Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen said in a response to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights that the organisation was right to be concerned about poverty in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but in her letter she mostly listed the measures that The Hague is taking or has taken to remedy the situation.
Van Huffelen stated in her letter to Director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights Jacobinc Geel that the Dutch government has made 30 million euros structurally available for the Caribbean Netherlands to improve things for the people and make things more affordable.
These additional funds are for measures to lower the cost of living, raise people’s income and increase the free allowance so the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can make a contribution to help improve the standard of living of the people on the islands. “You conclude that there is still a lot of poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands and that is mainly due, you say, to the cost of living that continues to be high. You state that good steps have been taken on the income side,” stated Van Huffelen in her letter to the institute.
She secretary explained that an independent committee would be investigating the level of a social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands. This investigation, which will “serve as a foundation for a political discussion about establishing the social minimum in 2024,” will include the aspect of the cost of living and income.
The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights concluded in its December 2022 letter that raising people’s income alone was not a long-term solution for the general poverty issue. The institute noted that accomplishing a liveable situation in the Caribbean Netherlands was a task of the entire Dutch government and, in particular, of a number of ministries.
Van Huffcicn explained that the Dutch government had taken various measures to reduce the cost of living and that it would be taking additional steps in the coming period. Child care expenses for parents have been reduced and will be further decreased. The tax-free sum has been lowered and residents pay almost no premium for their health insurance.
Subsidies are provided to keep the price of drinking water low, while investments have been made and will continue to be made in the water supply facilities. In addition, subsidies were given to mitigate the cost of energy and to invest in sustainable energy, which also has a positive effect on the affordability of electricity.
New social housing projects will alleviate the shortage of affordable housing and there is a subsidy to keep the rents of social housing at a low level. The social welfare allowances and old age pension have been structurally increased in the past years.
Van Heffelen assured that the subject of poverty and the social minimum had her full attention and that, together with her colleagues in government, she would make every effort to see to it that all residents of the
Caribbean Netherlands had a decent standard of living.
The Daily Herald.