Ollongren: ‘Caribbean Netherlands now more than ever part of the Netherlands’

During the COVID-19 crisis it has be­come even more clear that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are part of the Nether­lands. Minister of Home Af­fairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren stated this in the Explanatory Note of the 2021 draft Kingdom Rela­tions budget.

Many COVID-19-related regulations and measures, in most cases adapted to better fit the local circumstances, that the Dutch government made available for munici­palities in the Netherlands, are also applicable to the Caribbean Netherlands. This includes certain restrictions, but also support for entrepre­neurs, unemployed and self-employed persons, and ad­ditional means for the public entities.

COVID-19 is having a great impact on the small-island communities and economies, mainly due to stagnated tour­ism. The coronavirus crisis has added to the already ex­isting vulnerabilities in areas like poverty, infrastructure, economic structure and em­ployment.

It was stated that the ambi­tion of the Dutch government remained to further improve the social and economic out­look in the Caribbean Neth­erlands. The multi-annual agreements with Bonaire and Saba will continue in 2021.

Next year, the journey to recovery of normal rela­tions in St. Eustatius will be embarked on, and the gov­ernment commissioner will execute the tasks together with the newly elected Island Council, which at first will have limited authority.

The corona crisis has had an adverse effect on ongo­ing (long-term) programmes, projects and agreements. All efforts are being made to have these continue. The Dutch government is making eight million euros available in order to execute invest­ment projects that contribute to a structural strengthening of the islands’ economies.

To assist the public entities to cone with this crisis, The Hague has made additional funding available for island-specific policy. In fact, the Dutch government in 2020 has spent an additional 100 million euros for extra ex­penditures in the Caribbean Netherlands. In total, 504.1 million euros is being spent on the Caribbean Nether­lands this year.

For 2021, the total amount that the Dutch govern­ment will spend on the three islands has been set at 422.4 million euros. Of this amount, the largest chunk by far is spent by the Ministry of Public Health, Well-being and Sports VWS: 150 million euros, of which 141 million is for health care and youth care.

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science OCW next year plans to spend 68.9 million euros, mostly on pri­mary education (37 million) and secondary education (17.7 million).

The third largest contribu­tion to the islands will come from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour SZW, which has allocated 67/2 million euros in 2021, of which 18.4 million is for the old age pension AOV, 18.4 million for child care and 16 million to fi­nance the incidental subsidy regulation to compensate wage cost of entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ministry of Justice and Security JenV next year will fork out 45 million euros of its total budget for the Ca­ribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN (26.8 million) and the detention and pre­vention facilities (133 mil­lion). The amounts that other ministries are allocating for the three islands are lower.

The 2021 Kingdom Re­lations budget shows an amount of 47.4 million euros for the BES Fund, the fund from which the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba receive the so-called free allowance (“vrije uit­kering”). Due to additional funding in connection with the COVID-19 crisis, the ex­penditures of the BES Fund for 2020 amounted to 54.9 million euros.

The Daily Herald.

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