Second Chamber inquires about poverty on islands

Sparked by the recent report of the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee, the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament has formulated a number of questions regarding the poverty, subsistence minimum and the level of services provided by government in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Members of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations has sent a list of questions to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in response to the report that the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee, headed by former Minister Liesbeth Spies, presented on October 12, 2015.

The Committee asked how many people were living in poverty on the three islands, and how many of them were children, elderly and disabled persons. “In what way do people with insufficient means for food, clothing and other basics get financial support in the form of allowances and support? How many people make use of this, and is that support sufficient?”

Data was asked about the average cost of living on the islands in relation to the average family income, and to what extent the minimum wage covered the cost of basic necessities. And, is the subsistence minimum guaranteed for people on social welfare?

The Committee wanted to know which were the indications that an established social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands would have a pulling effect on the Caribbean region. It was asked whether there was a legal, enforceable right to have the same social minimum throughout the Kingdom.

The Committee inquired whether norms have been set for a level of services provided by government (“voorzieningenniveau”) that was “acceptable” within the Netherlands, and which were the current initiatives to research and establish that level. “Why was no overall vision developed on the desired level of services?”

It was asked whether it was a “conscious” decision not to determine the level of services prior to the transition of the islands as Dutch public entities in October 2010. “What are the reasons why the agreements on the desired norms, made during a meeting in January 2008, regarding the social security and safety were not kept?”

The Committee further wanted figures in what way the higher income earners and business sector had benefited from the new fiscal system and why those people with a lower income had not.

The questions were submitted to Minister Plasterk in anticipation of a formal policy vision of the Dutch Government on the Caribbean Netherlands constitutional evaluation, which is expected before the summer of 2016, and a subsequent public debate with the Minister.

The Daily Herald.

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