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Van Ark confirms commitment to social minimum benchmark

Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark says establishing the benchmark for the so­cial minimum for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba is a next step to make the life of people on the islands bet­ter.

“The benchmark for the social minimum gives a di­rection to our input to fight poverty and to come to meaningful interventions. At the same time, there is still a lot of work to be done,” stated Van Ark in a letter she sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Par­liament on Friday regarding her visit to St. Eustatius and Saba June 25-28. Focal points of that visit were the benchmark social minimum, combating pov­erty, childcare, and work permits.

State Secretary Tamara van Ark sat in the school benches with Sacred Heart School pupils during her visit to Saba late June. Sitting next to her was Saba Commissioner Rolando Wilson. (Suzanne Koelega photo)

In St. Eustatius, on June 27, Van Ark and State Sec­retary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ray­mond Knops took part in a meeting with the Govern­ment Commissioner of St. Eustatius and representa­tives of the Bonaire and Saba Executive Councils. “I am looking back at constructive talks about the benchmark social mini­mum and the steps that still have to be taken to reduce the cost of living and to im­prove the income position of the islands’ residents. I am happy that the island governments have respond­ed positively to the elected approach and the steps that have already been taken,” Van Ark stated.

The island governments expressed a number of concorns during the meeting in St. Eustatius. Besides the high cost of living, the is­lands brought up the issues of connectivity, cost-cover­ing within the utility com­panies in relation to the scale of the islands, social participation, and attention for the working poor and elderly.

“There is concern about the high cost of living on the islands. That requires an unabated broad input of the Dutch government to realise a substantial re­duction of the cost of liv­ing,” she said, noting that bringing the cost of living down required matters that were broader than only the discussion about the social minimum.

According to her, a struc­tural improvement of the situation of the people in the Caribbean Netherlands requires a joint effort of the Dutch government and the public entities. She said it was agreed during the meeting to keep an open dialogue on the issues of concern.

Van Ark said achieving good-quality, safe and ac­cessible childcare and after-school care is an important step in improving the life conditions of the people on the islands. The Dutch government and the public entities are investing jointly in improving childcare and after-school care in the BES(t)4Kids programme. The Dutch government will be making some 10 million euros available for this per January 2020.

Van Ark was very positive about her visit. “I look back at a good visit to Saba and St. Eustatius. I am happy that together with the State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. I was able to secure agree­ments with the public enti­ties about ways to improve the situation of residents in the Caribbean Nether­lands.”

The Daily Herald.

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