photo: Hazel Durand

THE BOTTOM – Ronald Plasterk, minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations, in exiting statements on Saba this morning said that properly organizing the islands’ operations is the way to gain more support from the Dutch Ministries. “Get your own things right and make sure the money is well spent,” he commented when asked what leaving advice he could give the Dutch Caribbean island governments and its people.

Plasterk is on a goodbye tour to all six islands of the Dutch Caribbean, now that the end of his office as minister is near.

Social Affairs

Plasterk said while he acknowledged the dissatisfaction on the pace in which particular resolutions are progressing for the islands, he wanted to emphasize that “improving education and health care is also adding to the quality of life for people living in poverty.”

He noted that there have been long debates in the Netherlands on finding the social minimum, a step that was not taken by previous governments. “It’s not easy because also if we think about the social minimum in terms of benefits that can only be seen in the context of comparing that to the minimum wages.”

Moreover he said the minimum wage should not be increased without consulting the private sector. “What does this mean for business, because you also don’t want to damage the economy, so you have to do that step by step, but the message was clearly sent that we must do this as forward going as possible,” he noted.

Moving forward

While it is acknowledged that governments on the islands are frustrated on certain issues he advised all stakeholders not to throw in the towel. “What is not the way to go is to say that we do nothing because it is not our fault, why doesn’t The Hague solve it.”

He said this would only result in more resistance from the Ministries. “Of course, have political debates in the Island Council, but keep them business like and not too personal, don’t fight too long, because at the end of the day people don’t understand.”

He acknowledged that while Saba appears to be an island paradise, he is aware that things are not as easy as it appears. Nevertheless he commended Saba for its progress, while reflecting on his first visit 4 years ago in his post as Minister of Kingdom Relations.

He noted that August 20th his government will be the longest sitting government since free elections in 1917, “and with that I would probably be the longest sitting Minister of Kingdom Relations.