The Hague- Member of the Second Chamber for D66, also member of the permanent committee for Kingdom Afairs, Antje Diertens, is worried about the level of indebtedness of people living on the BES-islands and the lack of debt assistance on the islands.
“Investigations conducted show that for many people entering into debt is the way to make ends meet. We are receiving the signal that debt assistance on the BES islands is not working well”, according to Diertens. The MP wants to know if these signals also reached the State Secretary Raymond Knops of BZK. “Do the special municipalities have enough legal instruments to provide debt assistance? Is debt restructuring possible for natural persons? How does the State Secretary look at the poverty policy pursued? Is there enough expertise available on the islands to implement a poverty policy? Is there enough policy freedom? Could more help be offered from RCN or other municipalities?”, are some of the questions Diertens has when it comes to the problem of debts on the islands.
Diertens says that she does not want something to be imposed in the form of “we will fix this”. “The government response sketches a dot on the horizon and takes the first steps. Now my question is how far that horizon is? I am happy with it, but even after these steps there is still a lot to do. The State Secretary promises to close the gap between income and costs and to monitor this to be able to adjust”, says Diertens. The MP also wants to know when the ‘gap’ has been narrowed sufficiently for State Secretary Knops. “What does the so-called dot on the horizon’ looks like exactly? I simply note that the patience and understanding are running out, both here in the Netherlands and overseas”.
Diertens furthermore says that she believes general economic developments and the cost of living also need to be looked at. “We have to expand the housing supply; public transportation must be developed, and the islands must become less dependent on imports. I want to talk specifically about agricultural policies. On Bonaire, for example, there is a slaughterhouse, which now does not meet the requirements of hygiene and animal welfare”, according to the MP for D66.
Diertens say that in recent months work has been done on the development of a plan for sustainable exploitation with the aid of the ‘regional envelope’ but, according to the MP, there are even more challenges. “Fruit and vegetables are expensive because they must be imported, while there are also opportunities on the islands themselves. The local government invests in agriculture, but without result. How is that possible, while there are such good business plans”?
Diertens says that she returned from the island just two weeks ago and that she has spoken to many good people on the islands, but most of them mention a lot of challenges, for instance when it comes to irrigation. “How can we ensure that positive initiatives and the available capacity come together? For example, can we invest in an executive organization that initiates recycling agriculture? Can this be included in the agreement the State Secretary wants to sign with the Executive Council in Bonaire?” Diertens says she plans to ask State Secretary Raymond Knops all these and other questions during the general debate about the social minimum coming week.
With thanks to René Zwart