Member of the Second Chamber Cynthia Ortega-Martijn of the Christian Union (CU) wants a prompt increase of the free allowance (vrije uitkering) for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. She posed questions to Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies on Wednesday.
The Dutch ‘public entities’ need more funds from The Hague to carry out their tasks. And, because the free allowance has been too low since the islands became part of The Netherlands per October 10, 2010, the local governments haven’t been able to carry out new policy and has a backlog in maintenance of infrastructure, said Ortega-Martijn on Wednesday.
The outcome of the reference frame analysis which shows that the islands need US $42.9 to US $61.1 million, an increase of at least US $8 million, to carry out their tasks has only confirmed CU’s suspicions that the islands were receiving too little all the while, stated Ortega-Martijn.
Minister Spies announced at a press briefing following meetings with the Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba delegations at her Ministry last Thursday that the reference frame analysis had indeed shown that the free allowance was too low. However, the Minister couldn’t promise the delegations that the funds would be increased and by how much, since this was a decision that the Dutch cabinet had to take. She asked for understanding due to the economic situation of The Netherlands.
The CU found the latter request “very odd” because The Hague and the islands had an understanding on the outcome of the analysis. Ortega-Martijn is demanding clarity from the Minister after the article in The Daily Herald of Friday, headlined “No commitment to raise islands’ free allowance.”
The Member of Parliament (MP) asked the Minister whether she indeed admitted that the free allowance had been too low and how she intended to remedy the situation. She asked Spies to rule out a reduction of the free allowance as part of the cost cutting measures that the Dutch cabinet is taking. Ortega-Martijn further wanted to know how she could not promise the islands an increase when it had been agreed with former Minister Piet Hein Donner that a possible increase to the free allowance would be taken up in the interim budget report (voorjaarsnota).
“It is unacceptable that these islands will receive a limited increase or kept in the dark. The Dutch Government wants the islands to assume their own responsibilities. Then this cabinet should also assume its responsibility and make sufficient funds available,” said Ortega- Martijn. The CU also wants The Hague to compensate the shortages of the past year and a half. “The figures are clear. Payments to the islands have been too low. The free allowance must be increased and the shortages compensated. If that is not done, the sentiment that the Dutch Government is not a trustworthy partner will only grow,” said the MP.