THE HAGUE – Minister Carola Schouten of Poverty Policy, Participation, and Pensions, and State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen of Kingdom Relations have announced concrete steps in a letter to the House of Representatives to improve debt assistance in the Caribbean Netherlands. This initiative follows the findings of the Nibud study on debt issues in this region.
According to Nibud, the poverty issue in the Caribbean Netherlands is significant. In the recently published research report Minimum Example Budgets for the Caribbean Netherlands, Nibud observes that minimum incomes are not sufficient to cover all necessary expenses.
In the three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, an estimated 11 to 18 percent of the residents live with an income at or around the statutory minimum wage. This means they run short of money every month. In some households, these shortages can amount to more than 2,000 dollars per month.
With such significant shortages, financial problems are inevitable. A debt issue approach can only succeed if residents have sufficient means of existence and poverty is reduced.
The minister wants to provide a subsidy to the Dutch Association for Public Credit (NVVK), which will support the public bodies of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. This financial contribution is intended to promote the professionalization of debt assistance on the islands, with explicit attention to making agreements with creditors and early signaling of debt problems.
The Nibud study shows that poverty and high housing costs are important factors that contribute to financial problems. Additionally, it is observed that information about debts in the Caribbean Netherlands is limitedly available, which complicates the development of targeted policy.
However, the report offers valuable insights and recommendations for improving debt assistance, such as developing a dashboard for debt issues and using employers as a signaling point for financial problems.
This approach should lead to better insight into and more effective combating of debt issues in the Caribbean Netherlands. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment is taking a leading role in addressing a complex issue that requires an integrated approach.