Published On: Thu, Jun 29th, 2023

Jorien Wuite presents plan for sustainable future

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PHILIPSBURG – D66 parliamentarian Jorien Wuite presented her report Dreaming about a Sustainable and Resilient Future on Tuesday during a legislative consultation with Kingdom Relations State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen. The report proposes eight initiatives aimed at strengthening the social-economic position of communities in the Caribbean part of the kingdom.

“I hope that many inside and outside of politics are interested in the proposals for a sustainable and resilient future for the Caribbean islands,” Wuite writes in her introduction.

D66 wants to move away from the current reactive and supervising approach towards policies that focus on sustainability and development. “It is my personal wish that during this commemorative year about the history of slavery, we will come to terms with the Dutch role in this history and that we can heal from this painful past.”

In this context, Wuite dreams of a shared future that focuses on “sustainable social-economic strengthening that improves the well-being of all people on the islands.”

Wuite wants to discuss the contents of her 8-point plan in Europe and on the Caribbean islands.

Welfare has almost not improved during the past decade in the Caribbean part of the kingdom.

“The dramatic consequences are increased poverty and inequality,” the report states. “Most islands have a mono-economy with tourism as the most important source of income. The countries import almost everything and export hardly anything.”

This is, according to research, mainly due to high government debts, bad investment climates, and a lack of competitiveness. The small scale of the islands makes them extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and global economic shocks, like the corona pandemic.

All this information stems from the report Small Islands, Large Challenges. It also addresses the potentially disastrous consequences of climate change. Minister Rob Jetten (Climate and Energy) recently stated that small island states are at the frontline of climate change, that they feel neglected, and that it is about time to give more attention and support to climate action.

Wuite points to another issue: the Caribbean part of the kingdom is not considered a domestic territory and also not a foreign country. As a result, the islands are considered to be first-world countries while their social-economic situation tells a completely different story. “This hinders access to special Dutch, European, and international funds for investment in sustainable and future-proof economies. This requires more cooperation between the European and the Caribbean part of the kingdom,” Wuite wrote.

Wuite notes that the relationship between the Netherlands and the Caribbean countries and territories seems to have improved since the second half of 2022 – less hostility and more consultation. But that does not exclude the need for a broader discussion about the future of the kingdom. “Is the current constitutional structure after seventy years still future-proof? How can the Caribbean part be made more resilient and how can we improve the well-being of citizens on the basis of sustainable support, cooperation, and synergy?”

The objective of Wuite’s report is to encourage the Dutch government to present a new vision and dedication for the Caribbean part of the kingdom, based on sustainable development objectives, emancipation, and synergy. The report proposes eight initiatives to achieve this.

The report asks the government to present a kingdom-wide 2030 vision for kingdom relations before the start of the kingdom conference. It furthermore suggests the establishment of a Kingdom Secretariat charged with managing the long-term policy agendas for kingdom relations. This requires a revision of the Rules of Order for the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

The government has to promote equality in Bonaire, Saba, and Statia with an action plan based on the comply or complain-principle. (This requires the government to explain why certain Dutch legislation does or does not apply to the islands). Together with these public entities, the government ought to write a multi-annual plan that promotes the blue and green economy on the islands. Green economy strategies focus on energy, transport, agriculture, and management of the environment. Blue economy strategies focus on the sustainable use and preservation of natural resources and ecosystems that are present in the oceans.

Wuite furthermore asks the government to make the orange economy the focal point of its international cultural policy. The core of this economy encompasses “a wide array of cultural and creative goods and services from architectural design and performing arts to film, games, fashion, music, and video games.” Part of this initiative is the proposal to establish a fund that invests in cultural heritage and the creative economy.

The report asks the government to research the viability of a regional Caribbean development company that focuses on access, support, and coaching for local business development. An associated development fund should focus on innovation in the fields of digitalizing, climate, sustainable agriculture, and business climate.

Wuite also asks attention to the participation of the Caribbean territories in regional organizations like Caricom (Caribbean Community – a group of twenty countries with a mission of cooperation and economic development).

The eighth point of the plan asks the Dutch government to do something about the Caribbean brain drain. “Every year hundreds of students leave the islands for higher education and few of them return,” the report states in a footnote. Wuite points in this context to the need for economic diversification and for the strengthening of hybrid cooperation between regional and Dutch (tertiary) institutions of education.