The Daily Herald reports that Government officials pushed last Monday for social provisions to benefit the elderly and a higher minimum wage for workers during a presentation to a visiting Dutch dignitary. They lobbied for more pension and wages and other social assistance while meeting with Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Jetta Klijnsma. They called for the Dutch government to ensure that their residents maintain a standard of living similar to residents of The Netherlands. Commissioner Chris Johnson’s office released the presentation Tuesday. Saba executives discussed the 2004 referendum that led that island, Bonaire and St. Eustatius, to closer ties with The Netherlands. That year, most of the population (86.05 per cent) chose the new status. Three years later, talks about how to provide for citizens had stalled. The next year, Saba and other partners signed an agreement in The Hague between the three pro-integration islands and the central government of the former Netherlands Antilles. That agreement was based on the assumption that, with special regard to education, health, social security, youth, finance and security, standards be established to ensure “a Netherlands-acceptable level” for the Caribbean Netherlands public entities. The four pillars of the agreement were education, healthcare, public safety and social security. The fourth, he emphasized, involves welfare, minimum wage, cost of living and old age pension. Then he presented the figures for the 2013 Gross Yearly Amount for married couples standing at 19,967 euros in The Netherlands compared with 3,191 euros on Saba at 16 per cent of national average. With regards to comparisons for single parents, The Netherlands’ level is 19,007 euros, while on Saba it stands at 2,164 euros, or about 14 per cent of the national average. The Executive Council compared the 2013 minimum wage, based on a 40-hour week, at 8.48 euros in the European Netherlands with 4.31 euros on Saba. It is 49.6 per cent of the amount in The Netherlands. With regards to the cost of living, Commissioner Johnson gave itemized comparisons on a basket of basic goods. He argued that the same goods that cost 26.21 euros in The Netherlands, cost 41.11 euros on Saba, a staggering 57-per-cent difference. He pointed to the 2012 gross yearly old age pension for co-habitating individuals in The Netherlands standing at 9,162 euros compared with 5,641 euros on Saba (61.6 per cent). The same pension for single persons is 13,309 euros in The Netherlands and 6,541 euros on Saba at 42.4 per cent of the national figure. The argument made is that the islands accepted national standard human rights changes on gay marriage, euthanasia and abortion, but with regards to the right to social assistance needed for a decent life, these distinctions are not applied.
The commissioner noted that the islanders make up 0.001 per cent of the population. He questioned whether Saba residents were truly being considered citizens of The Netherlands. With most of the country’s population receiving a level of social provisions at a single national level, the executive reiterates the question of Sabans’ citizenship. After two-and-a-half years as part of the country, after the islands voted in Second Chamber Elections, the island’s Old Age Pension is still below the poverty line, states the presentation. They asked the national executive to establish an acceptable Netherlands’ level of social provisions.