Social benchmark unfortunately not a social minimum

KRALENDIJK – Consumers’ Association Unkobon calls upon the Tweede Kamer to force the government, during the debate on the Spring budget memo  on June 15th, to guarantee a social minimum for the special municipalities of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, as has also been established for the European Netherlands. Unkobon hopes for a broad island coalition in support of this call. 

During the recent visit to Bonaire of Minister for Poverty Policy, Participation and Pensions Carola Schouten, the parties of the Bonaire Central Dialogue (OLB, employers, trade unions and Chamber of Commerce) signed a statement with which the Central Dialogue and the Rutte IV Cabinet commit themselves to livelihood security up to the level of the social benchmark for our residents. The ambition is memorable, but unfortunately the commitment of the Cabinet is not sufficient.  

The livelihood security of islanders will be advanced ‘by simultaneously working on the improvement of incomes, the reduction of necessary costs and investing in flanking policy’, according to the statement. A necessary move, after 12 years of procrastinating policies, but unfortunately the plans still do not provide for a humane and dignified minimum for our residents. Unkobon understands that parties from the Central Dialogue have signed it anyway, at least something is happening after years of stagnation. But at the same time the Consumers’ Association calls on parties to continue to emulate for more.  

First of all, a statement about ambitions to achieve a “benchmark social minimum” is not the same as a firm commitment. Other Rutte Cabinets also talked about intentions and ambitions, but results never came. That is why Unkobon wants to push for hard commitments, preferably in close cooperation with parties from the Central Dialogue. 

Unfortunately, with the declaration there is still no prospect of an acceptable and adequate subsistence base for the people of Bonaire. Where for European Dutch citizens a social minimum has been established, the Caribbean Netherlands are still waiting. The unequal treatment continues even if all objectives, as formulated in the declaration, would be realized in 2025. Simply because those objectives fall short. Moreover, it is uncivilized to allow abject poverty, the harsh reality for some of our residents, to continue for another three years.   

Like previous ministers, Minister Schouten continues to deny the need for an adequate social minimum. Not with words, but with future policy. Time and again, calculations are made with a theoretical benchmark. The calculated and real cost of living has for years been 40%-50% higher than that benchmark. Therefore, the ambition must be sharpened and the pace of change must be increased. Just like European Dutch citizens, the inhabitants of the special municipalities of Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius are entitled to a decent social minimum. The argumentation that the proposed policy will be sufficient because the cost of living on the islands will be reduced by the government, has been heard for many years. At the same time, not a single resident experiences an outcome. Everyone who has to pay for groceries on the islands knows that.    

In order to reach an equivalent social minimum with the proposed benchmark in 2025, the costs will have to drop dramatically in the next three years. Even if there is no inflation in the years 2023 – 2025, it can be calculated, based on the costs in 2022, that for a single person in 2025 they must fall by $560 per month and for married people by as much as $1,035 per month. A gigantic drop in costs, therefore, that will absolutely not be achieved by the proposed subsidy on drinking water. 

That is why Unkobon argues that precisely now the pressure on the government must be further increased. The benchmark is a first step, but this step must be accelerated and, moreover, it must become bigger steps. Unkobon hopes for a fruitful cooperation with the parties from the Central Dialogue, supported by the islanders. The Consumers’ Association let it be known that it is available to anyone with questions. 

Deel dit artikel