Multi-Annual Programme signed for Bonaire, Saba – Updated

Update:

The actual agreement signed (in Dutch. We’ll try to get a translated version ASAP)

 

With the signing of the Multi-Annual Programme in The Hague on Thursday, Bonaire and Saba secured the much needed financing by the Netherlands for the infrastructure and social-economic development of the two islands, writes The Daily Herald.

Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson (right) signs the Multi-Annual Programme agreement in The Hague on Thursday. On the left are Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers and Dutch Minister Ronald Plasterk. (Suzanne Koelega photo)
Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson (right) signs the Multi-Annual Programme agreement in The Hague on Thursday. On the left are Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers and Dutch Minister Ronald Plasterk. (Suzanne Koelega photo)

A Multi-Annual Programme was not signed for St. Eustatius as the government of that island was placed under supervision and received an instruction on Wednesday in connection with the budget deficits and financial management.

After elaborate investments in healthcare, education, public administration and infrastructure in the years after Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became public entities of the Netherlands in October 2010, the Dutch Government will now intensify its policy in the area of poverty eradication, economic development and children’s rights. The Multi- Annual Programmes for Bonaire and Saba, and the accompanying financing, are the first step. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment I&M will invest in infrastructural projects on the two islands. A total of 5.5 million euros will be available for Saba: 2.5 million euros for the Fort Bay Road and three million euros for the harbour. The bidding for the Fort Bay Road can now start, said Commissioner Bruce Zagers, while the harbour project will take place next year.

The I&M Ministry will invest nine million euros in Bonaire’s harbour and three million euros for the upgrading of the districts. More than 20 million euros will be invested in the airports of Bonaire and Saba in 2015 and 2016. The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK will make US $180,000 available for Saba’s economic development this year and next year. Bonaire will receive US $495,000.

BZK will invest US $600,000 for Saba’s social- economic development in 2015 and 2016, and US $1.65 million for Bonaire. Investments will also be made in children’s day care facilities and sports. BZK will make a total of US $1.6 million available annually to strengthen the governments on the two islands. US $3.3 million will be invested as an impulse to improve children’s rights. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment SZW is contemplating to increase the minimum wage in St. Eustatius and Saba. In Saba the minimum wage will be increased by 6.5 per cent per January 1, 2016 and by four per cent in St. Eustatius. Last year, an increase of 6.2 per cent of the minimum wage and the social allowances was approved. Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson: “We asked for an increase of 20 per cent so we still have 7.3 per cent to go.”

Because social allowances such as the AOV pension and “onderstand” are tied to the minimum wage, these will also increase with the same percentage. SZW will further raise the income level of “onderstand” to the minimum wage level. An additional package of 300,000 euros will become structurally available for social allowances.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs EZ will make 100,000 euros available for the Chambers of Commerce on the two islands. It was further agreed that the free remittance (vrije uitkering) will be adjusted to the inflation through a structural increase of US $800,000 this year for Bonaire and Saba. Commissioner Johnson said he was leaving the Caribbean Netherlands Week with a positive feeling. “We continue to strengthen the relations.” As for St. Eustatius, he said that although every island had its own priorities, Saba did have compassion for its sister island and that it would continue to lobby on their behalf. He said that mutual agreements between the islands would be honoured. Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk praised Saba for its solidarity towards St. Eustatius and its efforts to raise questions on behalf of its sister island. Plasterk also praised Saba for “doing a good job” and said that he looked forward to the continued good relations.

Bonaire Commissioner Clark Abraham said that the islands were in solidarity with each other. “St. Eustatius can always count on Bonaire’s support. We will always be willing to help out with requests of St. Eustatius. Each island has its own responsibilities, but we will look for solutions together as we are in the same boat.”

The press conference on Thursday to mark the end of the Caribbean Netherlands Week and the signing of the Multi-Annual Programmes for Bonaire and Saba were conducted separately per island. The islands want to be seen more individually instead of as a group, Plasterk said. St. Eustatius was not present on Thursday. The Multi- Annual Programme will be discussed with St. Eustatius only after the trajectory to improve the public administration and related finances has yielded concrete results.

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