1.5 million Increase in Free Allowance for Saba

As of 2024, a total of 8.6 million euros have been structurally added to the free allowance of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba, with 1.5 million going towards Saba. This proposal comes after research conducted by Ideeversa which revealed that over the years, the funding that the public entities have received was insufficient, causing them to make use of incidental funding, thereby limiting them from sufficiently fulfilling certain tasks or making long-term investments.

Additionally, five million euros will be structurally added to the BES fund to facilitate the effects of the increases in the Statutory Minimum Wage (WML), which allows the public entities to be by the employment conditions of the RCN. These increases took effect from January 1st, 2024, with the minimum wage increasing to $1654 on Saba, with a further increase being implemented on July 1st, 2024 to $1750.

According to a letter from State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitalization, Alexandra van Huffelen, these are all major steps towards increasing self-reliance of the public entities and reference was made to the WolBES-FinBES conference, where it was discussed that the public entities must be enabled to carry out their tasks adequately, both structurally and independently, with as little bureaucratic burden as possible.

While there are still some differences in responsibilities, such as the public entities overseeing tasks that would typically fall under the waterschappen (water boards), this increase in structural funding brings the BES islands more in line with what is provided to European Dutch municipalities. Another similarity to arise is the application of the GDP system for the BES islands, which would allow the islands to potentially work on multi-year budgets.

In terms of further investment, maintenance, and replacement of infrastructure needed on the islands, more research will be done to determine what is needed. Ideas on increasing ‘twinning’ with European Dutch municipalities and the establishment of a Caribbean desk at the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) to enhance collaboration were also mentioned by van Huffelen.

Commissioner of Finance, Bruce Zagers, expressed his optimism surrounding the effects of this on the island budget and shared his outlook on these changes. “Having an adequate budget which covers the structural financial responsibilities of the local government is imperative. Although this is another significant step towards securing sufficient funding necessary to cover the structural responsibilities of government, there remains a gap in funding for capacity in certain sectors, and a lack of funding necessary for eliminating the backlogs and for properly structured maintenance. We hope that as the free allowance continues to evolve, these areas will develop to become more in line with a European Dutch Municipality,” stated Zagers.


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