National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) for the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba Wilbert Stolte supports an increase in the free allowance (vrije uitkering) for the islands. The free allowance is not only essential to cover the tasks that have been assigned to the local government, but is also needed to pay for regular maintenance and the “highly necessary” backlog in maintenance of public facilities such as roads, government buildings and utility facilities, stated Representative Stolte in his second progress report.
In his report, which was drafted in February and sent to the Second Chamber earlier this week, Stolte speaks of “deep holes” in roads in Bonaire and St. Eustatius. This in contrast to the “state-of-the-art” educational material which the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science made available to secondary schools on the islands.
“The budgets provide (almost) no room to catch up with overdue maintenance. Unlike in the European part of The Netherlands, the islands do not have (strategic) reserves, and the financial capacity of the population is low. This makes the islands vulnerable to financial setbacks and offers little perspective for development,” according to Stolte.
The reference research, initiated by the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK, of which the results were not known yet at the time of the drafting of the progress report, has shown that the free allowance is too low. Minister Spies confirmed this at a press briefing following consultation with Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba last Thursday.
Representative Stolte stated that it is important to take swift measures following the reference research, “because the differences between the levels of facilities that the local government and the national government offer are incomprehensible to citizens.” Besides the holes in the roads and state-of-the-art school books, he also mentioned the mismatch between the housing of Dutch ministries on the islands and the local government departments. The housing of the Dutch ministries is “modern and adequate”, while civil servants of the public entity have to rely on “outdated and often inadequate” housing. “This disparity keeps raising more questions. The current lack of resources of the public entities results in a neglect of the public facilities that cannot be justified. These differences should be rectified quickly,” stated the Representative.
But Stolte pointed out that it is not only a matter of adjusting the free allowance. Local government also has a responsibility to spend its money wisely. “Local governments have to increase efficiency of public spending and strengthen financial management ensuring that more resources are available for much-needed investments.”
The free allowance for Bonaire for 2012 has been set at US $20.4 million, the 2012 contribution to St. Eustatius at US $8 million and Saba US $6.9 million. Bonaire’s total budget for 2012 is US $52 million. Statia’s 2012 budget is US $11.9 million and that of Saba US $7.9 million.
The progress report of the Rijksvertegenwoordiger is a public document. It is available in three languages at the offices of the Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland (RCN) on the three islands and it can also be downloaded from the RCN Website.
Click HERE to read the earlier article on SabaNews.nl from where you can download the report of Mr. Stolte in English.