The Daily Herald writes that impact of legislation, efficiency of the new governmental structure and consequences for the people should be the main issues in the 2015 evaluation of the constitutional status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, according to the Dutch Council of State (Raad van State).
These three global objectives of the evaluation can be determined based on agreements that were already made as part of the public entity status that the three islands acquired on October 10, 2010, as well as the issues that have played a role so far in areas like legislation, social welfare, the economy and health care.
The first theme/objective has to do with the effects of legislation that was introduced when the islands became part of the Netherlands. The question of the effectiveness and efficiency of legislation is of importance. How the laws and regulations are executed in practice, whether the local government has been able to adequately do so and where the main bottlenecks are would be some of the questions of importance. The legislation theme is of importance in relation to the choice that is still to be made whether the islands will continue with the legal integration into the Dutch legal system, stated the council’s vice-president, Piet Hein Donner, in the 39-page document that was publically released on Monday.
The second theme/objective, the overall functioning of the new governmental structure, deals with the performance of the public entities and the cooperation of the public entities with the Dutch government and the other countries in the Kingdom. Some of the main topics of this aspect will be whether the decision to become a public entity has been the right one, or that the model of a Dutch municipality would be better, stated Donner. A related question would be whether another sharing of authorities between the Dutch government and the islands would be necessary.
In the third theme/objective, the people of the islands are central as it concerns the consequences of the transition to the new constitutional status for the inhabitants. “‘What are the concrete effects on society in daily life?’ This question relates to the question about the level of facilities on the islands,” stated Donner.
According to the council, the expectations of the people should be judged in light of the new constitutional frame for the islands, namely, the Dutch Constitution and the Charter of the Dutch Kingdom. The council recommended carrying out a general inventory of the economic and social developments on the islands as part of the evaluation since many inhabitants have indicated that many things are worse than before October 10, 2010, especially the reduced purchasing power of the people and the cumbersome health care regulations. The focus would have to be on health care, poverty, education, labour participation, social facilities, safety/crime and migration. The level of taxes and excises would have to take along in this analysis of the economic situation.
Though the global themes/ objectives are “strongly connected, but should be distinguished,” according to the council, “they concern different domains that connect to the diverse perspectives with which the evaluation is approached.” The council has suggested combining the objectives in the evaluation, considering the difference in perspective in which the Dutch government and the public entities view the new relations after October 10, 2010. Also taken into account should be legal responsibilities and agreements that have already been made. Each of the objectives has its own “orientation and, therefore, requires individual research with an individual set-up and method.” This would also serve to make a “good delimitation.” The evaluation assessment would become more workable by splitting it up in separate parts.
The evaluation committee would have to guarantee the mutual cohesion between the different parts, stated Donner, who stressed that the council considered it “of great importance” that an independent evaluation committee would be installed for this extensive project. The council recommended appointing an independent chairperson to head the evaluation committee. This person should have the authority with all parties. The committee in question should have a maximum of seven persons in order to safeguard efficiency. The committee members should be scientific and practical experts in the areas of the themes/objectives. There should also be expertise in the committee in the area of administrative experience with small-scale governments, knowledge of the specific situation on the islands, legal know-how and methodological expertise in the executing (evaluation) research.
The evaluation committee would have various tasks in the different stages of the evaluation. The committee has to look at the operational side of the objectives and themes. It has to develop criteria to assess the actual findings of the different research. Furthermore, the committee would have to select the independent researchers and coach the different components of the research. It would also be in charge of writing the final report after which it would be up to the politicians to make decisions based on the evaluation results.
The advisory department of the Council of State sent its advice to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on February 4, who, in turn, forwarded it to the Dutch Parliament on February 6, as well as the Executive Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Plasterk and his colleague of finance, Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, had asked the Council of State on September 2, 2013, to prepare an advice (officially called “voorlichting” in Dutch) on the content and set-up of the evaluation in anticipation of the constitutional evaluation of the Caribbean Netherlands. The advice of the Council of State will be perused by an evaluation work group in the formulation of the evaluation’s mandate before June 2014. This work group is part of the agreement that the representatives from the Netherlands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba made in October last year during the Caribbean Netherlands Week in The Hague.