Consultation process WolBES and FinBES almost completed

Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will have permanent representation in The Hague and will be involved earlier in making policy and legislation. The principle of ‘comply or explain’ remains the starting point for policy and there will be different levels of financial supervision for the islands. This will enable customisation per island. These are some of the main agreements made during the WolBES and FinBES working conference. The Island Councils and Executive Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba spent three days in De Bilt discussing the revision of the laws that regulate the administrative and financial relations between the Netherlands and the three islands.

In order to better involve the islands in the drafting of new laws, an official working group consisting of representatives of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations will be established. The working group will be commissioned to come up with proposals on how the involvement of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the different phases of the policy and legislative process can be improved.

Alexandra van Huffelen: “I am pleased that we were able to have such constructive discussions with each other in a good atmosphere. I am convinced that the valuable input of the islands, make the bills better. It was a successful meeting in which we reached agreement on the content of both bills. We will work out our agreements together in the coming period.”

Strengthening Island Councils and Executive Councils
One of the other points discussed was the remuneration of Island Council members, deputies and governors. This will be increased to a level comparable to that of decentralized office holders in the European Netherlands. The adjustment takes into account the severity of the tasks of the islands. Local factors, including cost of living are also taken into account.

The position of Island Council member remains a part-time position. From the next elections (2027), the number of Island Council members will gradually increase. Initially for Bonaire from 9 to 11, for St. Eustatius from 5 to 7 and Saba from 5 to 7. In the meantime, it will be evaluated whether increasing the number of island council members is necessary at the next elections (2031 and 2035). The Island Councils will receive support to perform their duties well. For this purpose, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations makes a total of €350,000 available annually for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. About the maximum number of commissioners, it was agreed to keep a bandwidth of 3 to 5 for Bonaire, 3 to 4 for St. Eustatius and 3 for Saba.

Financial supervision
In the current law, there is one heavy level of supervision. To increase local autonomy, there will be different levels of supervision of finances and budgets. The severity of supervision will depend on the state of the budget and financial management. This meets the desire of the islands to differentiate.

Other agreements
To enable the public entities to perform their tasks in a good way, the starting point is that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba should receive structural money for structural tasks. This is in line with the advice of research bureau IdeeVersa and the Council for Public Administration.

Follow-up process
The amendment of the WolBES and FinBES is necessary to improve the administrative and financial relations between the Public Entities and the European Netherlands. The work conference was an extra step in the consultation process around the legislative amendment. This gave the islands longer time to respond to the bills. After the work conference, the islands will have another three weeks to arrive at a final, formal response. After that, partly with the input of the islands, the legal texts will be worked out and the bills will go into the follow-up process. After approval in the Council of Ministers, the bills will be sent to the Council of State for advice and then to the House of Representatives.


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