Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
Elderly people in the Caribbean Netherlands skip meals due to poverty
Many elderly people on Bonaire lead unworthy lives, the National Ombudsman noted last month. People over 65 have to live on a much too low pension, while the cost of living is only increasing. Today, the Dutch House of Representatives is discussing this issue during the debate on Kingdom Relations.
Shopping on Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire is expensive. For a cucumber that is on the shelves in the Netherlands for 75 cents, you pay 3.18 euros on Bonaire. A litre of freshly squeezed orange juice costs 3.09 euros at the Zaanstad supermarket, while you pay 5.45 euros at the branch of the same supermarket in Kralendijk on Bonaire.
An old-age pension for a single person over 65 on Bonaire is 586 euros per month. Commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the Regioplan research agency has calculated that this should actually be 1385 euros, the so-called subsistence minimum.
Ms Romana Boezem (87) is one of the 2500 elderly people on Bonaire who has to manage with such a low AOV (the Caribbean version of the Dutch state pension). It does not work. In order to have extra income, she makes woollen hats for four euros each. But selling them does not really work because she has difficulty walking.
A look in her refrigerator betrays poverty. There is virtually nothing in it. But she is not hungry, she says. In the kitchen she makes funchi with diluted milk powder, corn porridge. She eats it seven days a week, every day of the month, all year round. Sometimes she has some vegetables, but she doesn’t eat anything else.
“Most elderly people no longer have money by the middle of the month,” says Filomena Winklaar. She works as an elderly carer at a daycare centre. There are three of them on the island. In addition to daily activities, the elderly also receive a meal there. “But on weekends they are closed and many people skip their meals. In addition, there are only a limited number of places in daycare. Most elderly people are left out.”
The Caribbean islands are responsible for the level of prices. But the level of pensions and benefits is determined in The Hague.
Dutch State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment, Tamara van Ark, has promised to increase pensions step by step. The target amount for a single person, who currently receives 586 euros, has been set at around 864 euros per month on Bonaire. According to the research agency, this is still too low, but the government wants Bonaire and the private sector to do something: the cost of living must be reduced.
Bonaire has little faith in an early solution of the poverty issue. Ten years after the island left the Netherlands Antilles federation and came under the direct authority of The Hague, poverty is still a major problem. While most residents had hoped for a dynamic Dutch government.