State secretary lists measures to alleviate poverty on islands

Dutch State Secretary for King­dom Relations and Digi­tisation Alexandra van Huffelen said in a response to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights that the organisation was right to be concerned about poverty in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but in her letter she mostly listed the measures that The Hague is taking or has taken to remedy the situation.

Van Huffelen stated in her letter to Director of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights Jacobinc Geel that the Dutch govern­ment has made 30 million euros structurally available for the Caribbean Nether­lands to improve things for the people and make things more affordable.

These additional funds are for measures to lower the cost of living, raise people’s income and increase the free allowance so the pub­lic entities Bonaire, St. Eu­statius and Saba can make a contribution to help im­prove the standard of living of the people on the islands. “You conclude that there is still a lot of poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands and that is mainly due, you say, to the cost of living that con­tinues to be high. You state that good steps have been taken on the income side,” stated Van Huffelen in her letter to the institute.

She secretary explained that an independent com­mittee would be investi­gating the level of a social minimum for the Caribbean Netherlands. This investiga­tion, which will “serve as a foundation for a political discussion about establish­ing the social minimum in 2024,” will include the as­pect of the cost of living and income.

The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights conclud­ed in its December 2022 letter that raising people’s income alone was not a long-term solution for the general poverty issue. The institute noted that accom­plishing a liveable situation in the Caribbean Nether­lands was a task of the en­tire Dutch government and, in particular, of a number of ministries.

Van Huffcicn explained that the Dutch government had taken various measures to reduce the cost of living and that it would be tak­ing additional steps in the coming period. Child care expenses for parents have been reduced and will be further decreased. The tax-free sum has been lowered and residents pay almost no premium for their health in­surance.

Subsidies are provided to keep the price of drinking water low, while invest­ments have been made and will continue to be made in the water supply facilities. In addition, subsidies were given to mitigate the cost of energy and to invest in sus­tainable energy, which also has a positive effect on the affordability of electricity.

New social housing proj­ects will alleviate the short­age of affordable housing and there is a subsidy to keep the rents of social housing at a low level. The social welfare allowances and old age pension have been structurally increased in the past years.

Van Heffelen assured that the subject of poverty and the social minimum had her full attention and that, to­gether with her colleagues in government, she would make every effort to see to it that all residents of the
Caribbean Netherlands had a decent standard of living.

The Daily Herald.

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