THE HAGUE--The Labour Party PvdA in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will present an amendment next week to introduce an allowance for families with children (kinderbijslag) in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba of US $38 per month per child.
The proposal to introduce a family allowance came from PvdA Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar, the party's spokesperson on Kingdom Relations. Van Laar's colleague Roos Vermeij will submit the amendment during the handling of the 2015 draft budget of Social Affairs and Labour next week.
The family allowance, if approved by the Second Chamber, would replace the current fiscal incentive for children which provides families a tax deduction of US $38 per child per month. However, the low income families don't benefit from this arrangement because they don't pay income tax.
With the PvdA proposal all families in the Caribbean Netherlands would receive a monthly contribution of US $38 per child. The allowance would cost the Dutch Government some 800,000 euros per year, to be funded through the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. The Netherlands already has an allowance for families with children.
Voting on the amendment would take place in two weeks, the week after it has been submitted. However, it remains to be seen whether the proposal will receive a majority support in the Parliament.
PvdA's governing partner, the liberal democratic VVD party, didn't respond too enthusiastic to the plan. "Saint Nicholas is in town again," stated VVD Member of the Second Chamber Anne Mulder in a reaction.
Member of the Second Chamber Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion (CU), a party that has been advocating to raise the level of social provisions on the islands for several years, said he was "very happy" to learn that the PvdA agreed that introducing an allowance for families with children was important.
"We have always said that all residents of the Netherlands, including the Caribbean Netherlands deserve a decent level of social provisions," Segers told The Daily Herald on Thursday. He said that the social ills that his predecessor Cynthia Ortega-Martijn had documented in the Caribbean Netherlands showed that tangible action is needed to fight poverty.
According to Van Laar, the allowance for children of low income families is direly needed so children don't end up being the victim of poverty. He pointed out that social provisions are much lower on the islands than in the Netherlands.
Van Laar and Segers also presented an amendment early October during the handling of the 2015 draft Kingdom Relations budget to make 3 million euros available to improve children's rights in the Caribbean Netherlands. This amendment, which will also be voted on in two weeks, is very likely to be carried.
The Caribbean Netherlands, but also the Dutch Caribbean countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, are facing serious poverty issues. An estimated 60 per cent of the families in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are living below the poverty line. According to 2011 figures, 20 per cent of families live below the poverty line in St. Maarten and 25 per cent in Curaçao.
Van Laar called on the Dutch Government to ensure that children's rights are duly lived up to in the Caribbean Netherlands, which are a responsibility of the Netherlands as Dutch public entities. He did so at Thursday's Children's Rights Summit of the United Nations Children Fund UNICEF Nederland in Leiden.