photo: John Samson

THE HAGUE – The benefits and basic pension on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius will increase as of 1 January 2019. The Dutch cabinet has announced the long-awaited plan against poverty in the Caribbean municipalities on Friday.

The government is coming up with a package of measures to reduce poverty and improve employment after a report from the research agency Regioplan.

No less than forty percent of all households surveyed in the study indicate that they have debts and are struggling every month. These households are often helped by others with, for example, a dinner. Virtually all benefits will go up: unemployed, disabled, single people with a basic pension and parents with children will receive more money as of January 1st, 2019. More measures will follow in 2020.

  • Independent living in the community: those who do not have an income and live independently will receive a lot more money as of January 1st. Social security per island was about 25 percent of the minimum wage and that will increase to 55 percent next year.

    Those who do not live independently and collect welfare, will receive the same amount from January onward.

    The child allowance will increases with fifty percent: On January 1st, 2019, that will be 60 USD. per month and from 2020 that will be 62.50 USD.

    Fridge: whoever earns the minimum wage or less, can ask for a reimbursement, for example, to buy a refrigerator, bed, stove, and washing machine. That arrangement will soon apply to a larger group of people. The limit is ‘temporarily’ increased to 120 percent of the minimum wage.

According to secretaries of state Tamara van Ark (Social Affairs and Employment) and Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) to Parliament, thanks to the research, the Cabinet has gained ‘more insight’ with regard to the cost of living on the islands.

In 2020, Van Ark wants to investigate whether social security and the minimum wage is sufficient in order to make ends meets on the islands, she writes in an explanation of the measures that the government wants to take.

  • Retirement: a pensioner who is single and is entitled to the basic AOV pension will receive more. A surcharge may be introduced from 2020 onward.

    There will be a new form of rent subsidy. With this, the government wants to stimulate social housing.

    Calling becomes cheaper: the cabinet wants to change the telecom law and regulations.

    Illness and disability: In about a year and a half, those who can no longer work due to illness can count on a substantially larger social benefit, equal to the statutory minimum wage.

    Extra money for the youth: extra money is available to improve the quality of childcare and after-school care. The cabinet’s main goal is to reduce the costs of childcare.

Secretary of state Knops emphasizes that, in order to improve the situation on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, the plans also require additional efforts from the authorities on the islands.

Out of patience

Secretary of state Van Ark publishes her plan at the very last moment. Both in the Senate and the House of Representatives ran out of patience because the publication of the report and the measures was repeatedly postponed. She has until July 1st to complete it.

In 2015, the Spies commission already concluded that poverty on Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius has increased since 2010, when the islands became special municipalities of the Netherlands. Both the current and the previous cabinet first wanted to wait for extensive investigation before re-establishing the level of social security.