Small successes for islands at Dutch Caribbean week

POSTED: 11/1/13 11:38 AM

THE HAGUE – The Dutch Caribbean Week concluded with predominantly small successes. The islands have made sure that their vote is equal to that if the Netherlands when it comes to drafting the evaluation assignment for the constitutional relationships, Jamila Baaziz reports on Caribisch Netwerk.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has made €600,000 available for tackling poverty in Bonaire, Saba and Statia. The real estate tax has been slightly lowered and the tax-free foot of the real estate tax for second homes on the island has been increased from $50,000 to $70,000.

The island representatives describe the past couple of days as hectic and busy, whereby small steps forward have been made. Commissioner Reginald Zaandam admits that the expectations have not been met completely. “We are now going to see what we are able to do with the results we have achieved.” He is happy with the money for tackling poverty and with the promise of the Ministry of Education to reconsider whether the decision to make Dutch the language of instruction in schools can be possibly reversed.

Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk emphasized at the press conference at the end of the week that he is satisfied with the development plans for the islands. Because of the crisis, no money had become available for additional investments. According to the Netherlands, the islands would have to pay partly themselves for these development plans from funds from the free grant, an annual subsidy from the Netherlands that the Executive Councils are allowed to use as they see fit.

The departing Bonairean Commissioner Burney El Hage said that, in spite of the small steps forward, it is becoming increasing clear to him that the Dutch Ministries consider the islands more and more as a part of the Netherlands. In his farewell speech El Hage expressed the wish that the money the islands will receive will be spent correctly, “in a way that benefits the population on the islands as much as possible.”

Chris Johnson, the commissioner from Saba, is satisfied with the possibilities for the islands to determine their own priorities.

Another important point on the agenda was the evaluation. For the commissioners it is crucial to hear from the Netherlands that all who are involved in the evaluation of the constitutional relationships in 2015 have an equal vote in what will be evaluated and how this evaluation will take place. That will happen: a study group with representatives from the three islands and the Netherlands will handle the setup of the evaluation.

In June 2014 the latest, it must be clear what the evaluation assignment looks like. The advice of the Council of State will be taken into consideration. Possibly an independent evaluation committee will be established. A decision about this committee will be taken during the next Dutch Caribbean week.

The persistent complaints about the administrative pressure on the islands were also a topic of discussion. Saba’s Commissioner Chris Johnson pushed this issue. Minister Plasterk promised to look into this issue in the next couple of months. It is about the many laws and rules the small islands are confronted with. They create unnecessary bureaucracy and put a lot of pressure on the limited capacity of the civil service on the islands.

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