In the Second Chamber a discussion is ongoing to opt for a change in the Dutch Constitution that would result in the possibility that the BES islands would be permanently considered as special public entities. The Island Council of Saba has send a letter to the Second Chamber in with it requests that the Members of Parliament will not vote for such a change in the Constitution at this stage.
The letter sent is drafted in Dutch and can be downloaded HERE.
A non-certified translation is presented below:
Currently, you are discussing amendments to the Constitution related to the public entities Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. The proposal is to amend the Constitution already now and not wait until an evaluation has taken place on the current form of public entities.
Meanwhile a lot of experience has been gained in the short time span of 1 1/2 years. On Saba is the population is so small that it is already clear what it means to have a special status compared with the European Dutch. During multiple visits of MPs, but also that of the minister, it was asked whether we believe that Saba belongs to Netherlands. The answer is always a resounding “yes”, but yet the question is often posed because it does not really feel as if Saba belongs to the Netherlands.
In 2006 there were probably large differences between the cost of living between the Netherlands and the European BES islands. Anno 2012, the cost of living is certainly not lower than that of the European part while the salaries and incomes are considerably lower. Inflation in the European Netherlands exists, but this is nothing compared to Saba (and the other two islands).
The benefits in the European Netherlands are many times higher with also all kinds of supplements. In the Caribbean Netherlands several benefits are less than half and the right to supplements does not exist. Because the tax systems are different a person from the Caribbean Dutch does not have a “burger service nummer”, nor a postal code and “Saba” does not seem to exist in international traffic nor in national traffic.
Of course there are differences between European and Caribbean Netherlands, like there are differences between municipalities and provinces in the European Netherlands. Perhaps there are specific differences between European and Caribbean Netherlands. The question is whether these are sufficient to justify the special status of public entity.
From The Hague, the various ministries, work hard to ensure that the rules that apply in the European Netherlands also will be applicable to Caribbean Netherlands. In particular this applies to all the tax measures but, unfortunately, not the benefits. There is an increasing feeling of unbalance in that the duties are enforced, but not compensated by the benefits.
In European Netherlands there is a tendency towards a simplification of rules or a reduction of them. We can observe that there are less rules in Caribbean Netherlands and they are much simpler than in the Netherlands. The question is whether this situation is too simple or, perhaps, that the European Netherlands may learn from them. In any case, it seems inappropriate to blindly apply all the rules of the European netherlands, precisely because it concerns a small community. Look at what is really needed and delete the unnecessary rules, which may then provide a model for the European Netherlands.
In the proposed Bill it is already mentioned that it is possible for each public entity to become a municipality, of course with the same rights and duties. However, not everything that is possible in municipalities is achievable in all three BES islands.
We want to change the feeling that we are not a real part of the Netherlands into the feeling that we really are one country. We have learned so far that the status of public entity does not contribute to the integration. Therefore, we advocate a path leading to the transformation of the public entities into municipalities. From this perspective, it is not necessary to amend the constitution, on the contrary, even not desirable.
In particular this is undesirable because in that case, it results in an impression that the Netherlands, through its constitution, wants to create an option for not granting the same rights and obligations to all its citizens, but to exclude some groups.
For our part, will do everything make the European side of the ocean known that we belong to the Netherlands,
We look forward hearing from you.
Els Boers, Island registrar, and
H. Smith, Acting governor.