Dutch Parliament discusses kingdom relations budget

October 23, 2023  –THE HAGUE – Roelien Kamminga of the VVD finds it “unsatisfactory” how the refinancing of COVID loans has unfolded. She emphasizes that good financial oversight and reforms are crucial to get the countries’ public finances in order. This was one of many sentiments in the Dutch Parliament last week, which debated the COVID loans and Ennia. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Netherlands supported the countries Curaçao, Aruba, and Sint Maarten, including through loans. The Netherlands tied the refinancing of these loans to a solution for the pension insurer ENNIA and the establishment of financial oversight regulations for Aruba. The fact that the countries took a long time to address these matters has surprised the State Secretary, resulting in higher interest rates for Aruba and Curaçao than necessary. 

Napa The COVID pandemic has revealed that the countries are too dependent on tourism, says Jorien Wuite of D66. She calls for reforms that lead to economic diversification. It must not become a “ritual dance,” she emphasizes; there must be tangible improvements. 

It’s up to the countries themselves to consider how they want to diversify their economies, says State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen. Ideas exist, but they need to be concretely developed. 

Social Minimum 

The Thodé committee has determined that around 11,000 out of 30,000 residents of the BES islands live in poverty. Therefore, the benefits and minimum wage in the Caribbean Netherlands will be raised, according to the State Secretary. 

Napa Don’t just focus on benefits, argues Joba van den Berg of the CDA, but also consider reducing costs and promoting economic development. Moreover, poverty isn’t just about income; it also concerns housing and access to healthcare. 

Ceder and Wuite introduce an amendment to introduce a social minimum in the Caribbean Netherlands on July 1 next year, and the amendment can count on a majority in the Dutch Parliament if voted on October 24. 

The amendment provides for increasing the statutory minimum wage on the BES islands to the social minimum recommended by the Thodé Commission on July 1. €4.2 million is allocated for this purpose. Another €4.2 million is available to compensate employers for the increased labor costs resulting from the minimum wage increase to $1,750. 

With this compensation, the Dutch Parliament hopes to break the resistance of employers in Bonaire who oppose the minimum wage increase. 

State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen and Minister Carola Schouten will visit Bonaire this week to consult with social partners, including the increase in the statutory minimum wage. 

Climate 

Suzanne Kröger of GroenLinks, also on behalf of the PvdA, asks what is being done to adapt the BES islands to climate change. Van Huffelen says that climate tables will assess what is needed. This could include water retention on the island and protection against rising sea levels. 

Don Ceder of the ChristenUnie suggests making use of the expertise of other islands facing similar issues. The State Secretary assures that there are contacts and knowledge-sharing is taking place. 

The Parliament will vote on the budget and the motions submitted during the debate on October 24. 

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