CDA/D66 want imbalance addressed in free allowance versus incidental funding

The ratio be­tween the structural financing for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES islands) by means of the free allowance and the incidental, project-based funding is completely out of proportion, and that needs to be fixed, finds Member of the Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament Joba van den Berg of the Christian Demo­cratic Party CDA.

Member of Parliament (MP) Van den Berg on Tues­day submitted a motion to this effect during a legislative debate with State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen about the 2022 an­nual report of Kingdom Rela­tions and the BES Fund. The motion was co-signed by MP Jorien Wuite of the Demo­cratic Party D66.

The motion asked the Dutch government to incorporate the results of an investigation of the free allowance into the 2025 budget and to also draft a plan of approach to get an overview of the special al­lowances and how to turn this incidental funding into a structural format. The results of the investigation of the free allowance are expected in September, which is too late to incorporate in the 2024 budget.

During the debate, Van den Berg pointed out that the in­cidental funding through spe­cial allowances created more administration for the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, “more administra­tion on islands where capacity is already an issue. That is un­acceptable for us,” said Van den Berg. The General Au­dit Chamber also addressed this issue in its response to the 2022 annual report of the BES Fund.

According to Van den Berg, in some cases the ratio of the free allowance to the special allowances was one to one. This creates insecurity for the public entities to make long­term investments and plans and it goes against promoting the islands’ drafting and executing their own policies.

Van den Berg also men­tioned that the incidental funding many times resulted in additional structural costs for the public entities that needed to come out of the regular budget with a free allowance that was too low. “How can we do this in a dif­ferent manner?”

Van den Berg suggested a greater coordinating role for the state secretary for King­dom Relations instead of all these separate special allow­ances of the individual min­istries. “There is hardly any coordination. How can we assist the state secretary to ensure that the other ministries invest through her and to streamline this more?” State Secretary Van Huffel­en agreed that having the right balance between the free allowance and special al­lowances was very important. “If you want to govern in a good manner, you need to have clear financing and you need to know which means you have at your disposal.” Van Huffelen said that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK had started the process to bundle the expenditures of the minis­tries. Some ministries already added their funding for the Caribbean Netherlands to the free allowance. “Special al­lowances will always remain to a certain extent, but we will bundle the means as much as possible and have a free al­lowance that covers as much structural cost as possible.” MP Jorien Wuite also men­tioned the criticism of the General Audit Chamber about the financing of the Caribbean Netherlands with a high share of special allow­ances compared to the free allowance, the lacking control on the cohesion of policy and the fact that structural costs are rarely taken into consideration

MP Kauthar Bouchallikh of the green left party Groen­Links, who also spoke on behalf of the Labour Party PvdA, asked the state sec­retary whether she would consider giving the islands a larger free allowance so they could implement their own policy more.

Both Bouchallikh and Van den Berg referred to the con­clusion of the General Audit Chamber that special allow­ances were not all spent be­cause there was a lack of work capacity. “Money remains un­spent and that is a pity,” said Van den Berg. Van Huffelen agreed that was indeed frus­trating and that the Nether­lands was assisting with this to increase execution capac­ity. “We are on our way to the same goal: arranging the finances and capacity.”

Wuite emphasised the need for a social minimum and said she hoped that the min­ister for Poverty Policy, Par­ticipation and Pensions kept a “very keen eye” on this matter. “Together with D66, I keep advocating for the implementation of the social minimum in 2024. T hope that we can finally celebrate a social minimum in 2024. There is a big challenge to get this done.”

MP Roelien Kamminga of the liberal democratic VVD party said that she was con­tent that there was more fo­cused attention to practical matters that Caribbean Neth­erlands residents had to deal with, such as the absence of a citizen service number BSN, having a notary and proper Internet and banking.

Kamminga asked the state secretary for an update on the task force that was tackling these practical matters. “The installing of task forces and work groups alone does not solve the problems,” she said.

Van Huffelen said that a number of the issues were “very persistent” and that the task force continued to work on these matters. Some so­lutions are in sight. “We are working hard on this, but un­fortunately, it is not all solved at once,” she said, promising that a report of the task force would be forthcoming shortly.

MP Kamminga mentioned the Dutch intervention in St. Eustatius and the exer­cise of restoring to “normal and stable” relations. “And I didn’t add the word stable for nothing. The desire to act fast should not be at the cost of quality. There was a reason for the intervention in 2018. In that regard, the VVD is reserved in returning the bud­get right in anticipation of concluding the agreements,” she said.

The Daily Herald.

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