Two motions were submitted in the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament on Wednesday to speed up the introduction of a social minimum in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
Members of Parliament (MPs) Jorien Wuite of the Democratic Party D66 and Kauthar Bouchallikh of the green left party GroenLinks each presented a motion which served to add pressure to the process to implement a social minimum per January 1, 2024. Both motions were critical of the fact that 13 years after Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became part of the Netherlands, the Dutch government still had not implemented a social minimum to help a couple thousand families on the islands living in poverty.
Wuite in her motion asked the Dutch government to work out financial scenarios for the social minimum, including the implementation of the social minimum per January 1, 2024, pending the report of the Social Minimum Committee which should be ready before October 1 this year. Wuite wants the financial scenarios to be sent to the Second Chamber prior to the handling of the 2024 budget of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour SZW. In presenting her motion, Wuite referred to the large demonstration in Bonaire last Friday. She noted that more than 3,000 people in the Caribbean Netherlands lived under the poverty line, which she said was unacceptable.
Bouchallikh in her motion mentioned the large demonstration in Kralendijk, where hundreds of people, as well as labour unions, churches, political parties and consumer organisations, walked the streets with signs and flags demanding a social minimum.
Bouchallikh asked the Dutch government to “do everything in its power to make sure that a decent social minimum” is implemented per January 1, 2024, for the Caribbean Netherlands. Voting on both motions is slated for next Tuesday.
State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen advised against both motions. She said that the need to establish and implement a social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands was “clear”.
Van Huffelen said that government, awaiting the findings of the Social Minimum Committee, was already looking at what would be needed to implement the social minimum, and what that would mean for the social allowances and for the salaries of people on the islands.
According to the state secretary, implementing a social minimum per January 1, 2024, was not achievable and government didn’t want to tie itself to that date. “We don’t want to create the impression that we can get it done by that date,” she said.
Van Huffelen said that government was making preparations ahead of the findings of the Social Minimum Committee and assured Parliament that the social minimum would be implemented as soon as possible. “We are taking this matter very seriously,” she said.
MP Roelien Kamminga of the liberal democratic VVD party did not lend her immediate support to the social minimum motions of her colleagues Wuite and Bouchallikh and said that she would read them carefully first.
Kamminga did concur with the reasons to give the social minimum matter the necessary attention. “The situation is urgent. Even with two jobs, people cannot make ends meet.” She said she understood that the state secretary could not get ahead on the matter pending the results of the Social Minimum Committee.
“I also understand the dilemma of the state secretary. Steps are being taken and I find it hard to take a decision on this before [hearing — Ed.] the findings of the Social Minimum Committee. But I agree with the general understanding that we need to start planning for a social minimum on January 1, 2024,” said Kamminga.
Three other motions were submitted on Wednesday, which will be voted on next Tuesday. MP Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA presented a motion, co-signed by MPs Wuite and Kamminga, asking the Dutch government to assess how education opportunities, both practical and theoretical, could strengthen the labour force in the Caribbean Netherlands. Having better qualifications could help workers on the islands, and by extension the economy, to become more resilient. MP Wuite in her motion, co-signed by Van den Berg and Kamminga, pointed out that investing in cooperation structures in education could stimulate economic development and reduce brain drain on the islands.
Wuite’s motion asked the Dutch government to explore which experimental (hybrid) collaboration structures were attainable in secondary education and how these could be started in the near future to strengthen the local economy.
MP Bouchallikh presented a motion that focused on the effects of climate change on Bonaire and the grave concerns that scientists, nature organisations and the local population have. A small group of Bonaire residents and Green-peace are considering taking the Dutch government to court to secure effective climate adaptation policy by The Hague.
Bouchallikh’s motion asked the Dutch government to meet on short notice with the Bonaire residents who sent a letter to Prime Minister Mark Rutte last week and to include the group in a speedy execution of climate adaptive policy for the Caribbean Netherlands.
State Secretary Van Huffelen had no objections to the three motions as they were all in line with the policy of the Dutch government in these areas.
The Daily Herald.