Published On: Fri, Apr 24th, 2020

Dutch support for vulnerable citizens (UPDATED with Video)

State Secretary Raymond Knops - 2020042402

THE HAGUE – The Netherlands made €16.5 million ($17.82 million or around 32 million guilders) available on Friday in immediate assistance for the most vulnerable citizens in St. Maarten, Curacao, Aruba and the BES-islands. State Secretary Drs. Raymond Knops said during a live-streamed press conference that the money will be used to supply people with food and hygiene products.

How the money will be divided over the islands remains unclear. Knops said that the Dutch government wants to use the local networks of non-governmental organizations to identify and help vulnerable citizens. “We will help there where the need is the highest.”

The state secretary remained non-committal when he answered a question from StMaartenNews.com about the announced salary cuts for ministers and members of parliament. These cuts are missing in the draft 2020 budget. “For liquidity support the countries will have to look at the measures they can take themselves,” Knops said. “We will take a good look at them in our plans. Aruba has already taken measures and I appreciate that. I assume that the other countries will take similar initiatives.”

Knops did not say what the consequences for liquidity support to St. Maarten will be in case there is no salary cut.

Solidarity is a two-way street, the state secretary pointed out. “The extent to which the countries are taking cost cutting measures will determine the preparedness of the Netherlands to help. But it cannot be so that we send help while citizens are not paying enough taxes and while government-owned companies are paying exorbitant salaries. They have to tackle those situations right now.”

In his brief opening statement, Knops labeled the COVID-19 crisis as “the largest crisis since the Second World War” and he noted that there will be tough times ahead.

The uncertainty about the near future is exacerbated by the fact that it will still take some time before there is a reliable vaccine for COVID-19. “The economic consequences for the islands are disproportionate,” Knops said. “We do not know the long-term effect of this crisis; we don’t know if there will be a second wave of infections. When we reopen schools we will have to take it step by step and look at the consequences.”

On Friday, the navy vessel Karel Doorman arrived in St. Maarten with medical supplies and assistance as well as helicopters for medical evacuations.

“The Netherlands will be generous with medical assistance; we have to help each other. But liquidity support requires plans and we will take decisions about them shortly,” Knops said.

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Watch the full virtual press briefing online here>>>