From the Daily Herald Tuesday, 12 June 2012 00:30
THE HAGUE–The “free allowance” (vrije uitkering) for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be increased this year by US $8.2 million to a total of US $42.9 million. St. Eustatius will receive US $1.3 million more and Saba US $1.2 million extra.
Dutch caretaker Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies stated this in a letter that she sent to the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber on Monday. The structural increase is the result of the so-called reference framework investigation (referentiekaderonderzoek) into the size of the free allowance in relation to the tasks that the islands have to carry out.
The islands have been complaining that the free allowance was too low for the local governments to properly carry out their tasks, let alone to make infrastructural investments. The reference framework investigation mentioned a range US $42.9 million to US $61.1 million for the free allowance increase. The Hague used the lower end of the range.
“The cabinet draws the conclusion that an increase in the free allowance from US $34.7 million to US $42.9 million is a reasonable point of departure,” it was stated in a press release issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK.
Bonaire’s free allowance will increase by US $4.9 million to US $24.9 million per year. With an additional US $1.3 million, St. Eustatius will now receive US $9.2 million on an annual basis. For Saba it concerns an increase of US $1.2 million to US $8 million.
Minister Spies further announced US $800,000 to tackle socio-economic issues. The Hague invests more in the islands than the free allowance. The Dutch Ministries also largely contribute to (better) services. Investments in the areas of public health and education are especially large.
Together with the Island Government, the Dutch Government will be making additional funds available to address the backlog of investment in essential basic facilities in the islands such as drinking water, waste management, airport safety, school buildings and libraries. The Dutch Government will facilitate interest-free loans from the Ministries for “promising” investments.
The Minister pointed out that the islands also have “an important own responsibility” where it comes to “formulating ambitions, generating own income and making choices.” “The levying and collection of island taxes can be improved.”
New sources of income can be tapped, the Minister pointed out. She mentioned that St. Eustatius and Saba, in contrast to Bonaire, didn’t levy land tax. She added that the tax burden for residents and the private sector should be taken into account when looking at levying more taxes.