CDA, D66 make call for higher social allowances

The Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament met with State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday. (Suzanne Koelega photo)


THE HAGUE–The Christian Democratic Party CDA and the Democratic Party D66 want an increase in the social allowances on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba per January 1, 2019, as a means to help eradicate poverty.

Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Joba van den Berg (CDA) stated during a general debate with State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday that the two parties were “highly disappointed” about the delay in the social minimum study in the Caribbean Netherlands.

“This assessment is necessary for prudent decision-making about the amount of the social allowances, but the fact is that these are too low,” said Van den Berg, who also spoke on behalf of her colleague Antje Diertens (D66).

“Money is not a guarantee for happiness, but poverty does contribute to unhappiness and often leads to aggression and violence. We hear that 50 per cent of the people on the islands are solely busy with their survival. The social welfare (onderstand) and the child allowance (kinderbijslag) have to increase to a higher level!”

Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party suggested that it was too easy to increase the social allowances without first looking at ways to reduce the cost of living by, for example, lowering the energy tariffs through sustainable energy and investing in growing local fresh produce.

Van den Berg agreed that investments in green energy and local produce could contribute to the eradication of poverty on the islands. However, she said it was important to think ahead in the process to increase the social allowances before the handling of the 2019 budget in October.

The State Secretary assured that combating poverty was high on his list. He gave the consumer prices in St. Eustatius as an example of the high cost of living. He said that he had gone into a supermarket in St. Eustatius a few weeks ago to do some shopping, together with Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus. “I was shocked by the high prices.”

Knops admitted that poverty was a major problem on the three Caribbean Netherlands islands which needed to be tackled as soon as possible. “I feel the responsibility to deal with this. Things have to get better for the people, and as the Netherlands we have a role to play.”

The State Secretary said that he would ask his colleague of Social Affairs and Labour to send the social minimum study to Parliament before July 1, so the proposals to tackle this issue could be included in the handling of the 2019 budget.

Source: The Daily Herald