Parliament repeats call for social minimum for islands

The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday once more urged the Dutch govern­ment to implement the social minimum for Bo­naire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and to introduce a package to reduce the cost of living.

Members of the Per­manent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber did so during a short debate with Minister for Pov­erty Policy, Participation and Pensions Carola Schouten and State Sec­retary for Kingdom Re­lations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen.

Two Committee Mem­bers, Jorien Wuite of the Democratic Party D66 and Sylvana Simons of the BIJ1 party, presented motions. The motion of Member of Parliament (MP) Wuite asked gov­ernment to inform the Second Chamber in a timely manner about the findings of the soon to­be-established committee that will review the social minimum, along with a government reaction, the different scenarios and a timeframe to implement the social minimum for the Caribbean Nether­lands. She submitted the motion also on behalf of MPs Don Ceder of the ChristianUnion and Si­mons.

MP Simons presented a motion in which she asked government to fur­ther increase the social allowances in the Carib­bean Netherlands in 2023 to a realistic social minimum. Simons reiterated her concerns about pov­erty on the islands, where 40% of the people live beneath the poverty line, trying to survive on two or more jobs, and where more than 600 children depend on getting break­fast at school.

Simons said the commit­tee “yearned for decisive­ness” on the part of the minister and the state sec­retary and the introduc­tion of a liveable social minimum. She applauded Minister Schouten for increasing the legal mini­mum wage and the social allowances in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba per January 1, 2023, but said that this was not enough.

“Steps are very neces­sary,” said MP Roelien Kamminga of the liberal democratic VVD party about the implementa­tion of a social minimum. She said the economies and the people of the islands were very hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and that the already high cost of liv­ing was further pushed upwards. “We have been asking for a long time for a realistic social mini­mum,” she said.

MP Wuite asked the state secretary and minis­ter to implement a pack­age of measures to lower the very high cost of living in the Caribbean Nether­lands. She made special mention of the urgent situation of single moth­ers and of the elderly liv­ing on an AOV pension in relation to the inflation.

State Secretary Van Huffelen acknowledged that it was important to also work on lowering the high costs. She said that this was being worked on and that The Hague al­ready subsidised the costs of electricity and the In­ternet.

MP Ceder sought atten­tion for the letter that the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights sent to the state secretary and to the Committee for King­dom Relations in Decem­ber last year, in which it pressed for a speedy establishing of a realistic social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands.

The organisation rec­ognised that The Hague was taking steps to in­crease the income of the people on the islands, but that the cost of living remained very high, and that despite the establish­ing of a benchmark social minimum, there was still a lot of poverty.

The Human Rights In­stitute called on the in­volved ministers to bring the cost of living down and to ensure that their right to a decent standard of living was upheld. The organisation repeated its call to government to in­troduce a social minimum that is based on the actual cost of living and urged the Second Chamber to keep bringing this to the government’s attention. In response to this letter, the Permanent Commit­tee for Kingdom Rela­tions decided during a procedural meeting on Wednesday to ask Van Huffelen to also send her response to the letter to Parliament.

The Daily Herald.

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