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Soualiga Newsday Focus (2563)

Unemployment rate drops slightly in December, but jobless benefit claims are up

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The official Dutch unemployment rate fell again slightly to 3.9% in December, as government coronavirus support measures kept people in work.

Some 368,000 people were officially without a job in the Netherlands last month and the total has gone down by an average of 15,000 per month for the previous three months, the CBS figures show.

However, the number of unemployment benefit (ww) claims rose in December for the first time in six months. In all, 9,000 new claims were added month on month, taking the total to 286,000.

The CBS said ww claims always rise in the winter, as work in construction and farming slows. However, the impact has been strengthened by the coronavirus crisis, and there were more new claims from people working in the hospitality sector.

In addition, youngsters were disproportionately affected. The number of ww claims by the under-25s rose from 9,100 at the end of 2019 to 19,500 at the end of last year, a rise of 114%.

Economists expect unemployment to increase sharply as 2021 progresses and more companies go bust or lay off staff, because of the impact of the pandemic and the continued lockdown.



More farmers go organic, but the changeover is slowing down

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of farmers converting to organic methods has fallen for the sixth year in a row, according to figures from certification agency Skal.

Nevertheless, 39 more farms and 90 more trade and processing companies are now under Skal supervision than at the end of 2019, the agency said on Thursday. At the same time, the amount of land being farmed organically has now gone up 6% to nearly 80,000 hectares, Skal said, although most of the growth is down to companies which were already certified expanding their operations.

Organic farmers association Bionext blamed the declining interest in switching methods partly on the cost of conversion. In addition, ‘the decline is not only caused by the uncertain strategy towards farming in the Netherlands but the lack of market demand,’ Bionext said.

Farmers who do decide to make the change have to wait two years before their produce can officially labeled organic, which means they are investing without benefiting, Bionext says.


Last June, researchers at IRI Nederlands said organic food has yet to make the expected breakthrough in Dutch supermarkets and still only accounts for just over 3.2% of sales at big food retailers such as Jumbo and Albert Heijn.

There are some organic hits, including eggs, which now account for 16.6% of the market, as well as tea, coffee and chocolate products. Previous research has suggested that price is a major reason why consumers don’t buy more organic products.

Nevertheless, organic food lobby group Bionext said in May that in 2019, 95.1% of all Dutch households bought at least one organic product and almost nine in ten did this in a supermarket.



Childcare subsidy for all parents

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - As part of the BES(t) 4 Kids program, a childcare cost price reducing subsidy has been introduced which lowers the monthly amount that parents have to pay for their child(ren) in day care and after-school care.

The BES(t) 4 Kids program is continuously working on improving quality in childcare in the Caribbean Netherlands, including Saba. To further promote safe and high-quality childcare on Saba, the program has initiated the cost price reducing subsidy, which will decrease the monthly parental fee for both day care and after-school care. 

The subsidy went into effect per January 1, 2021 for all children attending day care and after-school care. Parents will pay a monthly fee of US $100 per child attending day care on a full-time basis. The monthly fee for children attending day care on a part-time basis will be US $50, while the monthly fee for after-school care has been set at US $50 per month.  

In October last year, the so-called child place subsidy was introduced to enable parents who cannot afford child care to still have their child(ren) attend day care and after-school care. This subsidy either covers the full amount of the monthly fee or a partial amount based on the parent’s income and situation. 

The information of the new childcare cost price reducing subsidy will be entered quarterly per attending child per organization in the database provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW), headed by the policy execution unit UVB. The payments will be made directly to the day care and after-school care organizations. For Saba’s day care, this will be the Public Entity Saba. The after-school care on Saba is run by the Child Focus Foundation.

Commissioner of Social Affairs and Labor Rolando Wilson said he was content that the requests of the islands had been heard. He said that the childcare cost price reducing subsidy will be highly appreciated by all Saba parents.

“Over the past three years we have been able to give the early childhood caregivers and the after-school coordinators the opportunity to upgrade and broaden their knowledge through trainings and schooling. Now we are able to assist all parents. I am very happy to know that we can now ease some of the burden of those families who have been struggling by proving this new subsidy,” said Wilson.

day care 05



Hospitality sector receives vaccination update

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Public Entity Saba on Tuesday sent an update to the local hospitality sector with regard to the upcoming vaccination program and the next phase of reopening the island. The sector was asked to encourage their employees to attend the two townhall meetings this week.

In the past weeks, the Saba Health Care Foundation and the Public Health Department have been preparing for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. Last week, representatives from the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) in the Netherlands visited the island to assess Saba's vaccination plans and to advise on the next steps. The assessment went well and with a few small adjustments, Saba expects to soon receive the go-ahead for its plan.

The freezer in which the vaccine will be stored has arrived on the island. There are some rumors that the vaccine arrived with this freezer, but that is not the case. While current indications are that Saba will be receiving the Moderna vaccine, this is not 100 percent certain as yet. Moderna would be the better option for Saba, because of the ability to store the vaccine on-island.

This would provide more flexibility for the vaccination process. Local authorities expect to receive the final confirmation towards the end of January as to which vaccine Saba will be receiving, how many vaccines and when the first batch will arrive. The hospitality sector was informed that until this information has been received, a definite date of when the next phase of reopening will occur cannot be given. The current aim for this next phase is May 1. 

The number of persons who take the vaccine will have a direct impact on the next phase of Saba’s re-opening strategy. Therefore, local authorities will continue to lobby for the maximum amount of vaccine for Saba, which would result in the best re-opening scenario.

An information campaign has been initiated to help the community better understand the vaccine and its benefits. The hospitality sector was asked for its support in this and requested to encourage employees, colleagues, friends and family to attend the town hall meetings this Wednesday and Thursday. There is also a vaccination hotline for persons who want to submit questions privately. The hotline number is 416-5373.


SCDF meets with Police and Fire Dept. to Prepare for Carnival 2021

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Tuesday met with the St. Maarten Police Department and St. Maarten Fire Department in preparation for Carnival 2021.

President of the SCDF Alston Lourens briefed the Police and Fire Departments about SCDF's plans for Carnival and all parties discussed the usual protocols they operate under on an annual basis on how these would be managed.

The SCDF plans on increasing its own security force to alleviate some of the pressure off of the Police for Carnival. All parties will meet every other Tuesday until Carnival to update each other and ensure full readiness for Carnival 2021.

The meeting with the Police and Fire Department is just one of many stakeholder meetings the SCDF is having this week. Once these meetings are concluded the SCDF will launch its public awareness campaign and inform the general public accordingly.

The SCDF will also maintain an open line of communication with government to update on its planning.


MijnCN: the online platform for public services is live as of January 19th

SABA/SINT EUSTATIUS - As of January 19th, 2021 MijnCN, is launched. MijnCN is the online platform for public services in the Caribbean Netherlands. Residents and businesses can easily, safely, and quickly manage their business online, with the affiliated services.

The Belastingdienst Caribisch Nederland (BCN) is the first service on the platform, on which initially IB (income tax), ABB (General Expenditure Tax) and LH (Wage Tax) tax returns can be submitted.

In time the portal will be extended with more services of the central and local government. This way, residents of the Caribbean Netherlands will have a one-stop portal for all their government-related matters.


Users can log in wherever they are to view or change information or manage their business. You can find help with the creation of an account on  


Security is a top priority at MijnCN. Therefore, data on the platform is protected in various ways. For instance, through the possibility of a two-factor authentication. With this method a user is required to perform two forms of identification, instead of one, in order to access his unique, personal account.


Because data is entered directly into the system, this means it can be processed more quickly.

In short, MijnCN is easy, safe, and fast. More information is available on

(RCN Caribbean Netherlands)


Lilianne Ploumen succeeds Lodewijk Asscher as Labour party leader

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Lilianne Ploumen has been confirmed as the new leader of the Labour party (PvdA) following the resignation of Lodewijk Asscher over his role in the child benefits scandal.

The 58-year-old Ploumen is currently deputy chair of the party and was the minister for development aid in Mark Rutte’s previous cabinet. Her appointment means two of the five parties that have made up Dutch governments since 1982 are now led by women.

Ploumen was one of the front runners to succeed Asscher after he stepped down on Thursday morning. She was third on the PvdA’s original list of candidates and is one of the party’s most prominent and popular MPs.

At the last election in 2017 she was ranked 10th on the party’s list as Labour slumped to nine seats, but still got into parliament after receiving nearly 20,000 personal votes.

She Decides

In 2017 she set up the She Decides fund in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw financial support from groups that advocate or assist with abortion around the world.

The fund raised €400 million in its first year and earned her the Machiavelli prize for public communication. Asscher’s decision to quit on Thursday played a key role in Mark Rutte’s decision to tender his cabinet’s resignation the following day over the child benefits scandal.

As social affairs minister and deputy prime minister, Asscher was responsible for the Dutch tax office’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards benefit fraud that led to thousands of families being wrongly accused and forced to pay back huge sums in childcare allowances.

The policy overwhelmingly targeted families with dual nationality and drove some to financial ruin, costing them their homes, jobs and livelihoods. A parliamentary inquiry in December found that the parents involved had suffered an ‘unprecedented injustice’ at the hands of the politicians who devised the policy and the civil servants who carried it out.



Police try to crack unsolved murder in Groningen from 1997

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police are carrying out enquiries at nearly 100 locations in Groningen as they step up efforts to solve a murder case from 24 years ago.

Els Slurink, a 33-year-old psychologist, was found dead in her home on Van Brakelplein on March 21, 1997. She had been stabbed in the heart. Neighbours raised the alarm after she failed to turn up for an appointment at work.

Police told the Asser Courant last week that they had received 14 new tips in response to a new appeal, but none had given them a breakthrough. ‘We follow up all tips and have spoken with a number of those who contacted us.

Some of them referred to certain people who may be of interest to us,’ said Rein Ramaker, head of the cold case division. A DNA sample taken from under Els’s fingernails with traces of an unknown man has also been sent to the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) to be analysed using more modern techniques.

The case is the first to feature on this year’s cold case calendar, which police publish every year in an attempt to crack historic cases. Copies are displayed in various locations, including prisons, with details of how to contact the investigation team.

Officers hope that the new inquiries will prompt people with knowledge of the case to break their silence after two decades. ‘Previous research into cold cases shows that the offenders in these cases often tell people close to them what they did,’ a police spokesman said.

We think there must be people who know more about Els’s death and may even be able to tell us who is responsible.’



Riot police used water cannon to break up illegal demo in Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Riot police used water cannon and horses to break up an illegal demonstration on Amsterdam’s Museumplein on Sunday afternoon.

The demonstration had been called by a group calling itself Nederland in Verzet (the Netherlands resists) but had been banned by mayor Femke Halsema because of fears that coronavirus measures would not be kept.

An alternative location, and a 500 limit on the number of demonstrators, was rejected by the organisers, who then cancelled the entire event. However, despite appeals not to do so, hundreds of people still came to Museumplein to make their voices heard.

According to website, about 1,000 people had gathered on the square by around 2pm, when the demonstration should have started. Some were carrying Dutch flags, other placards stating ‘stop the lockdown’, ‘for freedom’ and ‘media=virus’.

Others hugged each other and chanted ‘we are the Netherlands’, the Parool reported. Despite being warned to leave several times, many demonstrators refused to budge, and the mayor then evoked her emergency powers to end the protest.

By around 5pm, calm had returned to the Museumplein although pockets of demonstrators remained on the surrounding streets and there was still a heavy police presence. Police have not yet said how many, if any, arrests were made.



The caretaker coalition: what does it mean, and what happens now?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch cabinet has resigned in the wake of the childcare benefit scandal in which thousands of parents were wrongly treated as fraudsters.

But with a general election taking place in just two months’ time, ministers will stay on in their present roles until then, acting in a caretaker capacity. Here’s an explainer of what it all means.

So, what happens in the next few days?

On Tuesday, MPs will debate the government’s official response to the highly critical report on childcare benefit scandal, which covers 25 pages and has been a month in the making.

If the cabinet had not resigned, there would have been a motion of no confidence in the government, which may well have passed, despite the narrow coalition majority.

What does having a caretaker cabinet mean?

On the face of it, very little. All the current ministers – with the exception of economic affairs minister Eric Wiebes, who has stepped down immediately – will remain in their present jobs.

However, by convention, they will limit their work to dealing with issues deemed to be ‘non-controversial’ by both houses of parliament.

Why not hold an election sooner?

Usually this does happen when a coalition collapses or resigns, but given the election is scheduled for March 17, there would be no point in trying to bring this forward. The country will officially switch to campaign mode in mid-February, at which point the cabinet becomes caretaker anyway.

Cabinet periods in the Netherlands run for four years. What about the impact on the coronavirus crisis? Prime minister Mark Rutte made it clear on Friday that he expects parliament will continue to give the government its backing in dealing with coronavirus – and this could include controversial issues such as the introduction of a curfew.

Nevertheless, Marion Koopmans, one of the key faces in the government’s Outbreak Management Team which advises on tackling coronavirus, said on Friday that the timing of the resignation was ‘the worst possible’, given the new variants and the lack of impact of the measures taken so far.

Will Rutte stay on as party leader?

Rutte has made it clear he has no intention of stepping down and will lead the party into the election campaign. It is, he told reporters on Friday, up to the people to decide if he should remain in the role of prime minister, and they will have their say on March 17.

There is nothing to say that ministers who resign cannot come back in a later administration, and the way things stand at the moment, Rutte’s VVD is set to emerge as the biggest party after the vote.

But won’t this damage the coalition’s prospects in the general election?

Matthew Rodger, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit said that despite the disruption in the short term, the government’s resignation could actually improve the ruling parties’ chances in the March vote.

‘By resigning, the coalition has avoided a confrontational and damaging test of its authority in a no-confidence vote. Moreover, popular support is still solidly for the government, with only 8% of the public supporting a vote of no confidence in parliament,’ he said.

‘By avoiding the risk of a bruising parliamentary battle, but retaining office, the government’s resignation frees the ruling parties to campaign for the election.’

How long will it take before we have a new government?

The current ministers will continue to act as caretakers while the process of forming a new government takes place. Since World War II it has taken an average of 94 days to put a new coalition together, but the current cabinet took 225 days to be formed.

Current opinion polls indicate at least four parties will be needed to form a coalition, so there is a good chance it could be a lengthy process.

And what about all the families who were victims of the tax office campaign?

Rutte said on Friday that the financial compensation for parents is the first thing that needs to be sorted out. In addition, he said, the entire supplementary benefit system will be overhauled and the way in which the cabinet communicates also needs fundamental change.

Many of the families who were singled out were also dual national households – having more than one nationality was one of the indicators used by the tax office to identify possible fraud. Here too steps will be taken to make sure this does not happen again, Rutte said.

And the wider implications?

Eva González Pérez, the lawyer from Advocatencollectief Trias, who first took up the issue with MPs, says she believes that the case shows an unacceptable breach of citizens’ rights, with implications for everyone.

‘The lack of transparency in combination with the lack of information is killing democracy and the legal protection of citizens,’ she said. ‘This is about providing information.

If you are denied certain rights from an organisation, you must know why. If judges and the parliament were misinformed, various organisations like the Authoriteit Persoonsgegevens and journalists had to extract information which was not made available or were blocked by a governmental organisation, this is more than a ‘lack of the human touch’.


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