In the Multi annual program, Bonaire and Saba established agreements with the Dutch government on amongst others poverty alleviation, children’s rights and economic development. Minister Plasterk of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) agreed upon this with the delegations of the Dutch Caribbean islands during the Caribbean Netherlands week, which takes place this week.
The Caribbean Netherlands week shows this year that there is more individual attention for each island is needed. This is taken into account in the Multi annual program. This also means that St. Eustatius cannot sign the program. The island also participates in the Caribbean Netherlands week, but is placed under supervision of the government because of the large budget deficits. When the process of improvement is deployed, the Multi annual program will be discussed again with St. Eustatius.
Focus on social domain, economy and infrastructure
After the investments by the Dutch government in recent years in the areas of healthcare, education, governance and infrastructure, time has come for a policy of intensifying the reducing of poverty, children’s rights and economic development. In the multi annual program, a first concrete step is set. Major components are for example:
• BZK makes in 2015 and 2016 the following resources available for economic development each year: 495,000 dollar for Bonaire and 180,000 dollar for Saba.
• The Ministry of Economic Affairs boosts entrepreneurship by making 100,000 euro available for the Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
• For socio-economic problems BZK provides in 2015 and 2016 annual budgets: 1,650,000 dollar for Bonaire and 600,000 dollar for Saba. In addition, investment will be made in childcare and sports.
• To strengthen the administration of the islands BZK provides $ 1.6 million dollar on a yearly basis.
• Child Allowances will be introduced per January 1st 2016 in the Caribbean Netherlands (subject to parliamentary approval). This requires 900,000 dollar which is reserved.
• How to improve the social security system will be examined.
• The State Secretary for Social Affairs and Labor (SWZ) is considering an increase in the minimum wage, and thus benefits, from January 1st, 2016. This will be based on the figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). These figures giving rise to raise the minimum wage by 6.5 percent on Saba and 4 percent on St. Eustatius. When it comes to Bonaire, the income statistics does not lead to an increase. However, the minimum wage is indexed annually.
• The State Secretary of Social Affairs is also considering an additional package for all the islands of 300,000 euro structurally. This may, for example, after consultation with the islands, be used for child support, the General Retirement Insurance (AOV) and / or special Social Relief.
• Social Affairs draws the income limit for the special Social Relief to the level of the minimum wage so that more people can make use of it.
• To boost the improvement of children’s rights in the Caribbean Netherlands 3.3 million dollar will be made available.
• The Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I & M) invests in infrastructure projects. For Bonaire this is about the neighborhood approach and the port; for Saba about roads and ports. In total 21 million euro is budgeted.
• I & M is also investing more than 20 million euro in airports for 2015 and 2016.
Maintenance BES fund
Finally it is agreed that the results of the investigation of the level of the free distribution of the BES fund will be taken into consideration in the outcome of the evaluation commission Spies. The Final decision making process will then take place in the spring of 2016. In the meantime, the free benefit is indexed for inflation in 2015: a structural increase of 800,000 dollar in total.