Second Chamber accepts no delay to discuss evaluation

The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament is putting pressure on the Dutch Government to quickly give an official reaction to the report of the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee.

Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated during the debate on the 2016 draft Kingdom Relations budget two weeks ago, that a reaction to the report of the evaluation committee headed by former Minister Liesbeth Spies would be forthcoming before the summer of 2016.

That is too late, members of the permanent committee for Kingdom Relations decided during a procedural meeting on Wednesday. “Now that we have seen the report, we think it should be possible for government to draft a response at an earlier stage. I find half a year too much. It should be shorter,” said Member of Parliament (MP) Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA.

MPs Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66, the only two other members present at Wednesday’s meeting, concurred. The committee agreed to ask Plasterk to present a reaction before the end of this year so a debate can be planned with the Minister in the foreseeable future.

Hachchi suggested to ask the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba for a formal reaction to the report of the Evaluation Committee, and to also have a meeting with the committee itself. Van Raak said he did not feel the need to talk with the Evaluation Committee. He said the findings of the report were actually very clear.

According to Van Raak, the report’s findings regarding the increased poverty and decreased quality of living for the majority of residents on the three islands had been predictable and unfortunately were true. “The new constitutional relations on October 10, 2010 were rushed through and everyone could have known that this wasn’t going to work,” he said.

At the request of Hachchi, the Kingdom Relations Committee agreed to hold a separate general debate with Plasterk about the Caribbean Netherlands before the Christmas recess. On the agenda of that debate would be the Plan of Approach for St. Eustatius in light of the June 2015 instruction; the issue of the inadequate budget for the Dutch Ombudsman to execute tasks for the Caribbean Netherlands, and the objection of the St. Eustatius Island Council to Plasterk’s decision to impose administrative supervision on St. Eustatius and to give a financial instruction.

Also on the agenda of that debate will be the double taxation that is paid on goods for St. Eustatius and Saba due to St. Maarten’s Turnover Tax. Plasterk stated in a letter to the Second Chamber late September that double taxation should not be a problem if St. Maarten companies made proper use of the tax exemptions that are in place for basic necessities, and if St. Eustatius and Saba applied pressure to ensure that these exemptions in fact were utilised.

Ronald van Raak questioned the issue of double taxation. He asked who had the ultimate responsibility in this matter. “We can say this is the fault of the private sector, but I want to know who we can address to solve this for once and for all,” he said. The committee agreed to request a letter from the Minister before the debate.

The Daily Herald.

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