Parliament endorses hike in islands’ minimum wage

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.

Climate change

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.”

Cultural sector

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.”

Structural costs

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.

BSN number

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.

The Financial Supervision Board issues negative advice on Saba's draft budget 2022
Rene Bagchus new director of Kingdom Relations/Caribbean Netherlands at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, BZK.

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