeps a central register. This forms the basis of the sustainable embedding of incorruptible behaviour and desirable behaviour in the organisation.
In various services/units of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean a pilot was started of employee participation councils based on the draft regulation on “Employee Participation Councils of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean. It is clear from the pilot that, given the local circumstances, such as the lack of a legal framework, this is a first step in shaping employee participation.
Chapter 3 Explanation of the main elements per department
Below is an explanation of the various activities conducted by department. The texts were provided by the departments themselves.
Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations
Early 2014, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations focused on the activities around the government coordination on the Dutch Caribbean reported earlier in this document (see the introduction). Many activities of the Ministry came together in the Dutch Caribbean Week, in which among other things a long-term programme for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba was discussed with the public entities. It had been agreed that in the months after the Dutch Caribbean Week, a long-term plan would be prepared with the islands, which should be borne by the Central Government and the island governments. It was also agreed that there will be an investigation into the adequacy of the free benefit, among other things because the reference scope investigation of 2012 required an update to 2014. The Ideeversa Agency was given an assignment to do this.
During the Dutch Caribbean Week, agreements were also made between the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations for the Cabinet and the three public entities on the evaluation of the preparation of the new political structure of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. An independent evaluation commission, chaired by Ms Spies, was appointed and she paid a first visit to the three islands in November. The evaluation will concern the way in which the agreements made to prepare for 10-10-10 have been implemented. A debate on a potential change of the political relations is not part of the evaluation itself. The purpose of the evaluation is to establish what was achieved through a review. How did legislation. agreements and procedures work out? The evaluation assignment comprises the three evaluation complexes pictures by the Council of State. They are strongly interconnected but should be distinguished: (1) the effect of the legislation; (2) the effect of the new governing structure and (3) the consequences of the transition to the new political situation for the population of the islands. The independent evaluation commission will complete its evaluation report in October 2015.
The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relation put EUR 1.4 million (cumulatively for 2015 and 2016) at the disposal of the three public entities during the Dutch Caribbean Week. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will also take care of the overhead costs of the PUM Netherlands senior experts (Programme Posting Managers), so that they may be deployed for business people and authorities on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. Furthermore, there was an exploratory meeting on the deployment of more officials for the government of the islands in the Dutch Caribbean Week. The Central Government and the public entities discussed potential solutions to increase the governing strength of the islands.
The Housing and Central Government Service Directorate General started a procedure to modernise the current housing market regulations at the request of Bonaire. This will result among other things in an amendment of the BES Rent Assessment Committee Regulation (adjustment of tasks and responsibilities rent assessment committee), as will an amendment of the BES Civil Code (among other things allowing temporary renting out for certain target groups). The Housing and Building Directorate General will lend technical support for the creation of island regulations. Once the draft legislation is finished, it will be presented to the three public entities for consultation.
The BES Buildings Decree was published in the Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees on 15 December 2014 after consultation with the three islands. The intention is to also introduce a form of the National Mortgage Guarantee in the Dutch Caribbean. The intended implementation date of 1 January 2015 was not achieved.
The cooperation between the Dutch Housing Corporation ‘Woonlinie’ and Sint Eustatius was terminated at the end of 2014. It was agreed that the homes of the Statia Housing Foundation would be renovated with financing from Housing and Central Government Service and in cooperation with the Woonlinie housing corporation. Early December the current governing council indicated, however, that they did not want to stick to the agreements on the necessary reorganisation of the local housing corporation signed by them and the cooperation was again put “on hold”. The Minister for Housing and Central Government Service very much regrets this, because an important foundation for the realisation of sustainable public housing for the residents of Sint Eustatius could have been laid. The cooperation between the Own Your Own Home Foundation on Saba and Woonlinie is going well, just like the cooperation between Fundashon Kas Bonairiano on Bonaire and ‘Thuis’.
The Minister for Housing and Central Government Service again made two hundred thousand euros available for social economic development of the three islands for both 2014 and 2015. These funds were added to the budget overall resources in order to contribute to a comprehensive approach to improve the effect of the labour market, increase employment, child care, fight poverty and debts, education, comprehensive neighbourhood approach, care, sports and youth policy.
The Central Government Real Estate Agency was created mid 2014 from the merger between the Government Buildings Agency, the Defence Real Estate Agency, the Central Government Real Estate Development Agency and the Building Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. For the Dutch Caribbean this means that the management of the team involved in the development and realisation of building projects takes place under the responsibility of the Director Real Estate Management with a Head Cluster Carib based on Curaçao.
In 2014, the team consisted of 6 people working in the Dutch Caribbean and the staffing was adjusted for the merger in 2014 and ongoing to 2015. More attention was given this year to the management & maintenance of the buildings in cooperation with Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean and the merger partner on Curaçao.
The Central Government Real Estate Agency worked on projects by order of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Ministry of Security and Justice and of the other Ministries in the past year 2014. Early 2014, the Central Housing Public Entity Bonaire and Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean study was concluded and discussed. Further decisions are expected to be taken only after the elections in 2015. In 2014, the police office on Bonaire, the police office on Saba, the renovation of the lieutenant governor’s house, a shelter for the Youth and Family Centre and the feasibility study for the realisation of a domestic abuse centre were completed. Also the first phase of the maintenance on the APNA building was concluded. A start was made with the new to build fire station on Bonaire and late 2014, the contract was signed for the new custodial institution on Bonaire. New accommodation was found for the Health Care Insurance Office which will be available by mid 2015.
The renovation of the San Bernardo School on Bonaire was concluded in 2014. Tenders have been invited for the building of the Community School Papa Cornes and of the Watapana School and the building will start early 2015. As regards the Bonaire Combined School, final agreements have been made about the Programme of Requirements, the planning, the phases and the location of the various school buildings on the premises. Preparations for three other schools (Reina Bearic, Liseo Boneriano, San Luis Bertran) have started.
The first phase of the renovation of the Bethel Methodist School on Sint Eustatius has been concluded and work has been done on the renovation of the Golden Rock School. other school projects are being prepared. The total Education, Culture and Science project is expected to be concluded by mid 2019.
A lot of attention was devoted on Saba to the transfer of land by a number of private persons to the Public Entity, this for the purpose of school expansion. Furthermore, a tender process was started for the renovation of the P.L. Granger Auditorium.
Ministry of Defence
In 2013, the major part of the civil servants employed by KMar followed the “Border Control Officer / General Investigating Officer Dutch Caribbean” training. That is why the actual transition to one BES Border Police Department could be made as of 1 January 201 KMar (Royal Netherlands Marechaussee) last year mainly focused on further developing and improving border control, investigating border related crime and on KMAR policing on Saba and Sint Eustatius. Key objectives for 2014 were: further development of Information Driven Action and further development of Maritime Border Control. As regards the maritime border control, especially for Bonaire the cooperation with the Curaçao Coast Guard was intensified. The same applies for Saba and Sint Eustatius, where the cooperation with the Coast Guard of Sint Maarten was intensified. Investments in 2014 further mainly concerned the improvement of procedures and training staff for Calamities – Crisis and Disaster Response at Bonaire International Airport.
Ministry of Economic Affairs
In the Dutch Caribbean, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is represented with a head, a senior policy officer, in charge of nature matters and a policy officer with a focus on agriculture and fisheries.
A lot of attention went to the supply of energy in 2014. The supply of electricity in the first place. After the turbulent preceding years, the focus on Bonaire was on the consolidation of a good cooperation between Contour Global as the new producer and WEB as the supplier. The rate support by Economic Affairs to WEB (Water and Energy Bonaire) was continued and the discussion on the use of solar energy was started. Besides electricity, also the fuel supply on Bonaire had the focus of Economic Affairs: a report was made and personally offered to the deputy of Economic Affairs by the Economic Affairs Energy Envoy.
On Sint Eustatius and Saba, the demerger was taken up of GEBE Sint Maarten in two new electricity companies on both islands, under the names of STUCO and SEC respectively. With considerable support of Economic Affairs in terms of advice and subsidy, these companies, including a large part of sustainable energy, probably sunPV, can break even in the long run.
The draft Electricity and Drinking Water Dutch Caribbean Act gave the necessary discussions as regards the electricity part. Economic Affairs has taken a cautious position as regards telecom matters since 10-10-10. The developments in 2014 around sea cables and the limited strength of the telecom companies especially on Sint Eustatius and Saba led to the realisation that more policy focus is required.
The mail concession for the Dutch Caribbean granted in 2013 by the Minister of Economic Affairs to Flamingo Communications led to a reasonable quality of mail deliveries after some initial start-up problems in 2014, except on Sint Eustatius where the governing council refused to grant Flamingo Communications a licence to establish a business.
Considerable support from Economic Affairs led to sturdy foundation under a renewed Chamber of Commerce on Bonaire in 2014. Also the Saba-Sint Eustatius Chamber of Commerce is reasonably under control. Consultations are ongoing on an amendment of the BES Chamber of Commerce Act to tailor it more to reality.
Malfunctioning incentive schemes for businesses in the Dutch Caribbean caused Economic Affairs in 2014 to also explore other avenues. This will have to lead to results in 2015. Some smaller subsidies were granted in the tourism business, but the wait is for the strategic plans of especially the BCs of Bonaire and Sint Eustatius.
The BES Fisheries Committee just started. Dutch Caribbean Economic Affairs provides secretarial services, together with Economic Affairs in The Hague.
The fisheries monitoring investigation continues on all 3 islands. Furthermore a preceding programme has been set up to modernise pesticide legislation. The Economic Affairs Unit of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean offered support to potential agricultural businesses in the Dutch Caribbean. The Countryside Development Plan started on Bonaire. This plan, which came about via a bottom-up process, gives an impetus to agriculture, cattle breeding, tourism, recreation and entrepreneurship in the Bonaire countryside.
Saba got support from Economic Affairs in resubmitting the agriculture plan within the nature funding projects and started to take care of fighting the stray goats problem.
A project was started on Sint Eustatius to remove stray cows from the street.
In terms of nature, the execution of the first nature funding projects were started this year. Seven projects were approved, including dealing with stray animals on all three islands. There was also attention for the coral reef: a strategic environmental assessment of Bonaire Maritime Park was started; coral reefs around Saba and Sint Eustatius were mapped in detail, including their economical value; and regionally agreements were made on monitoring the coral reefs.
The maritime parks of Saba and Sint Eustatius were recognised by the SPAW Protocol (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife) through which now all nature parks with an official National Park status have been recognised by SPAW. The management of the
Saba Bank National Park was continued, for example by having a closed fishing season for a very crucial spawn aggregation area of the “Red Hind” sea bass. The economic value study of the nature of Saba and Sint Eustatius was concluded and presented on the islands, also as nature plan for the islands. Finally, an investigation was carried out for better protection of sharks and whales for the evaluation of coral restoring methods and the biodiversity database for the Dutch Caribbean was expanded further.
Ministry of Finance
In 2014, the supervisory bodies on the financial markets, DNB and the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, AFM, did their regular job. DNB is in charge of the supervision of the integrity of the financial transactions and conducted audits for that purpose at banks and insurance companies. As the head offices of those institutions are established on Curaçao and on Sint Maarten for just a few of them, audits were only carried out in cooperation with the Central Bank of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The AFM implemented some adjustments in the legislation on the insurances in good consultation. The small scale of the executing companies, mostly one man agencies, was obviously taken into account.
An adjoining focus area is the supervision on the financial movements with border crossing movements of persons. Supported by experts of Dutch Customs, the processes around Unusual Transactions Notification have been improved and tightened. Customs officers have been trained in handling the procedures and travelers are kept informed better on their duties.
In conformity with the agreements made in 2009 and 2010 between the then State Secretary of Finance and the local governors, there was sufficient opportunity in 2014 to evaluate both the tax system and the functioning of the Tax Administration/Customs together. A reasonable number of adjustments in the tax system was implemented in previous years, especially in the rate structure. There were no changes in 2014. There is evidently still a large need for information with taxpayers, about especially the General Expenditure Tax, both the application in local business and that for imports.
There was no progress in 2014 in solving the issue of double tax in goods traffic between Sint Maarten and Saba and Sint Eustatius. Although the financial aspects for both the levying country and the consumer are small, it remains difficult to amend the respective legislation and regulations. An agreement between Curaçao and Bonaire applies under which goods from Curaçao are only taxed once via transit facilities, i.e. in the country, Bonaire, where the goods are consummated. Unfortunately, the retail information including that of the supermarkets, on the high prices was not correct. it wasn’t competition that drove the prices of food up and not the tax pressure.
“Customer satisfaction” investigations about the functioning of the Tax Administration/Customs showed that positive experiences are being shared after years of habituation. An introductory visit by the Secretaries General of Finance and of the Interior and Kingdom Relations provided even more inside to those involved. A small note: Finance is worried more about the spending power and the costs of living of the citizens than about the complaints by the business world about the investment climate that allegedly was interfered with by the new tax legislation. One thing is clear: tax holidays do not fit in the new tax regime.
Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment
There is a liaison in the Dutch Caribbean for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment. The liaison is responsible for the mutual alignment with the islands and acts as connection between the Directorates of Infrastructure and Environment in The Hague, the island organisations, has an ‘eyes and ears’ function for the department and is accountable to the Inspector General for Infrastructure, Environment and Transport, which is the portfolio holder for the Dutch Caribbean for the governing council. From
Infrastructure and Environment, the Shipping Inspectorate is active on the islands with 4 people. They check the shipping calling at the islands.
Infrastructure and Environment made preparations in 2014 to develop a specific, on Infrastructure and Environment concentrated plan of execution for the Dutch Caribbean. This will be an effect of the long-term plan that will be ready in 2015. Investments from Infrastructure and Environment to achieve a sustainable economic growth will be seen in coherence and will be included in it.
In 2014 an investigation was conducted into the drinking water problem on Saba and various possible solutions were formulated. The reason for this investigation is to get the drinking water supply on Saba under control for both the quantity of drinking water as the quality of it. Based on the investigation it was agreed with Saba to carry out measures to get the drinking water supply under control. It concerns the improvement of the drinking water quality by using water filters and the increase of the drinking water quantity by building extra storage capacity. All measures will have been carried out by late 2016. In cooperation with Economic Affairs, legislation was prepared for the electricity and drinking water supply in the Dutch Caribbean. This act has further requirements for the organisation, the drinking water quality and offers the basis for subsidy of the drinking water supply.
The waste water treatment plant (RWZI) was completed in 2014 and has treated the waste water of a growing number of households, institutions and businesses since then. The current legislation for the funding of the waste water chain is extended, so that the Public Entity Bonaire can perform the duty of care for the treatment of waste water. The duty of care is extended for this purpose, so that also commercial waste water comes under the duty of care. This opens the way for waste water treatment on Bonaire and a contribution is made to the coral reef of Bonaire. Also a contribution is made to agriculture through the supply of (cheaper) irrigation water.
As regards the airports, preparations started in 2014 to execute the airports’ master plans. Designs were made and contract documents were drawn up for the tender given out by Rijkswaterstaat, the Directorate General for Public Works and Water Management. The contract was awarded late last year. Besides the preparation phase for the renovation of the airports, the quality of air traffic services has improved. Specific results are the training of air traffic staff, a new rates structure, the improvement of operational procedures for the air traffic control concerned. The safety of the start and landing runways was improved. Among other things two street cleaning machines to clean the runways were purchased by Infrastructure and Environment at the Defence Department.
By consultation with the parties involved in the Dutch Caribbean. further plans were made to improve waste management on the islands. Late 2014, this resulted in the islands Saba and Sint Eustatius receiving for example residential containers for the homes, incineration ovens, divides and vehicles for waste collection. The delivered materials will be installed and put into use in 2015 and the material for Bonaire will follow. The improvements in waste management lead to the prevention of dumping waste by the separate collection of dry recyclables and non recyclables. The non- recyclables are incinerated. The dry recyclables are separated further in new to be put up recycling centres, so that the waste can be recycled and reused as raw material for new products. As regards the recycling of waste flows, which is a producer responsibility, the role producers can play in the education, communication and if possible by giving an advance for the costs of removal and recycling of the separated waste, is considered in consultation with them.
The policy for company specific environment tasks on the islands will be developed and executed from November 2013. A draft Order in Council (Institutions and Activities Decree) (further: IAD) was presented to the governing council of Bonaire in which choices were made on the extent to which local companies can be sustainable in doing business. A two year implementation programme was decided on, in which stakeholders, the business community, local government and Infrastructure and Environment together make agreements on the feasibility and implementation of the IAD.
During 2014 a legal assessment was conducted of the practical feasibility of the draft environment rules and training was given to local staff. Furthermore capacity of the civil service was built up by – under certain conditions – freeing up two formation places for environment tasks, organising knowledge assurance in cooperation with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO and IT solutions for the Supervision and Enforcement Directorate. Environmental permits were issued for oil terminal Bonaire (BOPEC) and fuel storage Curoil with long-term investment duties for the companies involved in terms of safety and environment. All ongoing legal procedures were declared to be unfounded by the district court. A legal action against the environment permit issued in 2013 is still ongoing for NuStar on Sint Eustatius. Thus all large companies in the Dutch Caribbean have been issued a permit and one of the priorities listed as urgent that was realised when the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment BES Act was drafted. The companies involved will come under the authority of the Minister in 2015 once the “Large Institutions Environment Management Decree” has taken effect.
The maritime incidents organisation made the plan for the operational handling of an oil spill together with the islands in 2014. The plan is in line with the tactical-strategic plan established by the Minister of Infrastructure and Environment in 2013. There are two containers of oil spill fighting equipment in the form of so-called ‘current busters’ on all islands now, as well as equipment to clean up oil from the beaches. The preparations have been started for the purchase of screens to be able to protect Lake Bonaire against oil penetration. In order to be able to contract shipping capacity to be used in the event of an oil spill, an international market consultation was held in which the actual tender was planned for early 2015. In cooperation with the Ministry of Defence, an AIS receiver was placed on Saba which helps the Ministry of Economic Affairs to enforce the closing of the Saba bank. The data of the AIS receiver are further also used by the Coast Guard for the Caribbean Area and Rijkswaterstaat, the Directorate General for Public Works and Water Management, to picture the intensity of shipping traffic. Continuous education, training and practising is important in crisis management. Two governing trainings took place in 2014 in which the lieutenant governors, the island secretaries and other officers of the public entity took part, and four operational trainings in which port staff, the local fire brigade, the oil terminals and the nature organisations took part.
The regular maritime matters in the Dutch Caribbean are dealt with along three main lines:
- Further professionalism and upgrading of port management in order to guarantee safe and smooth sailing from and to the islands and to improve the earnings model where possible.
- Eliminating arrears and arrears in maintenance in the maritime infrastructure to prevent the spread of safety risks.
- In relation to 1 and 2, the exploration of the way in which the maritime matters can be taken care of.
A declaration of intent was agreed with each island separately for this purpose early 2014. The effect for the Leeward Islands has been the posting of a maritime expert for six months. For Bonaire two exploratory investigations were conducted which offer detailed clarity on the future programme resulting from the declaration of intent.
Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment
Social Affairs and Employment in the Dutch Caribbean (Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean Social Affairs Unit) is responsible for the execution of the laws and regulations ordered. Laws and regulations regarding the social insurances, benefits, work permits, labour inspectorate and labour affairs are concerned.
This means that Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean handles and assesses all applications for Invalidity insurance, General Widows’ and Orphans’ Benefits Act, Relief, Sick Pay, Accident Compensation, severance pay, work permits, dismissal permits. Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean Social Affairs Unit furthermore is responsible for mediation in labour disputes and for labour inspectorate tasks.
Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean Social Affairs Unit is established on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba. The offices on Sint Eustatius and Saba are small with the focus on the customer service facility and assessment and for which the last steps (decision and payment) of the various work processes take place on Bonaire.
The unit is also closely involved in the execution of the comprehensive approach projects from the department. Projects in the field of for example comprehensive neighbourhood approach, job coaching, child care and social work are executed with the comprehensive budget approach. € 860,000 was contributed to this budget from Social Affairs and Employment in 2014. These resources were divided according to the Donner key. The resources are awarded on the basis of plans to be submitted by the islands.
The indexation of the legal minimum wage and the benefits for the following year are determined annually in November. It has been agreed that also a further raise of the legal minimum wage and the benefits is decided at the annual indexation, if the statistic data on the economic development give rise to that. This information is not included in the regular work programme of the Central Bureau of Statistics, CBS. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment therefore concluded a contract with the CBS for additional statistic investigation in 2013, in which the investigation of Incomes and Income distribution (the so-called income statistics) is the most important one in this context.
The statistics have to be built up from the start, so that the first definitive publication will be after the summer of 2015. With that the results can be a part of the decision process about the development of the levels per 1 January 2016. The levels were also adjusted per1 January 2015, but this adjustment was only based on the development of the consumer price index figure.
On the basis of the signs from the Public Entities on underutilisation of especially special relief, it was decided to give additional attention to public information on this subject. The stakeholders on the various islands were consulted and the media and flyers were used. This resulted in a considerable increase in the number of special relief allowances. There were 74 allowances in 2013 and 221 allowances in 2014. A large part of these allowances had to do with school supplies, in close cooperation with the Public Entities of Saba and Sint Estatius, moreover.
The cooperation with the various Public Entities was also shaped in terms of work permits and the labour inspectorate in 2014. Both the Ministry and the Public Entities are aware that this cooperation will require further attention in 2015 as well.
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has a department in Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean on Bonaire and Sint Eustatius with mainly local staff. It is a mix of policy staff and executive staff, which support the schools in executing the educational agenda and help pupils and parents apply or pay their student loan. They are also the link between the schools in the Dutch Caribbean and the Ministry in The Hague.
The Education Inspectorate published a theme report called ‘Education Improvement in the Dutch Caribbean. . Education on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, 3 years after 10 October 2010 ‘ (Parliamentary Papers II, 2013-2014, 31 568, no. 137) in March 2014.
Based on that report, good steps appear to have been made in primary education. The first primary school to achieve basic quality in 2014 was the Golden Rock School on Sint Eustatius. This is a first nice step. For a number of schools in primary education, the basic quality should be achievable in 2016. For the schools in secondary education the picture is more differentiated and vulnerable. The Education Inspectorate has required attention especially for the care issue on the islands, which requires additional staffing.
The State Secretary of Education, Culture and Science indicated in his policy response he will hold on to the formulated ambition to realise the basic quality in 2016 or as soon as possible after that. This is in the interest of the students who are entitled to good education. In order to realise this and to give the schools the best possible support, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for instance deployed more people in student care and strengthening governing power.
Furthermore, 2014 was largely the year of language development. The state secretary informed the House of Representatives in his letter of 8 October 2014 (Parliamentary Papers II, 2014-2015, 31 568, no. 145) on changing the language of instruction from Dutch to English on Sint Eustatius. The preparations for this transition are currently in full swing. For example The University of St. Martin was recently contracted to give further English language training to all teachers. The Netherlands Institute for Curriculum Development is supporting the schools in the development of the curriculum in English. The Dutch Language Union is helping in the development of teaching materials for Dutch as a foreign language. There is close cooperation with Saba, where the school language is English already, and the parties involved also share experiences with Sint Maarten.
On 18 December 2014, the state secretary offered the House of Representatives the advice of the Dutch Language Union on Dutch as a Foreign Language (Parliamentary Papers II, 2014-2015, 31 568, no. 147). The Dutch Language Union advises earlier and more intensive teaching of Dutch for the students on Bonaire as well as aiming to maintain and strengthen Papiamento. The advice offers a thorough basis to tackle the issues related to the position of Dutch in and about education. In consultation with the Public Entity, the state secretary will support the institution of two expert groups, one for Dutch and one for Papiamento. The expert groups will map the consequences of this advice and set out the action points in an action plan. The action plan will be finished before the summer.
A platform for studying in the region as set up in 2014, in which the six islands belonging to the Kingdom are participating. The objective of the platform is to especially get an idea of subsequent education at senior secondary vocational level in the region. The first achievement then was a database in which the students on the islands can see which senior secondary vocational, higher professional education and universities are available in the area and for which they can get student financing.
Finally as part of accommodations, the renovation was completed of the Kolegio San Bernardo.
Ministry of Security and Justice
Generally speaking, further steps were made in 2014 to get better organisational, formative and qualitative control of the various Security and Justice parts. A lot was invested in education and training of staff and new police trainees were hired by the Dutch Caribbean Police Force in 2014 for instance. Also the renovation/new building of Police Headquarters was completed in 2014, so that the Dutch Caribbean Police Force on Bonaire is no longer scattered over several offices.
There was also a lot of attention for education and professionalism with the Guardianship Council in 2014, for example by using trainers of the Child Care and Protection Board from the European Netherlands.
Positive reports were made in 2014 about the Dutch Caribbean Custodial Institution, both by the Law Enforcement Council and the Commission for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe (this report is expected to be published in May 2015). The spatial options for further development at the current location in the centre of Kralendijk are limited however, and the building of a new prison outside the town will therefore be started in 2015.
The Law Enforcement Council also published a report in 2014 on the functioning of the Dutch Caribbean Probation Service Foundation, in which it was concluded that the probation service performs the probation tasks with a high degree of inspiration, creativity and engagement.
Saba and Sint Eustatius have had to do without the services of a notary for some years. Security and Justice concluded an agreement in 2014 with some notaries of Sint Maarten who will provide notarial services on Saba and Sint Eustatius from January 2015 onwards by being present on the islands on a regular basis (twice monthly on each island). The notaries will use the office space of Rijksdienst Dutch Caribbean on Saba and Sint Eustatius to speak with clients.
The Commission Supervision Protection personal Data BES started in April 2014.
A new Attorney General of Curaçao, of Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba was appointed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2014. Also a new Dutch Caribbean Chief Public Prosecutor has been appointed.
The Public Prosecution Service and the Police made a great effort with respect to the investigation in the double murder case ‘Country Garden’ in 2014. The trial of the case in 2015 led to two convictions (long prison sentences).
For the justice chain on the whole, the awareness increased in 2014 that for further improvements in the area of justice facilities, cooperation between the different chain partners, both in the Dutch Caribbean and between the Dutch Caribbean and the European Netherlands, is crucial, certainly set against the small scale of the Security and Justice work on Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius.
Ministry of Health Welfare and Sport
In the area of Health, Welfare and Sport, the further improvement of the level of care and youth care has been successful over the past years. It is clear from the latest perception survey of the residents of the Dutch Caribbean, that they also experience it in this way.
As of 1 January 2011, there is one care arrangement for everybody in the Dutch Caribbean, which is executed by the Health Care Insurance Office under supervision of Health, Welfare and Sport. Everyone legally residing and/or working on Bonaire, Sit Eustatius and Saba, is insured for medical costs and costs of care, regardless of the type of disease and age. Any claims in this arrangement are broadly in agreement with the claims included in the Health Care insurance Act, including a part of the supplementary insurances and the long-term care in accordance with the former Exceptional Medical Expenses Act. Approx. 24,000 insured persons were concerned in 2014. Well over € 96.5 million was spent on care and youth care together in 2014, paid from the Health, Welfare and Sports budget.
From the care perspective, 2014 mainly was the year of the Dutch Caribbean Care Work Group Advice. The Work Group was set up in September 2013 to draw up a long term advice on the future of care in the Dutch Caribbean. The Health Insurance Office, Health, Welfare and Sport, care providers and the governing councils of the three public entities were represented in the Work Group. The Work Group was told to specify how the care infrastructure set up should be shaped further in the coming years within the budget and legal scopes. The Work Group completed its advice in May 2014. The advice of the Work Group was fully taken over by the Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. Based on the recommendations, further improvement of the care offered will be taken on by all parties involved in the coming years. This means the realisation of a properly functioning, sustainable system of care, which is equally accessible for all those entitled to it taking into account both cultural, geographical and other differences between the European
part and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands and the differences between the three islands. The joint activities for 2014-2020 are: drafting a joint communication plan, drafting a plan to fill the gaps in long-term care (including the care under the Social Support Act), implement that plan, strengthening primary care and improving logistics around medical postings. In order to keep matters financially under control, it is essential to realise the efficiency measures proposed in the advice, such as better organisation of medical postings.
The building of a Psychiatric Ward General Hospital with facilities for addiction care was started on Bonaire in 2014. A significant boost was given to addiction care in 2014 on all three islands by the Dutch Caribbean Psychiatry and Addiction Care Foundation, which was contracted by the Health Insurances Office. Also forensic chain care is being set up in this context now.
To support the governing councils of the three islands in performing public health care and executing the applicable legislation, the Municipal Health Service of The Hague advised the governing councils of the islands. For the execution of tasks in the public health area, as referred to in the Public Health Act, a long-term special benefit was set by Health, Welfare and Sport for the public entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba for 2014-2020.
As regards youth care, further improvements were carried through in 2014 in both the work processes and in the quality of the support. Health, Welfare and Sport moreover granted subsidies in 2014 to six institutions for youth care and after school child care.
Children’s rights is one of the three priority themes stated for the BES islands in the Dutch Caribbean Week. An official task force was set up to further the subjects of children’s rights and domestic violence on the BES islands. The plans of the task force should be shaped specifically early 2015. Also the views of UNICEF will be included.
Health, Welfare and Sport further also contributed in the attempts to improve the socio- economic situation on the islands. Via youth care and the Dutch Caribbean Table (neighbourhood sports coaches), but also by not raising the contributions, in spite of the enormously increasing costs of care , or by asking a contribution in the increasing costs of care from the residents of the Dutch Caribbean.
(Press release RCN – corrected version of 2015-07-14)