That Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Tamara van Ark remains committed to establishing a benchmark for the social minimum in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (see related story) will no doubt be well-received there. Her comment about this being a next step to improve living conditions on the so-called BES islands in any case inspires hope for better times.
It’s a development that bears watching in Philipsburg as well. For several years now Raymond Jessurun of the St. Maarten Seniors and Pensioners Association, the Anti-Poverty Platform and the Consumers Coalition has been calling for the old age pension AOV, unemployment pay, financial assistance, etc., to be the same throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
He asserts that while the Dutch Caribbean countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are autonomous, the right to a decent existence and equal treatment falls under the basic guarantee function of the kingdom. It’s ultimately thus a co-responsibility of the Netherlands also in relation to its membership in the European Union (EU).
Up to now this plea hasn’t found much backing especially in The Hague. One of the counterarguments is that higher taxes and social premiums are paid in the European part of the kingdom, so greater benefits should entail increased burdens too.
The latter was used as reason for differentiation with the three BES islands, along with their small scale and the risk of an imbalance compared to other territories in the region. However, it seems there is currently an upwards move in that sense regarding what is also known as the Caribbean Netherlands.
Perhaps one day a social minimum can somehow be introduced – and financed – for the entire Dutch kingdom, so that all its citizens, regardless of where they live, may enjoy a similar basic level of prosperity.