The Daily herald writes that Saba Government filed a new request on Thursday, to increase the minimum wage to US $5.50 per hour. Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson announced this at a press conference at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK in The Hague, after the signing of the agreement between the Netherlands and the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba regarding the 2015 general evaluation.
Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Jetta Klijnsma decided in December last year to increase the minimum wage to US $4.96 per hour, which was 7.5 per cent more than the old minimum wage. Saba, however, had asked for an increase to US $5.50 per hour, a request that was not honoured by the state secretary. Johnson said on Thursday, that Saba had filed yet another request for an increase during a meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. He explained that the increase to US $5.50 had the support of Saba’s private sector. “I have spoken to all business owners and they said they agreed,” he said. The Commissioner said he did not agree with Klijnsma’s argument to only allow a partial raise in December last year because she wanted to wait until she had received all relevant information and statistics on the economic development. He questioned the use of these figures that were intended for large countries and not a small island like Saba. Johnson said that by raising the minimum wage, the social allowances like the unemployment allowance “onderstand” and the pension allowance AOV would also increase automatically. As such a higher minimum wage would have an overall positive effect on raising the purchasing power and the quality of life of many Sabans, said Johnson.
The Commissioner said that in general there was room for improvement where it came to the execution of Dutch policies on the islands. “We should not emphasize on plans, reports and more regulation, but on what the people need.” He questioned for example a study of the Saba Bank and the geothermal study while people barely had enough money to survive, with people on “onderstand” or AOV living below the poverty level. He also mentioned people with a handicap. “The social situation is the real root of the problem.” According to Johnson it is important to look at a “more serious” spending of Dutch funds, money that would actually benefit the people of the islands. “Anything about us, for us should be with us,” he said.
Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, at the press conference, acknowledged the importance of addressing poverty and the low social allowances. “It is an important point to mark to see how we can improve this gradually,” he said. Statia Commissioner Reginald Zaandam added his two cents. He said that it was a misconception that all the funds that the Dutch Government allocated for the islands actually benefitted the islands. According to Zaandam very often less than 30 per cent of the allocated funds directly went to the islands. Much of the money goes to consultants, studies and technical assistance. He suggested the implementation of a reference framework on spending, instead of having only a reference framework on policy.