The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday adopted a motion to increase the minimum wage and the social allowances in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (the BES Islands) by ten per cent, per January 1, 2022.
As expected, the motion tabled by Member of Parliament (MP) Jorien Wuite of the Democratic Party D66, and co-signed by MPs Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Aukje de Vries of the liberal democratic VVD party, Don Ceder of the ChristianUnion (CU), Marieke Koekkoek of the VOLT party and Sylvana Simons of the BIJ1 party, received majority support when it came to voting during a plenary meeting.
The original motion, which Wuite presented during the handling of the 2022 draft Kingdom Relations budget on October 14, asked the Dutch government to raise the minimum wage and the social allowances in Bonaire and Saba per January 1, 2022. However, the motion’s text was adapted later on to include St. Eustatius, after the island indicated support for an increase in the minimum wage.
The motion also requested the Dutch government to assess if and how the pensionable age could go up in the Caribbean Netherlands. The financial savings from increasing the pensionable age could then be used to further improve the income position of residents of the BES Islands.
According to Wuite, the increase is highly necessary. “Almost half of the people on the islands live below the social minimum. It is an important signal that people on the islands are not forgotten and that the promise of 11 years ago is kept. With the increase of the minimum wage and the social allowances we are taking a solid first step in the combating of poverty,” the MP with St. Maarten roots stated.
A second motion tabled by MP Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA, to raise the minimum wage and the social allowances, also with the aim to eradicate poverty on the islands, did not come to a vote as the meeting was adjourned.
A second motion of Wuite with regard to the effects of climate change in the Caribbean parts of the kingdom was adopted. The motion requested the Dutch government to add climate change and its consequences for the islands to the list of discussion points of the regular consultations of the prime ministers of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, and to increase cooperation in this area. The motion was co-signed by MPs Laura Bromet of the green left party GroenLinks, Koekkoek, Ceder, Van den Berg and Simons.
Wuite said the great challenges within the kingdom require solid collaboration. “D66 stands for a kingdom where we strengthen each other. That is why I want the Netherlands to work more closely with the Dutch Caribbean countries to tackle climate change. Other challenges also demand more cooperation, for example, to restore democracy in St. Eustatius.”
A third motion of Wuite, co-signed by Koekkoek, Ceder, Bromet and Simons, to support the cultural entrepreneurs in Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, was adopted as well. The motivation for this motion was the fact that entrepreneurs in the cultural sector are in need of technical assistance and financing options, and that the cultural sector can contribute greatly to the diversification of the island economies.
Wuite’s motion requested the Dutch government to see under what conditions cultural entrepreneurs in the Dutch Caribbean can also make use of the service provided by the Dutch initiative Culture +Enterprise, which was also recently made accessible for the Caribbean Netherlands.
The motion of Van den Berg to include the BES Islands in the compensating measures of the Dutch government for increased energy prices also received majority support. The motion was co-signed by Ceder, Wuite and De Vries. Within days after the motion was submitted during the budget handling, the Dutch government announced that two million euros would be made available to mitigate high energy prices in the Caribbean Netherlands.
In a press statement Wuite called on the Dutch government to arrange financing for investment in sustainable energy. “It is time that we move to more sustainable energy in the Caribbean part of the Netherlands. That is not only good for the climate, but also results in lower energy prices for consumers.”
Another motion that received majority support on Tuesday was the motion filed by De Vries, co-signed by Van den Berg and Wuite, about the need for allocating funding to cover structural cost resulting from incidental investments made by the Netherlands in the BES Islands.
In the motion, it was stated that the Dutch General Audit Chamber had concluded that the ministries in The Hague gave insufficient attention to the structural financial consequences of investments in the Caribbean Netherlands that were financed through an incidental budget.
An example of this structural cost is that of maintenance, mostly for infra-structural projects, such as waste management, the airport, harbour and roads. The motion specifically mentioned Saba, where incidental investments were made to improve waste management, but the structural cost stemming from this investment was not sufficiently taken into account, resulting in financial hardship for the public entity Saba.
MP de Vries also filed a motion that asked the Dutch government to ensure that financial management in Bonaire and St. Eustatius, including the annual reports, were brought up to par as soon as possible, in any case before 2024, and to provide assistance to achieve this. The motion, co-signed by Van den Berg, was adopted.
Carried by Parliament as well was the motion tabled by MP Bromet, co-signed by Wuite, Ceder and Kuiken, asking the Dutch government to finalise the steps to introduce a citizen service number BSN in the Caribbean Netherlands as soon as possible so students from these islands have a BSN before coming to the Netherlands to study.
A motion of MP Koekkoek, co-signed by Wuite, Simons, Bromet and Tunahan Kuzu of the DENK party, with regard to human rights and a recent report of Amnesty International about the treatment of Venezuelan refugees in Aruba and Curacao, was adopted. The motion asked the Dutch government to discuss a government response to the Amnesty International report, with the Dutch Caribbean countries.
The motion of MP Simons about the continued financing of humanitarian aid failed to receive sufficient support during Tuesday’s voting. In the motion, which was co-signed by MP Koekkoek, Simons asked the Dutch government to keep financing the humanitarian aid at least in 2022 and to secure basic needs for everyone in the Dutch Caribbean countries.
Simons’ second motion with regard to the repayment of liquidity support loans didn’t come to a vote due to adjournment. In that motion, Simons had asked the Dutch government to see if and how the repayment obligation of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten with regard to the liquidity support loans could be waived.
The motion tabled by MP Machiel de Graaf of the Party for Freedom PVV didn’t receive sufficient support. In the motion, De Graaf asked the Dutch government to use the consultation with Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten to “soon wrap up the final conclusion of the decolonisation process” so the Dutch Caribbean countries could leave the kingdom in five years.
The Daily Herald.