The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament KOREL is calling State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Jetta Klijnsma to the Senate on March 28 to discuss the plan for an objective methodology to establish a social minimum for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
The KOREL Committee decided during a meeting on Tuesday that it will ask the State Secretary to return to the Senate to provide clarity in a so-called verbal consultation as to why it is taking so long to establish a social minimum for the three islands that is based on the cost of living. Klijnsma met with the KOREL Committee on this same issue on December 6 last year.
KOREL Chairman Ruard Ganzevoort said there was discontent within the Committee about the manner and speed with which the State Secretary, and by extension the Dutch Government is handling the matter of establishing a social minimum, an issue that both the Senate and the Second Chamber have been clamouring for.
In a letter that she sent to Parliament on March 3, the State Secretary confirmed that “in line with the desire of both Chambers to guarantee the social subsistence and to eradicate poverty, it has been decided that it is important to have objective data to determine the subsistence minimum.”
This implied an independent investigation into the cost of living, the socalled bare essentials such as food, clothing, housing and transport, Klijnsma stated. She announced that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour would set up a research proposal in consultation with the Executive Councils shortly and that this research should be ready next year.
The KOREL Committee is questioning the length of this trajectory. “How complicated is it to determine the price of a bread on the islands? Naturally, a basket of bare essentials has to be compiled, but there should be sufficient information available to get this done in a quicker manner,” Ganzevoort told The Daily Herald on Wednesday.
“It took the State Secretary three months to take a decision that she would draft a plan. It took another three months to actually come up with a plan which will take a year to execute,” said Ganzevoort, who initiated last year’s almost unanimously adopted motion which called on the Dutch Government to establish a social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands.
Establishing a social minimum on which the legal minimum wage and social welfare would be based so the amounts would reflect the actual, high cost of living on the islands, has everything to do with eradicating poverty, an issue that is very dear to the Senate. “An effective poverty policy is only possible when we know the cost of living. For us this is a matter of being accurate,” said Ganzevoort.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the KOREL Committee also discussed the March 7 letter of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk about the situation in St. Eustatius and the procedure to appoint a new interim Island Governor. The Committee decided that it will consult the Minister on this matter.
“We are following the issue with interest and concern. We see that the relations between The Hague and the island are everything but smooth. At the same time we see that there are weak spots in the way St. Eustatius is being governed,” said Ganzevoort.
According to the Chairman it will not be easy to arrive at a proper solution because the tension complicated the situation and made it harder to achieve a compromise. “This is a matter for the Minister, but we sincerely hope that this impasse will be solved in the interest of the Statia people,” he said.
It was further decided that KOREL will invite Minister Plasterk for a verbal consultation in the near future to discuss a number of open commitments to the Senate which the Committee wants to discuss before the Minister transfers his portfolio to his successor.
The Daily Herald.