PvdA, CU motion to secure minimum income on islands

The Labour Party PvdA and the ChristianUnion (CU) in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament want to tackle poverty on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba by calculating the subsistence minimum on the islands, and to secure this minimum income for all residents.

Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar (PvdA), together with his colleague Carla Dik-Faber of the CU, submitted a motion to this effect on Wednesday night, during a legislation debate with State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment Jetta Klijnsma on the law proposal to introduce a children’s allowance (“kinderbijslag”) in the Caribbean Netherlands.

“It is unacceptable that there are people in this part of the Netherlands, who work 40 hours or more per week and still can’t feed their children,” said Van Laar, for whom the combating of poverty on the islands is a top priority. He said the minimum wages on the islands were “not liveable wages.”

The motion called on the Dutch Government to calculate the minimum amount that people on the islands needed to sustain themselves on a daily basis, and to draft a plan to secure that everyone in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba has access to this minimum income by 2017 or 2018 at the latest.

The PvdA has calculated that a family of a mother and two or three children roughly need a minimum amount of US $1,000 to US $1,100 to cover the bare necessities such as food, clothing, housing, education and health care.

The PvdA and the CU want every family on the islands to have access to at least this amount to prevent that children are raised in poverty, and to make sure that no one lives under the subsistence minimum. The current minimum wage on the islands is barely US $800, which is too low to cover the minimum needs of a family.

“There is a hole and we want the Dutch Government to fix that,” said Van Laar. In the motion, government is asked to draft a plan “with clear data and objectives” to ensure a minimum income for every resident.

Van Laar said this could be done by increasing the social allowances/subsidies, raising the minimum wage or reducing the price level on the islands. A combination of all three is also an option. “It doesn’t matter which mix, as long as people have suffi cient income to sustain themselves.”

According to Van Laar, the recently presented report of the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee, headed by former Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies, has reconfirmed that poverty is a major problem on the islands.

The Evaluation Committee concluded that the problem of poverty has increased, partly due to the declining purchasing power, the increased prices and the low level of social provisions. Since the islands became part of the Netherlands as a public entity in October 2010, the standard of living has deteriorated for many people, including for those with a job.

Van Laar called on the Dutch Government to take the responsibility for the wellbeing of the people seriously. State Secretary Klijnsma said the issue of “liveable wages” was not only a responsibility of the government, but there was also a role for the employers and employees. She advised against the motion. Voting on the motion takes place today, Thursday.

Voting will also take place today on the law proposal to introduce a children’s allowance on the islands per January 1, 2016, as well as the amendments and motions that were submitted in relation to this law proposal. The children’s allowance would be set at US $38 per month per child, with the option for a higher allowance in St. Eustatius and Saba of US $41 per month per child.

The Daily Herald.

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