Minister Carola Schouten (Poverty Policy) calls in a letter that she sent to the Second Chamber today a poverty problem in the Caribbean Netherlands “shockingly large”. And, she adds, “That has to change.” Schouten has included a separate chapter on Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba in her letter on the national ‘Approach to money worries, poverty and debts’:
“I also want to strengthen the standard of living for residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, just like for residents of the European Netherlands. The government’s main goal for the Caribbean Netherlands is to improve living standards and combat poverty. During my recent working visit to Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire, I experienced for myself that the poverty problem in the Caribbean Netherlands is shockingly large. That must change.
During this period, the government is working towards the benchmark for the social minimum. We do this together with the public entities and social partners. I want to take the necessary steps on the income side to ensure that the social minimum benchmark can be achieved by 2025. This is a broad task, all the more so since the inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands spend too much of their income on the cost of living. There is a challenge for all the ministers involved to tackle these high costs.
I am concerned about the increased cost of living that is also occurring in the Caribbean Netherlands, especially that of energy and food prices. In addition, the problem of rising prices for the Caribbean Netherlands is that there is a relatively large share of households with low incomes. To ensure that the social minimum benchmark is not out of step with the cost of living, the benchmark grows along with price developments by indexing them annually on the basis of the consumer price indices of Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
After the summer break, you will receive the next progress report social minimum benchmark containing the indexation of the benchmark. In 2025, a new study will also be carried out into the benchmark social minimum, to see whether incomes and the cost of living have been (more) balanced with each other and the use of the government’s intended measures to improve livelihood security in the Caribbean Netherlands will be evaluated.
The urgency of the problem in the Caribbean Netherlands necessitates additional measures in 2022. As of 1 July 2022, the social assistance for independent residents and those with a joint household has been increased. The child benefit has also been increased. Just as in the European Netherlands, there will also be compensation for the Caribbean Netherlands this year to keep the energy costs for low-income households manageable.
With the BES(t) 4 Kids program, important steps have already been taken to improve the quality and (financial) accessibility of childcare. The reduction of parental contribution has led to childcare becoming more affordable. Finally, we will also be working in the Caribbean Netherlands to enrich school and environment through the rich school day.”
Minister Carola Schouten