Van Huffelen aims for higher standard of living on islands

Dutch State Secretary of Kingdom Relations and Digitisation Alexandra van Huffelen wants to work on improving the standard of living in the Dutch Caribbean, preservation of nature and the environment, achieving solid education and a more diverse economy.

She announced the four main themes in the Kingdom on which she will be working in the coming years in a letter that she sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday. She said cooperation on the basis of equality is the starting point of her efforts.

In the letter, Van Huffelen outlined the opportunities and challenges for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. She saw and heard about these opportunities and challenges when she visited the six islands February 11-24. After visiting the islands, she concluded that each island has its own needs and a tailor-made approach is necessary.

During her visit to Saba on Wednesday, February 22, State Secretary Van Huffelen (left) visited single parent Elijah Peterson (right) at the Under the Hill social housing project. Like so many single parents with a low income, it is hard for him to make ends meet. In the centre is Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson. (Public entity Saba/Lincoln Charles photo)

“The islands offer many opportunities if the inhabitants have a chance at seizing them,” she said. “I see it as my task to support this. Together with the members of government and inhabitants of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, I want to work hard for that. Naturally this has to be done with respect for the autonomous position within the Kingdom.”

Van Huffelen said she was concerned about the poverty she had seen on the islands during her visit. As the Caribbean Netherlands islands resort directly under the Netherlands, she was especially concerned about poverty in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba where the cost of living is very high and the income relatively low. “Despite the efforts of previous cabinets, I see that the people of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius still see too little result of that.”

In the coalition agreement of the new Dutch government, it has been agreed that 30 million euros will be structurally available for the Dutch Caribbean, in addition to 35 million euros for the preservation and restoration of nature. A part of the 30 million euros will go towards the eradication of poverty.

A focal point of the relationship with the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten for Van Huffelen is cooperation based on equality. “All three countries are integral members of the Kingdom and based on that foundation, we will be working together for the future of these countries,”

Challenges the three countries face in this regard include increasing poverty, lack of (implementation) capacity and a rule of law that needs strengthening. “These are tough challenges for which we need to use the strength of the Kingdom. It is up to the countries to find solutions, but they do not stand alone in this. That also means that we are committed to sound and honest governance that is committed to safeguarding human rights,” she stated.

The intention is to further discuss Van Huffelen’s intentions and focal points with the islands and the ministries in The Hague in the coming months. She promised that the Second Chamber would receive the results of these consultations before the summer.

The Daily Herald.

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