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.