State Secretary says setting social minimum might cause disruption

Setting a so­cial minimum at this point in time might have a disruptive effect, Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark said on Tuesday.

For this and other reasons, no decision has been made yet about the minimum amount people need for an acceptable standard of living. However, Van Ark still aims to set a social minimum in the future, she told members of the Dutch Parliament’s First Chamber, the Senate. The First Chamber’s Per­manent Committee for King­dom Relations demanded an explanation why the social minimum had not been set. Van Ark first said it was not possible because research by Regioplan showed that the cost of living for residents differed greatly per island.

“I was also disappointed, but the report resulted in the conclusion that at this mo­ment a social minimum can­not be set. Cost for housing varies from zero to US $900. Which amount should you pick?” she asked.

However, the Senators were not content with this answer. “These two State Secretar­ies have accomplished more than previous governments, but I simply do not believe that it is not possible to set a social minimum. There should be a reference point to aim for,” said Senator Frank van Kappen of the lib­eral party VVD.

“This is clearly not a case of being unable to decide but of not choosing to make a deci­sion,” said Meta Meijer of the socialist party (SP).

Senator Ruard Ganzevoort of GroenLinks said the research­ers had never stated that it was impossible to set a social minimum. “They only said this decision should be made by politicians,” said Ganzevoort, who is also president of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations. Democrats D66 Senator Alexander Rinnooy Kan also said he does not believe a social minimum cannot be set. “Why do you hesitate? Are there consequences that you fear?” he asked Van Ark and Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, who was also present.

Van Ark acknowledged it was the conclusion of the Ministry of Social Affairs not to set a social minimum based on the report. The cost of living, in particular for en­ergy and rent, is very volatile and will change again in the future. In addition, every­thing is related to something else, she said. “When the social minimum is set as a percentage of the minimum wage, local companies might go bankrupt. Naming an amount might have a disrup­ting effect,” she said.

She said she still aims to set a social minimum, but first wants to narrow the existing gap between the income of people in St. Eustatius, Saba and Bonaire and the high cost of living.

“There is no other way than doing this step by step,” Van Ark said, referring to mea­sures such as the increase of the legal minimum wage, social welfare (“onderstand”) and the child allow­ance (kinderbijslag”). She promised to inform the First Chamber about the results before the summer of 2019, when she will also give an up­date to the Second Chamber.

The Daily Herald.

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