KRALENDIJK – “I want to be able to determine the social minimum as soon as possible. But those are just words, they have to be turned into deeds”, said state secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (Kingdom Relations) during her first work visit to Bonaire on Tuesday.
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Report by Marit Severijnse
Van Huffelen spoke to, amongst others, the deputies, the Executive Council, and Island Council Members. “Their concerns are mostly directed towards the 40 percent of individuals who live below the poverty line, the lack of a guaranteed stream of income, and the lack of affordable housing.”
The social minimum is the minimum amount an individual or family needs to survive. The ministry of Social Affairs and Employment determines the amount, however the minimum has not been determined for the Caribbean Netherlands, a benchmark has.
The minimum wage and amounts for the social benefits on the BES islands (Bonaire, Statia, and Saba) were increased by 10 percent on the 1st of January, however the increase means nothing due to the high inflation, local authorities say.
How to divide funds?
On the question as to what will happen in the near future, the state secretary had the following to say: “What I will be doing in the short term, is looking into how we can divide the funds that we have available. To ensure that we take a step in the right direction when it comes to solving poverty for example”.
30 million euros will be made available for the BES islands on a structural basis. “The new government has not only written a lot about what they wish to achieve in the coalition agreement but also that they want to make funds available to achieve those goals, and I want to make use of those.”
Renewable energy to lower costs
Van Huffelen not only wants to make it possible for Bonairians to earn a higher salary, but she also wants to lower the costs of living by utilizing renewable energy for example. “I also had conversations today about renewable energy and the production of water and the fact that the costs are extremely high”, says the state secretary.
“Those are topics which I hope I will be able to tackle quickly. Especially because renewable energy can lower the costs of energy and water”, said Van Huffelen.
‘These roads are not nice for inhabitants’
While the inhabitants of Bonaire have been complaining about the roads for years, some Dutch tourists said that the potholes ‘have a certain charm to them’; does the state secretary agree? “Well, actually I don’t agree with that”, is Van Huffelen’s reaction.
“For the people who live here, it’s not nice to have these kinds of roads. It’s also dangerous. So I believe that it’s of upmost importance that we spend time looking at and pay attention to these roads. We also have the budget for it and there are plans that have to be executed, not only on the short term but also on the long term”, promises the state secretary.
The local Consumer Desk, Unkobon, and the deputies for Bonaire recently asked the government to designate certain roads as ‘Rijkswegen’ (national highways ed.). If that were to happen the Rijksoverheid would be responsible for the maintenance of the roads and not the municipality. The Dutch government does not agree with that plan and says that it would like to support Bonaire with proper funds.