SABA - Minister Schouten of the Dutch government recently visited the Caribbean Netherlands to discuss critical issues affecting the region. While unfavorable weather conditions prevented her from physically reaching Saba, she engaged in productive discussions with the Executive Council, Island Council, and the Saba business association. The primary focus of these discussions was the report submitted by Glenn Thodé concerning the social minimum in the Caribbean Netherlands.
In a press conference held in Bonaire on Friday, Minister Schouten announced several significant measures aimed at improving the living conditions of residents in the Caribbean Netherlands. Starting from January 1, 2024, residents with a minimum wage or benefits will see positive changes in their financial situations. Specifically, the minimum wage for a 40-hour working week for a 21-year-old will increase to $1,654 per month on Saba.
Furthermore, social assistance for a single person living independently and the AOV and AWW will also increase as of January 1. These increases will bring social assistance to $1,406 per month on Saba. Child benefit will rise to $225 per child per month on Saba.
The minister's visit was prompted by the release of the report titled 'A Dignified Existence' by the Social Minimum Committee of the Caribbean Netherlands. The report, presented to Minister Schouten and State Secretary Van Huffelen on October 6, has been a focal point for discussions during her visit. Mr. Thodé, the chairman of the Commission, accompanied the minister during her visit.
To support these initiatives, the government has committed over 33 million dollars for the islands. The aforementioned increases in benefits and child benefits will be funded from this allocation. Additionally, the energy allowance of $1,300 per year for low-income individuals will continue, along with the reduction in the fixed electricity rate. Further reductions in the rates for drinking water and internet services are also on the horizon. In 2024, the government plans to introduce free school meals and allocate just over $1 million to support local poverty policies in the Caribbean Netherlands, with an additional $700,000 earmarked for public transport on the islands.
Minister Schouten's visit underscores the commitment of the Dutch government to improving the quality of life for residents in the Caribbean Netherlands. The government remains dedicated to addressing the challenges faced by the community and will continue to work towards ensuring a dignified existence for all.