Published On: Mon, Jul 2nd, 2018

The Hague takes steps to reduce poverty in Caribbean Netherlands

BonaireTHE HAGUE - Residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba need to get it better. For many residents of the islands the cost of basic expenses such as rent, food and drink are high in relation to their income.

That is why the Dutch government is taking concrete measures to reduce poverty and improve employment. These measures are part of a broader package of initiatives to make serious efforts to increase investments on the islands, State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment Tamara van Ark and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops wrote in a letter to the Dutch Parliament on Friday.

With various measures, the Dutch cabinet wants to ensure that the financial situation of vulnerable groups, such as single pensioners, fully and permanently disabled people and (single) parents, improves. The government will also take measures to reduce the cost of living and to improve the economic potential of the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands.

The plans are derived from a benchmark study about the social minimum on the islands commissioned by government. The report by Bureau Regioplan was also presented to the Dutch Parliament on Friday.
It emerged from the report that it is especially difficult for people with a low income to make ends meet. The conclusions of the report are a “call for action,” according to the state secretaries.

“By increasing the benefits for people who are unemployed or retiring in Bonaire, Statia and Saba, we want to contribute to make it easier for them to pay the daily groceries and the rent,” said Van Ark. “I also think it is important that people have the chance to find work. And, after receiving benefits, that the people’s situation really improves when they start working.”

The cabinet is making several provisions that fit within the specific context of the Caribbean Netherlands. “Based on the coalition agreement, we are now taking important steps with the entire cabinet to improve the lives of many people,” Knops emphasized. “With this set of measures, the cabinet is taking an important step forward. This also requires extra efforts from the governments on the islands,” he said.

The measures to be taken focus on several key issues to alleviate poverty. These include an increase in income, reduction of expenses and improved access to the labour market.

Among measures to increase low-level income are an increase in “onderstand” benefits for people who live independently in January 2019 up to a maximum level of 55 per cent of the legal minimum income. At that same moment, child benefit will also be increased by 50 per cent. The cabinet further aims to introduce a supplement for single pensioners as of January 1, 2020.

The cabinet also wants to increase the allowance for fully and permanently disabled people who are receiving benefits. At the same time, starting from 2019, more people can make an appeal to the special social relief, by raising the income limit to 120 per cent of the statutory minimum wage.
During the budget debates in September, the cabinet will be looking into the possibility to lower employer’s contributions so that the minimum wage and social benefits may be increased.

To reduce expenses for residents of Bonaire, Saba and Statia, the government will be stimulating social housing on the islands by introducing a form of rent subsidy. A subsidy will be made available to guarantee accessibility to the supply of drinking water, and the Telecom Law and regulations will be revised to reduce cost. In addition, projects will be started to stimulate the local production of fruit and vegetables.

To improve access to work, the Dutch government will be aiding to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare.

The cabinet wants to strengthen entrepreneurship with micro credits and support from the Chamber of Commerce.

Finally, it is deemed “very important” that people who lose their jobs quickly find another job so that they earn money again. The cabinet is already working on this with the assistance of the municipality of Leiden, but it is going to work on this even harder, it was said.

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