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Motion to establish social minimum adopted

The Island Council want the new Dutch Government to see the establishing of a social minimum based on the actual cost of living included in its coalition agreement. The Island Council on Wednesday, September 22, 2021 adopted a motion which asked the ‘formateur’ and the political leaders working on a new coalition agreement to secure this.

The letter that the Island Council will be sending to the ‘formateur’ and the political parties along with the motion states that the Caribbean Netherlands “deserve a clear place” in the new coalition agreement. The Island Council advocates the establishing of a social minimum as soon as possible based on the actual cost of living. Pending this decision-making and implementation process, citizens who need it should receive a supplement to cover their subsistence costs.

“Despite the many studies and pleas which indicate the establishment of a social minimum as an urgent matter, political The Hague has persistently refused to address the unacceptable socio-economic situation in the Caribbean Netherlands. Through this way we express our common message and concerns to you once again. We urge that this undignified treatment of citizens in the Caribbean Netherlands be corrected,” it was stated in the letter, which was read by Island Council Member Carl Buncamper during Wednesday’s meeting.

Violating duty

In the motion, the Island Council mentioned the various treaties and laws that state that everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living, that everyone should be treated equally and that the Dutch Government is responsible to ensure the subsistence of its population. In the opinion of the Island Council, the Netherlands has been violating its duty of care imposed by (fundamental) laws and treaties.

The motion mentioned the fact that whereas a social minimum based on the necessary cost of living was established for the Netherlands, this was not the case for the Caribbean Netherlands. “The Dutch Government has applied an unnecessary and not convincingly argued differentiation between the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands.”

Poverty line

Fact is that a large part of the population of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba lives below the poverty line and does not experience an adequate standard of living, including the elderly, children and other vulnerable groups. The results of past reports and research have not translated into the establishing of a social minimum based on the actual cost of living, which is very high on the islands.

The policy of the Dutch Government so far has not led to an improvement of the income position and purchasing power of the islands’ population, or only very marginally. Contrary to the Netherlands, the wages and benefits for many people on the islands remain far below the calculated level of necessary living expenses. “With this the Dutch government has for years knowingly maintained unequal treatment between the population of the Netherlands and the population in the Caribbean Netherlands.”

Unequal treatment

According to the motion, the various reasons used by the Dutch Government not to establish a social minimum that is based on the actual cost of living do not hold. The motion further mentioned that the Dutch Parliament has repeatedly asked the Dutch Government to eliminate the unequal treatment and to establish a social minimum based on the necessary cost of living. The strong opinion of the National Ombudsman with regard to this issue was stated in the motion as well.

All three Caribbean Netherlands islands have now passed a similar motion, the driving force behind this being that they are in agreement that the social minimum should be set and that by adopting these motions, a strong signal is sent to The Hague.

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