Wednesday , November 29 2023

Committee envisioned for special allowances Caribbean Netherlands

Recognising that there is room for im­provement in coordination between the ministries in The Hague, the Dutch gov­ernment is looking into es­tablishing a governmental committee that will assess all special allowances for Bo­naire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Dutch caretaker State Sec­retary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ray­mond Knops stated this in a recent letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in re­sponse to questions submit­ted by the Second Cham­ber’s Permanent Commit­tee for Kingdom Relations with regard to the special allowances (“bijzondere uit­keringen”) to the Caribbean Netherlands.

The Ministry of Home Af­fairs and Kingdom Relations BZK and the Ministry of Fi­nance are contemplating as assessment framework, the role and working method of a potential committee and the essential points of depar­ture, explained Knops.

The state secretary acknowledged that the number of special allowances had grown a lot in the past years. Especially Saba has been pointing out that the inciden­tal funding through special allowances, instead of struc­tural funding and a higher free remittance (“vrije uit­kering”), is problematic to be able to cover the operating cost of the local government.

According to Knops, the surge in special allowances was mainly the result of a “tighter steering” of the vari­ous ministries and depart­ments on the various island tasks, in particular where it concerned the backlogs. “In itself, this can be seen as a positive development.”

Knops acknowledged that the Second Chamber and the General Audit Chamber rightly sought attention for, among other things, more coordination (from the side of the Ministry of BZK), more policy freedom (for the public entities), financial management and a view on the funding. “This has to im­prove.”

He pointed out that the wish to get rid of backlogs sometimes clashed with the freedom of policy of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. “At the same time, I am of the opin­ion that good solutions can be found in this judgement,” he stated.

In the coming months, the Ministry of BZK and the pub­lic entities will work on more concrete agreements with re­gard to the division of tasks, possibilities to strengthen the execution capacity, eliminat­ing backlogs and increasing collaboration between the local government and the National Department Carib­bean Netherlands RCN in the area of public service.

“The working out of these points requires a careful process that needs to run a course in conjunction with the public entities,” stated Knops, who noted that the objective was to arrive at a definite agreement with the public entities no later than mid-2022.

The intention is to secure these agreements in multi-annual execution agendas in succession to the current ac­cords, such as the Saba Pack­age and the Bonaire Govern­ment Accord, both of which end in 2022.

Knops said he shared the view of the BM party that there should be a solid bal­ance between policy freedom and realising improvements in the Caribbean Nether­lands by means of financial support from the Nether­lands.

“The report of the General Audit Chamber seeks atten­tion for this, in follow-up of the advice of the Council of State and the Inter-Depart­mental Research IBO. That is why this government initi­ated various trajectories to strengthen the coordinating role of the Ministry of BZK and to promote the policy freedom of the public enti­ties.”

Knops stated that atten­tion was also sought for the structural cost of investments and the amounts of island-specific means in general, in­cluding the free remittance. He remarked that under the current Dutch government, the coordination of special allowances improved and several measures were taken to facilitate this.

The state secretary said he shared the concerns of the VVD party, the CDA party and BID with regard to the structural cost resulting from incidental investments. “That is why I have empha­sised within the government that attention remains neces­sary for the structural cost of island-specific tasks.”

The committee that the Dutch government is con­templating would, for exam­ple, check whether new (in­cidental) special allowances would take the securing of structural cost into consider­ation when incidental invest­ments were made.

The Daily Herald.

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