Caribisch Netwerk reports on the Consultation meeting on the Dutch Caribbean in the Second Chamber yesterday. ” What will be the business model for Bonaire , Saba and St. Eustatius ? How can people there earn their money ? And : who is responsible for a good future of these islands ? ” These were questions from SP MP Ronald van Raak to Minister Plasterk of the Interior and Kingdom Relations during the consultation on matters of the Caribbean Netherlands on May 15 in the Second Chamber.
The three MPs present also asked questions on the desired referendum on St. Eustatius and Bonaire , and how to tackle poverty and the proper spending of public money on the islands .
The call for a referendum on the constitutional structure on St. Eustatius and Bonaire is justified according to minister Plasterk: ” The islands have the right of self-determination and thus a referendum can always be held. It is not up to the Dutch government to judge in this matter. But it is wise to have a clear idea of the objectives of such a referendum before it is started.
Plasterk hopes for ‘ clear and realistic questions ‘ in such a future referendum and outlines the three selection options he sees : the current status as a public entity where ‘ everything still needs to be fine-tuned ” , a status as an independent country within the Kingdom, and full independence . Concerning the latter two , he wonders which option would be the most appropriate for the smaller islands : ” For example, in the case of Statia with less than 5,000 inhabitants, one may wonder whether a status as a public body is not more sensible. ”
The business model describing how, in the future, Bonaire , Saba and St. Eustatius will make their money should be primarily conceived by the island authorities themselves. ” This is something central government should not want to decide ,” said Plasterk.
Labour Party MP Roelof van Laar wants to know, if, as a consequence, the islands therefore will have more say in how the money from the central government will be spent. The islands have regularly asked for this way forward , e.g., recently, Saba , wants to spend funds on an agricultural project that are currently allocated to a Nature Conservation projects. Plasterk will consult his colleague ministers to see what is feasible.
Poverty , low social benefits and high costs of living remain a concern to the MPs . Van Raak asked if the central government could not put more pressure on the local authorities to better control the prices of basic products. Plasterk promised to look into this.
The SP and PvdA additionally want good agreements about the Dutch investment funds , such as those used for the construction of sewers in Bonaire and the improvement of the roads on Statia . Agreements on tax payments by NuStar ( Statia ) and the supplier of the medical helicopter will be critically monitored by them .