Monday , May 29 2023

Recommendations for Dutch Government and Islands

More cohesion in policy making in The Hague, separation of policy and the execution of tasks in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and a multi-annual policy programme for three Dutch public entities are some of the recommendations that the Dutch Government will be taking over from the Van Gastel/Thunissen/ Johnson evaluation committee to improve the working relationship with the Caribbean Netherlands. This writes the Daily Herald about the report of the Small Evaluation Commisssion Dutch Caribbeans (“Rapport Commissie Kleine Evaluatie Caribisch Nederland”), published also on Saba-News yesterday, the 21st of March.

The Dutch Council of Ministers agreed on Friday that it would take over the recommendations of the committee that is looking at the coordination of the Dutch Government relating to the Caribbean Netherlands. Saba’s Island Governor Jonathan Johnson is a member of this committee, which is chaired by former top civil servant, consultant of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK, Marcel van Gastel. Inspector-general at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Jenny Thunissen is the third member.

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament of the cabinet’s response by letter on Friday. Plasterk appointed the Van Gastel/Thunissen/Johnson committee in December as part of the second phase in preparation of the evaluation of the coordination of the Dutch Government on and for the islands. The Dutch cabinet acknowledged the importance of more cohesion in the policy making and the execution of the National Government tasks. The intra-departmental consultation, an organ consisting of representatives of the various ministries that advises the Council of Ministers, will get a more important task and will serve as a central coordination point.

The intra-departmental consultation, also referred to as the Caribbean Netherlands Table, will focus more on individual themes such as economic development, combating of poverty, children’s rights and administrative power. The intra-departmental consultation will become the principal partner for the Executive Councils of the islands in their talks regarding National Government policy. “This means that the interaction between the Caribbean Netherlands Table and the Executive Councils needs to be strengthened,” stated Plasterk in his letter.

The recommendation of the Van Gastel/Thunissen/Johnson committee to separate policy and execution of tasks will be implemented. The ministries in The Hague will be responsible for the drafting of policies, while the departments and the liaisons of the ministries on the islands will oversee the execution of the tasks, under the direct responsibility of the minister in charge.

The National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) will be the link between the Caribbean Netherlands Table in The Hague and the three Executive Councils.

The National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland RCN) and the department’s liaisons will support the National Government Representative. A separate organisation for this Representative will no longer be needed. The National Government Representative will become responsible for RCN as a shared service and for the general facilities of the RCN. The starting-up phase of the organisation of the RCN has passed and that means that the managing of the shared service organisation can now be carried out, explained Plasterk. A new National Government Representative should be appointed before this summer. (See related article)

The Dutch cabinet supports maximum self-reliance of the public entities in the areas like administration, economy, and infrastructure. “This is in the interest of the residents: it is their island and it concerns their well being,” stated Plasterk. This entails made-to-measure work including the willingness to differentiate between the islands, for example in the area of utilities and the execution of tasks. Assistance will be needed from the Dutch Government on the road to more self-reliance.

Sustainable support will be provided to maximise self-reliance whereby the islands’ scale and characteristics will be taken into account. “Know-how, network and engagement will be at the service of the people and the island governments,” stated Plasterk.

A multi-annual policy programme along with a budget will be drafted in June this year in close consultation with the Executive Councils. Priority themes will be included, such as economic development and combating of poverty. Multi-annual plans of the individual ministries, such as the one of the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports VWS regarding healthcare on the islands, will be part of this multiannual policy programme.

“The new approach should not be seen as criticism on the former way of doing things. We dealt with a start-up phase which required an all-hands-ondeck approach after the islands became public entities on October 10, 2010,” said Plasterk in an invited comment. In his letter, Plasterk promised that he would implement the committee’s recommendation to give more content to his coordinating role regarding the Caribbean Netherlands. The Ministry of BZK is the central point of contact and will take the lead in the themes that require an integral intra-departmental approach.


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