State Secretary Klijnsa is not sensitive to pleas from the BES-islands, unions and pensioners to avoid a cut in pension benefits. In a letter sent to the Public Entity Bonaire yesterday, Klijnsma says that she is saddened by the measure, but that the cut is necessary to make the fund solid again.
The problem at the PCN pension fund finds its origin in the fact that the fund was capitalized based on old Antillean criteria (most importantly a fixed interest rate of 4% for calculation of future pension obligations) but was later forced to apply a market-based interest rate which currently lies about 50% lower. The PCN board stated that if the rules changed, the funding provided to the fund per 10/10/10 should also be changed.
Based on a motion adopted in the Island Council, the Executive council had sent a letter to Klijnsma pleading for a delay in the cutting of the benefits, so that a more acceptable solution to the problems could be sought. In a letter dated yesterday, Klijnsma said she was unwilling to postpone cuts to the pension benefits. Klijnsma in her letter stated that PCN had already been granted an additional period of 2 years to recover from a financial deficit.
Klijnsma also writes in her letter that the Dutch Government, as one of the biggest employers and contributors to the fund, will stay in contact with PCN to discuss what will be the best way forward when it come to the financial challenges for the fund.
Klijnsma’s refusal to provide a stay in the pension cuts has been met with dismay on the islands. Commissioner Den Heyer called a press conference to discuss the letter of Klijnsma. Den Heyer said during the press conference that the Executive Council is not happy with the refusal by Klijnsma and that it would be necessary would to work together with Statia, Saba and social partners to keep fighting to get the problem at PCN solved. Den Heyer said, on a personal note, that he was also quite disappointed in the position taken by SZW and Klijnsma.
Apart from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba had also made similar appeals to BZK and SZW to avoid the cutting of the pensions. On Saba, member of the advisory council at PCN, Dave Levenstone, organized a petition which got a few hunderd signatures. Levenstone sent the petition with the signatures to Kindom Representative Gilbert Isabella, who promised to forward the petition to The Hague also.
The BES reporter