TUESDAY, 12 MARCH 2013
THE HAGUE–The people of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba shouldn’t be hurt too badly by the tough economic times and the cost-cutting measures of the Dutch Government, said Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Monday.
“There is not much we can do about the bad economic times, but despite that, we should make sure that we can improve the lives of the people on the Dutch public entities,” said Plasterk in an interview after officially welcoming delegations from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
“Financially things are tough, but that doesn’t absolve us from having good talks on topics that are in the best interest of your people,” Plasterk told the representatives of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The island delegations are in The Netherlands this week for talks with several members of the cabinet and the various ministries.
“Last time I saw several of you, we went up the mountain in our short pants, and today you are here all dressed up in a suit,” said Plasterk, his words obviously directed at the Saba delegation. Plasterk visited the Dutch Caribbean in January this year for the first time since he became Minister in December last year. He climbed Mount Scenery at that time.
This is the first time that Plasterk is hosting the so-called Caribbean Netherlands Week, held twice a year in The Hague, in which delegations from the three Dutch public entities come to discuss current topics and developments on their islands, and sometimes share their grievances.
“It is an important and busy week. You will speak with many of my colleagues on issues like development plans, poverty and all sorts of topics that are of general interest to your islands,” said Plasterk.
Plasterk referred to his role as coordinating Minister and the responsibility of each member of the Dutch cabinet regarding his or her portfolio. “I am glad that you are here now to talk to the ministers, who are the ones that you have to address constitutionally. This is the moment to bring up issues. Of course I will help you along the way where needed.”
Saba’s Commissioner Chris Johnson said he was well aware that the Dutch Government had to cut cost. “We are okay with that, but let’s spend the money wisely,” he said. He remarked that the Dutch Government spent a lot of money in sometimes superfluous studies, on expensive consultants, high Dutch civil servant salaries and a costly building for the National Government Service RCN.
The Dutch Government should be more flexible, more practical and that doesn’t only apply to the financial relations with the islands, said Johnson. The Hague doesn’t really understand the impact of laws and decisions on a small island community, considering the number of laws and the heavy fiscal system that have been implemented. It shows the lack of comprehension for the local situation.
Saba and the other two islands still don’t know exactly where they stand and what position they really have as Dutch public entity, said Johnson. He said that The Netherlands uses the islands’ position to its convenience. “That is disparity.”
Johnson said that if The Netherlands took the general evaluation in 2015 seriously, it would cooperate to redraft a number of laws and send them back to the Second and First Chambers of the Dutch Parliament for review.
The Commissioner was positive about the cooperation between Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in preparation for the week of meetings in The Netherlands. “Of course each island has its specific wishes and issues that it wants tackled, but we respect that and we support each other. We shouldn’t take each other down because of different priorities. It shows political maturity to work together,” he said.