Sunday , July 3 2022

BES islands may loose 10M for nature management due to crisis

It seems Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba lost the ten million euros that the Dutch Government had reserved for nature management and sustainable development in the Spring Accord to adapt the 2013 draft budget.

Andre Bosman, VVD
Martijn van Dam, PvdA

In response to written questions by the Permanent Committee for Home Affairs of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Dutch caretaker Minister of
Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies stated that the public entities appear to have drawn up plans to spend the funds for nothing. The 10 million euros may no longer be available because of the 2013 budget agreement that the conservative VVD party and the Labour Party PvdA made early October this year in anticipation of the VVD-PvdA coalition. The available funds for sustainability for next year, including the 10 million euros for nature in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, will be used to cover this agreement. A decision will be taken later about the available funds for 2014.

“It now appears that the public entities submitted plans for 2013, which they did at the request of the State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, in vain.” But that is not the fault of the islands, because they could not have taken the negotiations of the VVD and PvdA into account when they prepared their 2013 budget, said the Minister. According to Spies, the financing of these plans is essential from the perspective of the islands’ development
and the protection of the environment, especially where it concerns sewage treatment, sewerage, drinking water and (wind) energy. She said it was up to
the future cabinet to decide whether and how these important projects would be financed.

Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Martijn van Dam of the PvdA and André Bosman of the VVD confirmed during the debate on the
draft 2013 budget for Kingdom Relations Wednesday evening that the 10 million euros was no longer available for the islands for nature management and sustainable development. “It was not a wise decision,” said Van Dam, referring to the Spring Accord. The money will instead go to “social purposes,” he said.

Several Members of the Second Chamber, Wassila Hachchi (Democratic D66 Party), Ronald van Raak (Socialist Party (SP)) and Bram van Ojik (green left
party GroenLinks), sought clarity from Van Dam and Bosman. Hachchi criticised the PvdA and the VVD for not sticking to an earlier agreement of the Spring Accord, co-signed by D66. She accused the VVD of being an untrustworthy partner and asked how the VVD could insist on holding Curaçao and St. Maarten to agreements that were made as part of the constitutional process, while at the same time cancelling an earlier agreement with the public entities. Hachchi and Van Ojik said the public entities had drafted “good proposals” to use the 10 million euros. “Expectations were created,” said Van Ojik.

Van Raak asked Van Dam why the PvdA didn’t want to invest in projects to protect nature and the environment on the islands. He said nature on these  islands was among the most beautiful in the world. Van Dam and Bosman said it was a matter of choices and priorities. According to Van Dam, the social challenges on the islands were bigger than the issue of protection and nature. He said that funds for nature and environment would have to be freed up somewhere else in the budget, for example, by reducing the number of trips by Dutch civil servants to the islands. Van Dam said that was why he had asked the Minister how many civil servants travelled to the islands and what the associated cost was.

Bosman said the Dutch Government was already investing a lot of money, more than 200 million euros per year, in the islands. “You should not act as if nothing is going there,” he said to Hachchi. He said that choices had to be made to reduce the Dutch budget deficit and that choices sometimes shifted. Van Raak suggested reinvesting the surplus that was being collected in taxes on the islands. “Too much money is being collected in taxes, so why not return that money for the protection of nature and the environment?”

As expected, the main issues during Wednesday’s debate were the political and financial situation in Curaçao and the results of last week Friday’s elections.
There is general support for independence for Curaçao if the people indicate that desire in a referendum.

The debate continues today, Thursday, when Minister Spies will answer the questions posed by the Members of Parliament.

Source: The Daily Herald, October 25, 2012

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