Residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba need to get better. The costs of basic expenses such as rent, food and drink are high now for many people, in relation to their income. That is why the 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. This is what State Secretaries Tamara van Ark of Social Affairs and Employment and Raymond Knops of the Interior and Kingdom Relations wrote to the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives.
The Cabinet has commissioned research into a benchmark for the social security on the islands. Especially for people with a low income it is difficult to make ends meet. The conclusions from the research call for action. “By increasing the benefits for people who are unemployed or retiring on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, we want to contribute to make it easier for them to pay the daily groceries and the rent”, says State Secretary Van Ark. “I also think it is important that people have the chance to find work. And, after receiving benefits, that peoples’ situation really improves when they start working.”
The Cabinet is making provisions fitting 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 emphasizes. “With this set of measures, the Cabinet is taking an important step forward; this also requires extra efforts from the governments on the islands.”
With various measures, the Cabinet ensures that vulnerable groups such as single pensioners, fully and permanently disabled people and (single) parents with children benefit from it. There are also measures to reduce the cost of living and to improve the economic potential.
To increase the income
- The benefit (‘onderstand’ in Dutch) for people who live independently will increase in January 2019.
- At that moment, child benefit also rises by 50 percent.
- The Cabinet aims to introduce a supplement for single AOVs as of January 1st, 2020.
- The Cabinet would also like 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 on the special social relief, by raising the income limit to 120 percent of the statutory minimum wage.
- The Cabinet is looking at Prinsjesdag (September) to see whether the employer’s contribution can be lowered so that the minimum wage can rise and, with that, the benefits.
To reduce expenses
- The government is stimulating social housing on the islands by introducing a form of rent subsidy.
- The government also makes a subsidy available to guarantee the accessibility of the drinking water supply. The telecom law and regulations are revised to reduce costs.
- In addition, the striving will be on projects to start local production of fruit and vegetables.
To improve access to work
- Furthermore, the Cabinet is also helping to improve the quality and accessibility of childcare.
- Mobilize the Cabinet to strengthen entrepreneurship with micro credits and support from the Chamber of Commerce.
- Finally, it is very important that people who lose their jobs quickly find another job so that they earn more money again.
- The Cabinet – with the help of the Municipality of Leiden – is already working on this, but it is going to work even harder on that.
The government has taken the research to heart and is working on constructive cooperation with the Public Entities, so that the economic situation will quickly improve for many people. In 2020, the impact of the measures taken will be weighed in order to determine whether additional measures are needed.