As in the European part of the Netherlands, there are also major concerns in the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom about the effects of the coronavirus. In Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, a new reality of stalled activities applies. In addition, for the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom, the substantially stoppage of air traffic and cruise tourism will have major economic consequences. The consequences for small-scale societies, which rely heavily on tourism, are enormous.
Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius are an integral part of the Netherlands, for which there is a direct responsibility. That is why today the government decided to take exceptional economic measures for employees and companies on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, because of the coronavirus. The letter about the emergency package for employees in the Caribbean Netherlands is comparable to the letter that the Cabinet sent to the House of Representatives on March 17th regarding the European Netherlands. The structure of the letter is the same and the measures are also comparable, with adjustments to the specific situation of the Caribbean Netherlands.
The package was sent today to the House of Representatives on behalf of the Ministers of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Finance and the State Secretaries for Social Affairs and Employment, Economic Affairs and Climate Policy and Finance. Minister Raymond Knops stated on behalf of the Cabinet:
“As a Cabinet, we feel very closely involved in the situation on the islands. The effects of the coronavirus are great on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Due to the restrictions imposed on travel, the tourism sector, on which the islands are highly dependent, is virtually “paralyzed”. This has major effect on corporate profitability and employment. This new package provides employees and companies in the Caribbean Netherlands with the necessary extra support.”
Within the autonomy of the countries of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, the responsibilities lie differently than for the Caribbean Netherlands. They too are confronted with the effects of the coronavirus: medical, social, economic and financial. Contacts with and between countries are intensive, so that we can assist each other where necessary. In the very exceptional circumstances of the moment, it is being studied whether, based on the possibilities within the Statute of the Kingdom and the exceptions in the laws and regulations, the countries can be able to cope as well as possible with the crisis.
In the very exceptional circumstances of the moment, it is being studied whether, based on the possibilities within the Statute of the Kingdom and the exceptions in the laws and regulations, the countries can be enabled to cope with the crisis as good as possible.
Measures for the Caribbean Netherlands (St. Eustatius, Saba and Bonaire)
=> only for the Caribbean Netherlands
- Loss of wages and income
An entrepreneur who is faced with a loss of turnover (at least 20%) and as a result is unable to keep staff working, can apply for a three-month compensation from the RCN unit SZW (80% of the maximum daily wages). A scheme is chosen that is in line with the BES health insurance.
Employers making use of this emergency measure are obliged to keep their staff in service and to continue to pay them in full, for which they are therefore compensated to a considerable extent. The emergency regulation also applies to employees with a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.
- Extra support for independent entrepreneurs and other individuals
The Cabinet is introducing a temporary scheme to support self-employed entrepreneurs, including freelancers, so that they can continue their business. This emergency measure is comparable to the measure described above for employees. A maximum subsidy of 80% of the WML is provided for this group.
Also employees who have already lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus can qualify for this scheme. Finally, an appeal can be made to the social relief (‘onderstand’), such as necessary costs of living arising from the special circumstances.
- Emergency counter
The allowance referred to in the letter of March 17th, 2020, in the form of a gift for the primary need of entrepreneurs who are affected, will also be worked out in more detail for entrepreneurs in the Caribbean Netherlands.
- Liquidity support
The measures for liquidity support for companies announced in the European Netherlands will also be extended to the Caribbean Netherlands:
- For the Caribbean Netherlands, a possibility for special deferral of payment will be temporarily introduced for entrepreneurs who have been or will be experiencing liquidity problems as a result of the corona crisis.
- The temporary facility under the BMKB will be opened in the Caribbean Netherlands. Because the BMKB in the Caribbean Netherlands has so far been relatively little used by banks, extra information about this instrument will be provided in consultation with the Chambers of Commerce Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Other than in the European Netherlands, the BMKB is also open to agricultural entrepreneurs, including the fishing sector and aquaculture.
- The GO scheme will be extended in the same way as in the European Netherlands. This plan is for larger companies, for loans above $ 1.5 million. The GO scheme will also be given extra publicity and information in consultation with the Chambers of Commerce.
- The expansion of Qredits, announced in the letter to the House of Representatives on March 17th, on the emergency package for jobs and the economy for the European Netherlands is also valid in the Caribbean Netherlands.
- Consultation on island taxes
In consultation with the executive boards of the Public Entities, the Cabinet is discussing the possibility of ending the collection of island taxes on entrepreneurs. This particularly concerns the tourist tax and the surcharges on the property tax.
Where can private individuals and entrepreneurs go?
Financiers, in particular banks, can submit applications for the extended credit schemes (BMKB and GO) to RVO, the implementing organization of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy. Entrepreneurs report this to their lender. For the tax measures entrepreneurs can contact the Tax Office Caribbean Netherland (Tax Office CN).
The RCN unit SZW is the designated body for the schemes of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The RCN unit SZW strives to publish more information and the application forms at www.rijksdienstcn.com/covid-19 as soon as possible.
The letter of the Government to the Members of the Second Chamber (in Dutch) can be downloaded HERE.