The Dutch Cabinet has set a benchmark for a social minimum in the Caribbean Netherlands, an indicative amount that someone at least needs to live on. The indicative amount is for a single person set at approximately $945 a month on Bonaire, $1,056 on St. Eustatius and $1,077 on Saba. In order to get to this amount, the incomes of residents of Caribbean Netherlands must rise and the cost of living must decrease. The Dutch Cabinet has started this last year. The first measures have already taken effect. At the same time, it is and remains an important task to reach a benchmark for the social minimum. State Secretary Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW), writes this in a letter to the Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer). Van Ark announces in her letter that she will further increase the minimum wage and child benefit as of 2020.
State Secretary Van Ark, together with coordinating State Secretary Knops of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) had consultations with the public entities of the Islands on Statia, on the measures necessary to balance the incomes and the cost of living, with the objective to settle a minimum income. Van Ark: ‘ This is an important step to improve the situation of the inhabitants on the islands. There is poverty and cost of living is expensive. We are going to tackle that with new, targeted measures. Some measures we can implement fast, others will take longer. Throughout the Dutch cabinet there is the willingness to take the steps that are required to develop a social minimum. There is also a task for the governments of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius for this’.
Increasing incomes and benefits
The Dutch Cabinet has indicated in the coalition agreement, that the priority for the Islands is to improve the economic perspective, amongst others by strengthening the infrastructure and the reduction of poverty. Last year, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) announced a first package of measures as of January 1st 2019, in order to increase the statutory minimum wage, child benefit and social relief for people who live alone. The employer contributions were reduced on January 1st , which allows employers to increase the wages of workers. Starting this year, more people are also eligible for special assistance. There were also measures announced, from which people who cannot work will benefit. As of January 1st , 2020 the assistance for the disabled will be increased, and as of January 1st , a surcharge for single AOV-pensioners is introduced via social relief. In addition, steps will be taken to strengthen the quality and accessibility of child care and employment mediation.
With new measures the Dutch Cabinet aims to increase the incomes of workers and households more towards the benchmark. Therefore SZW will increase the minimum wage by 5 percent on Bonaire and Saba and by 2 percent on St. Eustatius, as of January 1st 2020. As a result, the social benefits will rise as well. Parents with children will receive more child benefit again, after the increase of 50 percent this year. They will get about 20 USD extra a month per child as of next year, an increase of 17.50 USD on top of the already announced increase of 2.50 USD. In 2020 parents on Bonaire will receive approximately 82 USD per child per month and on St. Eustatius and Saba 84 USD per month.
Decreasing costs of living
The costs of basic expenditure are for many people in Caribbean Netherlands too high at the moment. These costs should be reduced to a reasonable level, so that the benchmark is sufficient to provide the minimum cost of living. This applies, for example, to the costs of living and child care. The Dutch Cabinet is committed to get these fixed costs down. For the costs of living this means a necessary extension of the range of social housing and regulation of rents. The Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations is taking steps on this subject. The ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management makes subsidy available to keep the price of drinking water affordable. The Ministry of Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy is reviewing the “Telecomwet” (telecom law) and regulations in order to improve service and to reduce costs. The Dutch Cabinet, together with the Islands, , started a multi annual program, in order to make child care accessible to all parents and to improve the quality. As of 2020, 9.8 million Euros will be available each year to achieve this. The ministries of Social Affairs and Employment, Education, Culture and Science and Health, Welfare and Sport jointly deliver this contribution.
Van Ark: ‘ The cost of living is different on each island. Therefore we asked the representatives of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius in the administrative consultation, to appoint the right cost items and the best way to bring them down. Jointly, we want to choose the best solutions to decrease the costs of living for the people and to increase the income’